Friday, June 19, 2009

More Awesome Workbenches From Great Britain

Richard Maguire's Modern Workhorse Bench

Richard Maguire emailed me recently with some pictures of his latest workbench which he calls The Modern Workhorse. For those unaware of Richard's work, he makes incredibly beefy traditional workbenches in the finest British tradition. When I say "finest British tradition" I don't necessarily mean traditional English-style benches, but rather benches that reflect the fine tradition of British woodcraft. Although I haven't seen one of Richard's benches in person, I think they look totally awesome.

Richard is now offering 3 distinct styles of bench. The Dominy and the Roubo in English Beech, and now a bench of his own design called the Modern Workhorse, built of English Ash. I'm also happy to announce Richard is now offering his Roubo bench outfitted with the Benchcrafted Tail Vise.

The Modern Workhorse bench (above, and at the top) shares some similartities with Chris Schwarz's version of Charles Holtzapfel's bench, but includes several improvements of Richard's own design, including a clever arragement incorporating a wooden parallel guide into the iron face vise used in the tail vise position, and dog holes offset from the vise screw which improves access to the dogs.

The tool tray (Richard calls it a tool well, which sounds much more sophisticated than "tray" which reminds me of a school cafeteria) positioned at the left end of the bench is also an interesting idea. I'm not a big fan of tool trays though, so I'd have to try one out for a while to be convinced.

Richard's website is

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Woodworking Fantasy Camp

What am I doing for summer vacation? Well, so far it looks like I'll be working. But that doesn't mean I won't be enjoying myself.

The weekend of August 14-16 I'll be in St. Charles, IL for the Woodworking in America Furniture Construction and Design Conference.

The Benchcrafted booth will be set up with our bench (and maybe two!) outfitted with all three vises we sell, a Mag-Blok display, plus we're hoping to unveil a new hand tool at this event. No, it's not an acme-screw and handwheel outfitted paring chisel, but we think it's a unique and useful tool will find lots of use in many woodworker's shops. The exciting part is it will cost about as much as a dinner for two at a decent restaurant. Around these parts that usually means Arby's or McDonald's, so you'll have to compensate for your particular locale. You get the drift.

Okay, back to fantasy camp. WIA (Woodworking in America) is a unique event. It combines three days of lectures and classes from among the country's best furniture makers and designers with three days of hands-on tool demos from the best manufacturers in America. And it's not just demos. At the marketplace (the room where the manufacturers are set up) there will be numerous benches set up at each of the vendor's booths so you can test drive the tools at your leisure. The best part is, the designer and manufacturer of the tools is usually at the booth as well, and they are more than happy to show how the tool works, and in most cases you can even get personal instructions on various woodworking techniques just by asking. A small crowd usually gathers around, and you end up with a very personal and intimate "mini-class". You could spend an entire day in just the marketplace and learn more than you can imagine. At the last WIA I got a personal one-on-one hand-dovetailing lesson from Kevin Glen-Drake of Glen-Drake Toolworks. Now, I'm not sure if that possibility will exist in August, but you never know.

And here's what makes WIA in August so great. The combination of a marketplace full of the best hand tools and hand tool experts, and three days of lectures from some of the best furniture makers and designers in the country.

I think the event in August is going be a ton of fun. Just rubbing elbows with fellow enthusiasts and the camaraderie that one gleans from such events is worth it to me. I not only came home from last year's WIA event with a renewed enthusiasm and inspiration for fine woodworking, but also with several new friends as well.

If you're wondering about the picture above, that's a desk I built for my father in 2006. One of my interests is designing and building simplified Federal style furniture with modern, clean lines. This was the second experimental piece I've attempted. I won't torture you with the first trial. In hopes of furthering this style, I'm hoping to catch some design classes at this year's WIA if I can squeeze them in. I can't wait!