CT-17 Block Plane; The Back-story…

As promised last week, here are further specs on the CT-17 Dual Angle Block Plane;

Weight: 748 grams/1.65 lbs
Overall Height in Use: 61.2 mm/2.41 inches
Sole Length: 162.5 mm/6.4 inches
Sole Width: 48.75 mm/1.92 inches
Iron Width: 34.92 mm/1.375 inches
Iron Finish: Back, Optical Lap < 4 RMS
Iron Thickness: 4 mm/.16 inch
Iron Material; A2 Tool Steel, Rc 60-62, Cryo treated
Iron Bevels: Low Angle: 30 Degrees (25 primary +5 deg. micro bevel), Regular: 35 Degrees (30 primary +5 deg. micro bevel)
Iron Tension: Adjustable
Depth of Cut, Change per Revolution: .025mm/.001 inch
Throat Opening Range: 0 – 4 mm/.15 inches
Maximum Blade Cant : 2.5 Degrees
Sides to Sole Squareness: plus/minus .05mm/.002 inch
Materials: 304 Stainless, Steel Pivots
Blade Guard: Anodized Aluminum, Resides in Plane during use, attaches to back edge of iron for sharpening (affixed via 2 rare earth magnets)
Finish: Interior of body & components; glass bead finish, sides abrasively grained, pivots black oxide. Cap is polished. There is no black chrome on this piece.

Traditionally, most metal block planes use a cross-pin to anchor the chip breaker/cap to the body which holds the iron in place. By eliminating this pin, we were able to address the ergonomics of the tool with new light. The pic below, utilizes one of the stereo lithography models to illustrate the hand position where the index finger rests directly behind and above the cutting edge in a contoured pocket–this I am excited about because it feels great;

The design of the body is “circle centric” as circles were the predominate theme in the tool–they are everywhere and accentuated when possible to reinforce the theme. As illustrated below, the main holes in the body make grasping the tool securely easy and without much effort–it feels like it belongs in the hand…

The pic below illustrates the most traditional hand position using a block plane;

Although not illustrated here, the front “tote” pivots for two hand use and the inclination can be adjusted to suit your tastes.

For the past couple of years I have been wallowing in the money pit of radio controlled helicopters–while on my work retreat I realized they have had quite a subtle influence in my work over the past year or so. With the CT-17, I consciously used the influence as a design criteria as you can see below…

Regarding the clues in this totally awesome and worthless blog;

Clue # 1 was a close-up/abstract of the “tail pipe” depth adjuster.

Clue # 2 involved the making of the video. The blade lock mechanism is not linear and at thirty frames per second, I needed to know the exact location of the clamp arm, cap and link throughout the range of motion when opening and closing. This involved a sequence of 12 individual frames to open and 12 to close–the animation software we use is not constraint or interference based so I had to do it manually. This illustration below should bring clarity…

The rest of the clues should make sense now.

Regarding the video, it was put together by Michael who also wrote the music beat. Editing by yours truly, hosted by YouTube.  You are probably thinking, I would love to see that again! Here ya go;

For those of you curious about the software we used in this project (not in any particular order); Cobalt, SharkFX, HyperShot, HyperMove, Premier Pro, PhotoShop, Excel and FantaMorph.

On a personal note, I have been deeply troubled by the story of Phoebe Prince (the Massachusetts high school freshman who took her own life after relentless bullying by classmates). Why, we as a culture allow this kind of thing to happen is beyond my ability to comprehend. I was once told that bad people exist because good people do nothing.

So, on a much less serious scale–completely insignificant in comparison–but nevertheless related, we here at Bridge City deeply appreciate those of you who take the time to correct some of the inaccuracies and mean spirited posts circulating on the internet regarding this tool. It is a huge step in making the internet a much more useful tool.

More questions regarding the CT-17? You know where to find me.

Thanks to all for making this project so much fun. For those of you who earned a $50 Gift Certificate, you can expect an email sometime in the next 10 days–Natasha, aka. “The Gift Certificate Queen” is on vacation this week.


11 comments on this post:

  1. Thanks one more time John – It is fun connecting with you as you work. Regarding the other subject, I rationalize being given time on earth as an opportunity to do good or bad in each random experience we encounter. We all have that choice many times a day. In the end, the value of our lives depends on how we make those little decisions each day. Doing nothing IS a choice as well.

    I’m looking forward to your next endeavor already. You do have a couple of new items which should be posted this month yet?


  2. Good response DJ…it probably comes as no surprise that I am an idealist, and more of an artist than a businesman so my opinions/ideas are almost never practical…

    Yes, lots of new stuff in the pipeline! Thanks for chiming in.


  3. .

    Thank you for the thoughtful commentary.
    Thank you for being the artist you are through your palette of Bridge City.
    ……and thank you for the developmental insight of your latest work.
    And thank you for the team of John, Michael & Natasha.

    Live long & prosper!

    And one more time,,,,,,,
    WOW !!


  4. Once again, a thought-provoking post, John. I too am deeply troubled by the bullying that led Phoebe Prince to take her life. It struck very close to home for me, for reasons I won’t go into here. And closer to your home, what ever led Kip Kinkle to carry out his devastating attacks some years ago? How have we let our communication with our children get so poor that we can’t see what’s going on in their lives? I have lived through the worst aspects of that, but I still don’t know that I have learned anything that would help me prevent a similar situation under different circumstances. I would hope I’m wrong, but you never know until it happens.


    It’s good for the soul to see someone unleashing their rampant creativity on the world. Even for those who don’t purchase BCTW tools (and I speak from personal experience here) their mere presence is an inspiration. We all need something to strive for. Thank you.

    – Peter

  5. “you can expect an email sometime in the next 10 days–Natasha”

    Had to giggle when I saw that part of the post, still waiting to get an email from Natasha after I and another correctly guessed what the tenon maker tool was.

  6. “we here at Bridge City deeply appreciate those of you who take the time to correct some of the inaccuracies and mean spirited posts circulating on the internet regarding this tool.”


    In hopes to spread the good word about this new tool; I posted a link to the CT-17 on different message boards like Sawmill Creek, Lumber Jocks, The FOG, and others. I quickly realized that I shouldn’t have done that and how true your statement was when you said you would get buckets of crap for this new tool. Most of the comments were “It’s a great looking plane but I can buy 3 planes for the cost of the CT-17 and get the same results”. Well that’s not true at all, they don’t understand that you’re not just buying a tool to do the physical work; you’re buying a tool to do just that and to inspire you to do your best work. Not to mention a beautiful tool to look at. The tool doesn’t have to be in your hands for it to perform.

    When I first heard you say that your tools are made to “inspire you to do your best work”, I thought that was a bucket of crap! But after my first couple purchases I quickly realized just how true that is. And it didn’t matter if it was a rule, square, or the DJ-1. The quality, design, craftsmanship, and all that other good stuff is expressed through the tool and for me it truly inspires me to do my best work!

    With all of that said and after reading the responses to my posting about the CT-17, I choose not to respond to anyone’s comments. That’s because like you said “some things never change” and no matter what I say; how people view BCT will never change until they make the leap and own one of your tools. And from personal experience; I lack self control so I’m sure my responses would start some fights!

    On another note, you said the helicopter inspired you to make this tool. In your blog you just show the CT-17 next to the helicopter but didn’t really explain what aspects of it inspired you. Do you care to elaborate on this for us?

    Good day John!

  7. Inspiration is everywhere. Regarding the helicopter influence, everything in a helicopter has to be carefully considered for weight, strength, aerodynamics, repair-ability, etc. When I look at the models that I have purchased, I am simply struck by the austerity of the forms and how the individual components add up to a flying machine. It is so cool–not so cool when they crash however…

    At first I did not know WHY I was obsessed/focused on skeletonizing stainless steel, but some of the same considerations were in play–and it was liberating because I realized that we are reinventing the BCTW design ethics. Brass and rosewood was fun for the first 25 years–it is now time to move on.

    As you look at the CT-17, CT-15, the DJ-1, and a couple of other tools over the past 18 months, there is a consistency in the effort to make the tool lighter which I believe adds visual interest. What I see when I look a the helicopter and the CT-17 side-by-side is a kindred spirit of thought regarding the final form. There really is not much to “remove” from the CT-17 at this point without impacting function.

    It is as simple as that.

    Hope this helps–


  8. hey john,
    that is a fantastic looking block plane. can you address the issue of putting strong magnets and cutting tools together. a couple of years ago i bought a bunch of these magnet bars that mount on the wall so i could organize my ferrous shop tools by just sticking them to these bars. in fact the current issue of “fine woodworking” has that very same suggestion in its tips column showing several hand planes stuck to these magnets. when i tried this myself i found that some tools like screwdrivers, etc (non-cutting tools) are fine to hang on there, but chisels and planes tend to have the blades get too strongly magnetized and when i go to sharpen them, i’m forever trying to chase and wipe off the bits of metal from the blade. any thoughts on this as it relates to the rare earth magnets on your block plane iron? i do like the plane a lot, so i’m not trying to pick it apart–really just interested if this would be an issue. i also like the fact that you can get an extra iron with it right away. i’ve had a VP 60 for a few years now and have tried unsuccessfully to purchase an extra iron for it since i’ve bought it. are vp 60 iron spares available at this time?
    one last question since i couldn’t get in touch with anyone at BCTW today: are there any of the drill jig tools available from the current production run?
    best regards–always looking forward to what you’re cooking up next. although i haven’t bought anything in a while i have ten or so of your tools that i use on an almost daily basis. my son who’s three years old kept wanting to watch over and over the new video of the block plane that “transforms” into a race car.

  9. Teo;

    You have to love 3-year olds! It’s been a couple of decades since my kids were 3… yikes! Those were the days and it sure goes by fast! One day my son came into the office (he was around 4-5) and loudly announced to everybody in the telemarketing department, “My Dad can’t get fired.” Oh boy…

    The two magnets in the CT-17 blade guard are 1mm thick and 2.5mm in diameter–they are tiny (less than half the size of a baby aspirin) and just strong enough to hold the aluminum guard to the iron. I know exactly what you are talking about and in my unscientific tests here, I don’t think it will ever be an issue.

    Regarding the VP-60 irons, we do not have them in stock. However, I am letting a little cat loose here, we will have a reason to make that exact same iron before years end…and that is all I can say about that.

    Between vacations and illness, we are thin up front today. That said, DJ-1 Drilling Jigs are in stock and available through our web store.

    Thanks for your past patronage and the trip down memory lane.


  10. John,

    My lovely daughter is graduating from college at the end of May, so sh too is two decades past the three year old stage. However, it and every other year with her is well remembered and loved. 😮

    As far as trolls, cretins and the just downright evil people that are here with us, you are very correct in that by doing nothing we give them room to move and breathe. In fact we can actually lend them credence if they are the only ones speaking.

    As far as our children go, well to a very large degree this is our own fault. We so often do not know what is happening in their lives because we are too busy and too busy being their friends. In my estimation the last part is the worst as you do not snoop into what friends are doing, etc. However, parents should snoop and break privacy and anything else that may help you save your child. I know, this is not PC and most people think I am nuts but I am okay with that.


    PS Received my most beautiful CT-16 today. I am in love again.:o

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