Hornbeam Ad-vice

ebony wedges ready to fit

ebony wedges ready to fit

For several years I have been seasoning and conditioning some hornbeam boards that came from Ockham Park in Surrey. Alex there had called me to say he had hornbeam about to be milled, so I went over and together we sized the main trunk down to boards the sizes I wanted. Altogether there was around half a ton of 2" and 3" boards, widths 5 - 6 inches.
A few months ago I sized one board to condition it down to around 8% moisture content, it was close at 10 - 12% already so I knew it was about ready to use.

 

A really understated look - the hornbeam is very subtle but has a nice discreet character

A really understated look - the hornbeam is very subtle but has a nice discreet character

The result is the first of the Ad-vices in hornbeam - the entire vice including main and guide screw, the lower nut... all very close grain, dense stable hornbeam. I wanted this vice to be really understated so the main boss is holm oak which also came from Ockham Park. The oak has been lightly fumed - this not only darkens it a little but also accentuates the amazing grain and shading.

The T-bar and other small detailing is ebony, so the overall look is quite monochromaitc with just one accent of mid-tone from the oak boss.

I was surprised how well the hornbeam works. It has a reputation for being difficult to work and hard on cutting edges, but I found it a delight. It turns very well (a bit creamy with long ribbons off a sharp edge) and planes very nicely - it's reluctant to tear and a fine set smoother will leave a lovely glossy finish without needing to touch surfaces with abrasives.

holm oak, lightly fumed

holm oak, lightly fumed

This, the first hornbeam Ad-vice, is on its way to Dan Schwank at Red Rose Reproductions. Dan makes very fine wooden planes in Lancaster PA and the first project this vice will see is some matched-pair hollows and rounds. So obviously Dan chose the Toolmaker version.

I'll be adding the hornbeam option to the product page shortly - the beech is still available, the hornbeam version is offered as the premium alternative. If you are interested in either get in touch.

Dan's planes (and a few other nice things) are here.

 

 

Another entry for 'best vice'

Record 52D with delrin 'dog', beech slab face with 4mm leather.

Record 52D with delrin 'dog', beech slab face with 4mm leather.

Over many years I have built and used almost every type of vice, and it took a long time to accept that there is no single best vice. I quite like leg vices but not for everything. I do like big double-screw face vices (with nice chunky wood screws), I really like Richard Maguire's wagon vice...

On the simple bench I made recently I decided to use what was readily available - a pair of Record 7" model 52. There are plenty of second-hand Records around (certainly here in the UK) and it is testament to their design and build that almost all are good and ready to go.

For this bench I used a 52E for the face (that's the quick-release version) and a 52D for the tail (Q/R plus retracting dog).
The larger 52½ is more common but I find it over-heavy, clunky and slower to use. The 52 is a brilliant size for general work (certainly up to making a hardwood external door) and it is lighter hence faster in use. It also weighs less so is easier to fit.

Very fast to use, grips like a limpet, never lets you down... a lifetime of vice.

Very fast to use, grips like a limpet, never lets you down... a lifetime of vice.

I went to a bit of trouble though not much to lose the inner face into the beech of the top (done during top build) and then fit a beech face to the outer. I put a very small taper down that face so the top definitely closes first - although a Record in good nick will be designed and built to do that anyway. Facing is 4mm leather - bonded with Thixofix and clamped in its own vice overnight.
It's really important to get the top corners welded down - so pay particular attention to the corners because that is where the leather will lift first and it's very annoying.
The retracting dog is a lump of delrin (I have used hardwoods before) to replace the standard steel block. I cut a taper on the face of this block too - just a few degrees, quite like you have on a bench dog. For almost all jobs the delrin is fine and I don't need to mess with a packing piece, All this makes the vice super-fast to use.

The Records on my bench are refinished matt green, partly because I don't like the Record blue but also so they are in my brand colour. I used acrylic model paint - it is amazingly tough, dense and comes in all colours in nice small pots. It dries very fast too... speed is the theme here!

I made this simple bench as an experiment to see how I got on with something basic. It may possibly be the last bench I build. It is fine.

INTRODUCING THE AD-VICE

Vices fascinate me and I use them a lot (we all do). A workbench is really a means to fix a workpiece to, and the vice is a vital component. For some years now I have worked with add-on vices in order to raise the work height for certain jobs. I still regard the workbench (any workbench) as a compromise - it’s height is never ideal for all that we do.

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Chasing handmade #1

'Handmade' is very important to me. There would be no point me aiming to replicate what machines and factories can do just the same but more efficiently. I'm sure there is a place in the World for truly handmade - a customer will expect that difference and it must be of some benefit or value.

So I go 'chasing handmade...'

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