I’m Back from the Brink… and Happily So!

“There is a pleasure in the pathless woods, There is a rapture on the lonely shore, There is society, where none intrudes, By the deep sea, and music in its roar: I love not man the less, but Nature more”— Lord Byron

Drivel Starved Nation!

Here is an update that nobody asked me to share. Pretty generous of me don’t you think?

This past February Portland experienced a crazy destructive ice storm. How crazy you ask? Continue reading

I Just Received the First Production Pencil Precision Kit….

"A man provided with paper, pencil, and rubber, and subject to strict discipline, is in effect a universal machine."— Alan Turing

Drivel Starved Nation!

Today I received the very first production model of the Pencil Precision, which is again, since it has been so damn long, a pencil making factory in a box.

In this post I will present my unboxing cell phone pics (I save my other camera for birds!) and show you my first pencil. But before I begin, I have a couple of comments.

First, as mentioned in my last post, Consuelo will be contacting everybody who has been patiently waiting for this crazy invention of mine. She will need updated payment info for the second payment (if required) and a correct shipping address.

The production units will ship shortly after the end of Chinese New Year which is the 18th of Feb I believe. I do not know how long it will take for them to arrive in the United States and clear customs, but I am guessing about 3-4 weeks. If this changes, I will post the change in this Totally Awesome and Worthless Blog.

So, here we go! Continue reading

Pencil Precision Update…

“Patience attracts happiness; it brings near that which is far.”— Swahili Proverb

Drivel Starved Nation!

I am pleased to be able to share that all of our Pencil Precision orders will be shipped in the next 12 weeks.

I am really excited to finish this project, and even more excited to share this fun project with everybody. And, I am so grateful for everybody’s patience — I do believe you will be thrilled making pencils in your kitchen, or shop. Continue reading

HP-8X; The Inside Story…

"It's impossible to explain creativity. It's like asking a bird, 'How do you fly?' You just do."— Eric Jerome Dickey

Drivel Starved Nation!

Yours truly designed the HP-8 Mini Block Plane years ago because I was looking for a small plane that does what only small planes can do, and that is the ability to do delicate and precise work using only one hand. It was an instant hit. However, because this plane is also used in the Chopstick Master, it is by far, the best selling plane in the history of the company.

When Harvey Industries acquired Bridge City almost three years ago, Jack Xu and I had a mega-discussion as to what could go wrong with this transition. We discussed racism, political views, quality control, PROPER ENGLISH, patent infringement, dealer support, rip-offs, and lastly, how much wine needs to be consumed before all decisions are bad.

After all that wine, I shared that my biggest concern — the core of Bridge City Tool Works — was how to continue our innovation culture. From as far back as I can remember, the number one customer service question was, and always has been, “What’s next?” And to this day, it is still my concern if I want to take more bird pictures…

Several months ago, Jack shared with me the sales data for the aluminum body HP-8 and I was floored. (This was yet another reminder that I had no business running a business.) Regardless, I mentioned that I liked our older, heavier body versions made from either brass or stainless steel better. Jack asked me why, and I said “I like what I like.” They all cut fine assuming the iron is sharp, but I just liked the heft of the heavier planes.

Well, imagine my surprise when these three boxes showed up just before the Christmas; Continue reading

Here is a Peek at Some of What is Coming from Bridge City Tool Works in 2021…

“Don’t worry about failure; you only have to be right once.”— Drew Houston, Founder of DropBox

Drivel Starved Nation!

I am so glad 2020 is in the rear view mirror. What a nasty year.

Regarding your New Year resolution… I have an idea for you! How about making 2021 the year you earnestly try to convert to the metric system? You were born metric so it is not that hard… just sayin’. My resolution is to try and kick my addiction to stool softeners which is WAY HARDER than learning the metric system.

I haven’t posted in a month or two because I have had nothing of meaning to share. Meaningless has never stopped me in the past but am I really trying to be a better person?

Nope. I have been distracted with new tool designs, my 4 grandkids, and my bird photography hobby. So let’s all catch up…. Before you start reading the following drivel, be warned this is a long post. Continue reading

Oregon Wild Fires…

"Adversity introduces a man to himself."— Albert Einstein

Drivel Starved Nation,

For those of you who do not live on the west coast, here is an update from someone who does; your Tool Potentate.

The image below was taken not far from my house on Wednesday at 5PM. There is not a cloud in the sky, what you see is smoke.

Currently (Friday AM), it is worse here. My home is in Zone 1, which means it is time to think about where you would go and what should you take in an evacuation. Zone 2 is pack. Zone 3 is get the hell out. All said, I think we will be OK. I did reach out to my friend Dave Jeske (Blue Spruce Tool Works) and he is much closer to the fires so I worry about him more than us.

Almost 15% of the population of Oregon has been evacuated — that is over half a million people. Stating the obvious lazy metaphor, we are in uncharted, turbulent waters for sure.

For those of you who have been to Oregon, picture this; the smoke plume extends from Washington to California. The entire I-5 corridor is filled with smoke extending all the way to the coast. That is unimaginable to me. The total area burning in the state exceeds the size of New Jersey.

So, what is it really like? This morning I took a shower and my fresh towel smelled liked smoke — and I cannot complain.

Stay safe everybody and be grateful that you have the time to read this Totally Awesome and Worthless Blog.

-Still Here.

My Epic Covid Road Trip….

Drivel Starved Nation!

First, my sincerest apologies to all of you who have emailed me, or posted comments on this board and have yet to receive a response. I will answer all this week.

I HAVE A GREAT EXCUSE!

My son, and his family (including my only female grand daughter), reside outside of Dallas. Being a grandpa and not seeing your grand kids is a brutal form of punishment (particularly when they are two years old). So, on July 4th I left Portland and drove to Dallas to see everybody. It was just a short 2,000 mile, 4 day trip.

I also helped my son build a 550 sq. ft deck on the back of his house. Because of the heat, humidity and the most difficult clay soil you can imagine, I stayed in Dallas for 19 days. And during this time, I disconnected from social media which is a wonderful thing. Really.

While in Dallas I received a phone call from DSN member Neil Clemmons. I shared that I was headed next to Knoxville, TN to visit an old college friend. He convinced me to come visit his new house in Bentonville, AR which was along the way (almost) … Truthfully, the lure of free food and lodging is an irresistible attraction. We had a great time and his shop is awesome… as in magazine worthy. Remember magazines?

After spending the night in Knoxville, I drove up to Long Island, NY to shoot bird pics on Nickerson Beach. More on this later.

I then hopped on I90 and came home. On both the trip to Dallas and the trip home from NY, I stopped at every national wildlife refuge along the way (if not too far off course) to take bird pics.

8189 miles, 36 days, 24 states, and over 8000 bird pics later, I arrived in Portland to re-introduce myself to my dogs. This past week I have been doing nothing but fixing stuff that always seems to break when I am not around…

I spent over 100 hours driving by myself, and having never done anything remotely similar in the past, I can share it was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. I will blog about how I did this safely during this pandemic in a follow-up post.

Lastly, this coming week I will be involved with the approval of the Pencil Precision first article components and if there are no surprises, we are looking at delivery in Q4 of this year. So, fingers crossed!

So there you have it. I checked out for the first time in my life but now I am back!

That’s my story and I am sticking to it.

-John

PS: Back in the old days, Don Schroder of Popular Woodworking used to swindle me sell me ad space in the magazine. As we became more antiquated, I learned he is an incredible wildlife photographer. So, for the past two years, I have been doing a brain suck on him in hopes of taking pictures that would be worthy of my grand kids admiration. He met me at Nickerson Beach on Long Island before that storm wiped out the rookery we visited. Here are a couple of pics from a great couple of days of doing nothing but photography…

Bridge City Updates, John not Dead Yet….

“I finally figured out that not every crisis can be managed. As much as we want to keep ourselves safe, we can't protect ourselves from everything. If we want to embrace life, we also have to embrace chaos.”— Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Drivel Starved Nation,

First, I really do hope all of you are well and that everybody in your orbit is well. I don’t think anybody is better prepared for a pandemic shutdown than those of us with a shop. So far, all is well here and I hope to keep it that way.

Before I fill the space between your ears with some Drivel, I do want to get serious for a moment.

There was a comment posted on this blog from a customer with a JMP that needs warranty work. This person claimed that he has received no response from customer service. I understand this pandemic has really created a mess of things, so I want to state unequivocally that this is not something I will tolerate. Pandemic excuses only work for a short while before they become a crutch for incompetence. If anybody has any issues at all, and you are head-butting the wall of unbearable frustration, here is what you do; complain to me.

john@bridgecitytools.com

I will make sure that the chicken salad you ordered is in fact, what you will receive, not the odoriferous alternative.

Whew. I feel better now. Continue reading

If You are a Cheap-Ass Woodworker, This Post is for You!

“Attitude is a choice. Happiness is a choice. Optimism is a choice. Kindness is a choice. Giving is a choice. Respect is a choice. Whatever choice you make makes you. Choose wisely.”— Roy T. Bennett

Drivel Starved Nation:

The following stories may, or may not, be true.

Back in the ’80’s a customer at a trade show went way out of his way to inform me that spending money on good tools is money wasted.  He then went on to explain how he makes his own tools out of salvaged railroad rails.  This is when I first realized that woodworkers are the cheapest people on the planet. Cheap-asses in the first degree!

How did I deduct this?  Because I am one too.  Back in the mid ’90’s I was aghast at the cost of vasectomies so I did my own.

Man, did that hurt. 

If you are thinking about following my example, email me; john@DontEverDoThis.com for what I would do different… Continue reading

Sadly, Our 2020 China Field Trip Has Been Canceled…

"Sometimes the hardest thing and the right thing are the same thing."— Unknown

Drivel Starved Nation;

I am just not very good at delivering bad news, but due to the virus outbreak in China, we have canceled our June excursion.

If you have purchased airfare, I am almost certain you will be able to get a full-refund.

I will do my best to make this happen in 2021, but since I am not getting any younger, I just don’t know how realistic this is. But I will try.

One of my standard core beliefs is that “decisions are easy when values are clear.”  This was an easy decision considering all that we do not know.

Please accept my apology and lets hope this thing reaches a speedy conclusion.

-John