This week has been really busy as we finish up the June issue of Stumpy Nubs Woodworking Journal. Normally the projects that will be featured are all completed well ahead of time so that the editing and narrating and everything else can be done. But this time everything is running behind schedule. One project video had to be scrapped because of some problems with the footage. Another was delayed by a equipment problem that may or may not have been my fault. (It was my fault.) All of this has really messed with the publishing schedule all week I’ve been running around like an angry monkey looking for someone to throw his poo at. While you let that mental image sink in, I want to continue one of the storylines from our last episode: A behind the scenes look at the birth of a homemade woodworking machine.
(NEAR TABLE SAW)
In our last edition of Behind the Sawdust you witnessed the birth of a woodworking jig at the computer workstation. It was a beautiful moment, I’m sure. But the next step in a project’s development occurs right here in the main workshop. There’s a computer in this shop as well, right over there in the corner next to the sanders which I believe are arranged to shoot as much dust directly onto the motherboard as possible. (If you don’t know what a motherboard is, it’s the part of the computer you don’t want to get dusty.) The purpose of that computer is so a project’s Sketchup model can be displayed on monitors throughout the shop. It may seem like overkill to have four monitors in a 400 square foot shop, but if I’m cutting a complex part at the band saw, or wondering where to bore a hole at the drill press, these monitors save me trips across the shop to get the measurements I inevitably forgot on my way to the tool, and I’m much more into cheeseburgers than steps. I know what you’re saying- why not just lay your cuts out on your part before you take it over to the machine. It’s my process, and it works for me. There are only two of us, my wife and I, that live in the house connected to this workshop, and there’s a total of fifteen screens, not counting smart-phones. Yes, we are single handedly warming this planet with the glow of our monitors alone.
A lot what we make in this shop are homemade jigs and woodworking machines, and that means we use a lot of birch plywood. You should have seen us at Woodworking in America in 2015. They had all of these small booth manned by fine hand tool makers and right among them we set up a double sized booth full of homemade power tools and jigs. We got more than a few eye rolls and comments like “look at all of that plywood!” I wish someone would have filmed Roy Underhill when I was taking him through the booth, talk about being in a different world!
Anyway, I buy my plywood from Home Depot because they will cut in half with their panel saw, which makes it a lot easier to handle. I rarely need a piece larger than 48”, and while my saw will accommodate a full sheet, it’s just a giant, back straining pain in the tukus. Half sheets are also easier to store in a small shop. I slip them into this rack until they are ready to be broken down into smaller pieces. Any left overs are stored up here to be used as needed. So it’s really a short trip from the rack to the saw, of course with a monitor nearby to tell me where to cut. See, those things are handier than you thought, eh?
On a jig project, I usually cut most of my parts out ahead of time, though I do leave some critical parts a bit oversized for custom fitting. This is really the opposite of a furniture making process. On furniture, or other solid wood projects, it is always best to cut your parts as needed rather than in one big batch, taking your measurements off the project itself rather than trusting your plans. But that’s a whole different subject. As I cut the plywood parts I mark their measurements on the edges so I can easily identify them as I begin to assemble the project. That’s critical, especially with large projects that have many parts. Then all of the parts are moved over to the bench area, where the next phase in the development of a woodworking machine takes place. We’ll save that for the next episode, for now let’s head over to the Homemade Workshop to see what Mustache Mike is working on.
Here at our Homemade Workshop we put all of our shop built jigs and tools to work, building projects to be featured in future issues of Stumpy Nubs Woodworking Journal. Last time we were here this lathe stand was only half finished, but now it’s nearly complete and already being used to film a series of turning videos we have in the works. Maybe Mustache Mike will fill us in on those.
M- We have quite a lot of turning videos planned, but the first ones are actually sponsored videos, by Rockler. So we’ll be testing out several of their products designed for casual, weekend turners, such as their carbide tools, their Excelsior lathe, and particularly their project kits for making everything from pens to ice cream scoops, bar-b-que utensils, you name it.
So these videos will be for beginning wood turners.
M- Correct. We’ll cover basic tools and techniques, and show you how to use the kits to make projects for yourself or as gifts. They’ll be tutorials more than product reviews. You’ll learn quite a bit from them.
What else have you been working on?
M- I just finished up a plant stand for Mrs. Mustache...
Another project you’ve been working on is the walls. If you’ve payed attention you’ve likely noticed that the white walls are now wooden. What’s that all about?
M- Helps with lighting, looks better…
Ok, well, let’s head back to the main workshop for a cold one, we’ll check out a cool tool, and I have something I’ve been wanting to get off my chest.
In our recent card scraper videos, which you’ll find in the June issue of Stumpy Nubs Woodworking Journal, you may have noticed a little portable bench I was using to do my sharpening. This is made by Swedish bench company, Sjobergs. They call it their smart vice, and some people have been asking about it, so we thought we’d put it up against Mustache Mike’s patented review system that looks at quality, performance and value.
OUALITY- This is a difficult one, because I initially thought one thing, but over time I’ve actually changed my mind. Let me explain. Sjobergs is a premium brand, we’re sitting at one of their full size benches now, and its top of the line in every way. So when I we got this portable, bench-top unit, I was a little surprised to see that the top is made from MDF, not hardwood. The vise is hardwood, and the screw is heavy steel, even the base is Baltic birch plywood. But the MDF top just seemed out of place. But, we’ve used this thing quite a bit, we’ve even gotten it wet from sharpening stones. The veneer has held up well. It’s almost a Formica type material over the MDF. So it’s very tough, and the MDF does add some density, it’s very heavy, which is a good thing. And the MDF was necessary for them to keep the price down, as we’ll talk about in a minute. But I’m still going to give it four stars for quality, mostly because I would have preferred a hardwood top.
PERFORMANCE- This is really intended to be a portable vise. If you don’t have a vise on your workbench, or if you want to take it with you, you can clamp this onto any stable surface and you have a high quality vise ready to go. I think wood carvers would really like this. But also anyone who wants some of the features of a traditional woodworking bench like dog holes for holding work pieces flat. The vise itself is solidly built, it’s good strong steel so it isn’t going to break on you if you get a little rough with it. My only complaint is that there isn’t much room between the top and the base to get a clamp in there when you want to secure it to the bench. Some larger clamps won’t work with it. But that’s not a big issue, so I’m only going to knock off half a star for it. Four and a half stars for performance.
VALUE- Sjobergs tools are high quality, and you usually pay for that luxury. This smart vise runs about $145. I imagine most of that cost is in the steel hardware. There’s a big difference between cast steel like you find on the low end vises and the machined steel on these. I know Sjobergs full size vices start at about $250 just for the hardware. So I’m not that surprised that this smaller unit is $145. It’s very convenient to use, I love the portability, it works just as it should, and it’s durable. I’m going to give it four and a half stars for overall value, again just because I would have preferred a solid top, especially in this price range.
So that means the Sjobergs smart vise gets a solid 4 1/3 stars, a very good rating. It’s also worth noting that Sjobergs is running a special where you get a free miter box with the purchase of a smart vice. You can get that deal all month anywhere they sell Sjobergs products. I’ll put a link in the notes below the video if you want to check it out more closely.
That wraps things up for this edition of Behind the Sawdust. Come back next week to see more of what goes on behind the scenes at Stumpy Nubs Woodworking Journal. And don’t forget to visit our sponsors’ websites. Even if it’s just for a quick look. When you do support them, you’re supporting us, and that’s how we can make all of this woodworking infotainment free to you. You’ll find links in the notes below the video. Then you can sit back and have yourself a cold one, because you’ve earned it, my friend!
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