Now That’s a Leg Vise

While traveling between Greenville, OH and Richmond, IN for work, I stopped in an antique store in New Paris, OH and came across this behemoth. The flywheel on this leg vise must have been 18″ in diameter and was very smooth when I turned it.

Some of you may be aware of Jameel Abraham from Benchcrafted who makes reproduction flywheel hardware similar to this for workbench leg vises. I’ve tried one at the Woodworking in America conference a few years ago and loved it.  I even considered buying one for my bench before I built my Roubo workbench a few years ago. This thing would beat up his flywheel and take its lunch money.

The screw mechanism for the flywheel is so big and heavy that it needs its own shelf. I imagine the leg vise can open up to at least 12″.

Even the flywheel on the bottom was no slouch. It was probably about 8″ in diameter. It keeps the leg vise parallel to the leg of the workbench to hold the piece more snug. Put a little grease on these babies and you’ll be ready to go.

The bench sat on casters that could be rolled around the shop. For $1500 it can be all yours. I told the shop keeper that the flywheels were probably worth $500 – $800 just by themselves. What an impressive beast.

Woodworking in America

I stopped by the Marketplace at The Woodworking in America show in Covington, KY today after work. Living in Cincinnati I’m spoiled that I get to waltz right in like it’s no big deal when the majority of people who attend have to make travel plans and hotel accommodations. I attended the first WIA a few years back in Berea, KY and had a blast listening to presenters like Roy Underhill, Brian Boggs and Frank Klaus. However, the money has been too tight for me to afford to attend any of the seminars since then.

I picked up a few things while I was there, nothing much. I mainly went there to buy the book “By Hand & Eye” by George Walker and Jim Tolpin. I’ve read good things about it and knew Lost Art Press would have a booth so leaving with that was a no-brainer. I also picked up a couple of DVDs about using SketchUp. I’ve been wanting to learn how to use this design software for years but after fiddling around with it in the past, it never clicked. Hopefully the DVD’s will make a light bulb go off in my head.

I stopped by the Knew Concepts booth and looked at their fret saws again. I see them every year but they never bring any inventory to sell. They would give me a card and tell me to go on the website and use it for free shipping. Every year I took the card and just forgot about it. Well not this year. They finally brought saws to sell so I bought one.

I’ve wanted one of these saws for a few years now. They are much stronger and hold the blade much stiffer than an ordinary coping saw. I’ll use it mainly for cutting the waste out of dovetails as well as some fret work from time to time. The difference between a Knew Concepts saw and a coping saw is night and day. I may turn a new handle for it out of cocobolo to beautify it someday, but I’m in no rush for that.

With my Knew Concepts saw, my coping saw is perfectly happy in his new home.

All in all, the Woodworking in America is a good show that’s worth going to. It’s not like The Woodworking Show that travels around the country. It’s mainly focused on hand tool woodworking so you won’t find a lot of power tools or boxes of discount belt sander sanding belts. About three quarters of the vendors focus on hand tools which is fine by me.

I was disappointed not to see Welch chair maker Don Weber again this year. He hasn’t attended in a couple of years and I’m not sure if he will again. I took a blacksmithing class from him a few years ago at his shop in Paintlick, KY. He’s extremely knowledgeable about woodworking and a hell of a craftsman, as well as down right a nice guy. I did talk to a few young chair makers who were selling some sweet ass chair making tools. I wanted to buy a drawknife sharpener and adjustable calipers but my funds were already spent. I got their cards so maybe sometime down the road I’ll buy them off the internet.

 

Improving my branding iron

A few years ago I invested in a nice branding iron featuring my company logo and website underneath. I love the thing to death and have never regretted the pretty penny I spent on it. The only issue I ever had with it was user error. When my branding iron gets hot it works like a charm. The problem is that sometimes I think the iron is hot enough and when I go to press the iron to the wood, I get an imperfect burn. With the iron being free hand, there was no way for me to line back up the iron perfectly with what was already burned in the wood. I basically had one chance to get it right. When I made my kitchen cabinets a few summers ago, some of the burns turned out not so pretty.

Then last year I attended the Marketplace at The Woodworking In America conference in Cincinnati. There I met a guy who was selling branding irons that attached to a drill press. With his iron being in a fixed position, if you don’t burn enough of the logo into the wood, you simply lower the head back down and burn again. I knew that was my answer but my branding iron wasn’t equipped to be attached to a drill press. I had the idea of buying one of those old jigs that turns a hand drill into a drill press but they were $45 on amazon and I wasn’t sure if it would even work.

Then last week my wife and I attended the Springfield Antique Show Extravaganza in Springfield, Ohio. As soon as I walked into the show, I spotted this thing lying on the ground. The old man saw me looking at it and yelled out “ten bucks” to me. I yelled back “Sold!” I immediately walked it back to my truck with delight.

This drill press attachment was made for a 1/2″ drill with the collet being a 1 3/4″ in diameter. I knew I had to make some sort of spacer in order for it squeeze my 1/2″ branding iron shaft tightly. I grabbed some scrap poplar, drew a 1 3/4″ circle around and drilled a 1/2″ hole in the middle. I had my spacer made but needed to make it work so I had to cut in half so it would wrap around my branding iron shaft.

After a few minutes tinkering around, I got it to squeeze tightly on the branding iron and the collet of the drill press. It fitted, but now it needed to work.

I lined up the cutter head so that it was perpendicular to the base on all four sides with my small try square. Once it was square I tightened the collet wing nut with all my might.

 

Now it was time to see how this thing actually worked. I heated up the iron, grabbed a piece of scrap wood and gave it a go. What do you know, it worked. I pressed down, and checked to see how it burned. If it didn’t do a well enough job, I just lowered the arm and gave it a little more heat. I definitely got a more consistent burn versus free hand.

The only downside to the jig is the wood that I used as a spacer for the collet started to burn at the bottom. Now I’m not sure what to do about this. Since I won’t being using the iron all that much, the wood should last a long time. Plus it was super simple to make and would be a snap to make a new one if the this one burns up too much. I think I’ll just let it be.

“The Art of Joinery” by Joseph Moxon and Chris Schwarz

A few years ago I attended the first Woodworking in America conference in Berea, KY. While there, I picked up the book “The Art of Joinery”. The book was originally written by Joseph Moxon about 300 years ago. Chris Schwarz rewrote parts of the book in plain English and added a bunch of photos with captions under them.

It’s a good book that is a quick enjoyable read but unfortunately it’s no longer in print. So one day I was browsing eBay and saw that somebody was asking $400 for the book. I thought to myself “yeah right”. Then I searched amazon.com and saw people were asking $500 for their copy. I knew those prices were ridiculous but was intrigued what the book was actually worth. So, I threw the book on eBay last week with a starting bid of $39.99 and watched where it would go. It ended up selling for $59.12 plus shipping.

I can’t remember what I paid for the book but I think it was only around $8.00 -$12.00. Chris Schwartz signed the book with his name on the first page which may have helped its final selling price. Pretty good return on my investment if you ask me. In fact, it makes me want to buy a couple dozen copies of “The Anarchist Tool Chest” and drive across the Ohio River to Chris’s house to have him sign the books.