Bridge City Tool Works: Commemorative Tool #19 Sneak Peek…

“Always do things right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.”— Mark Twain

Drivel Starved Nation;

Over the past three months, I have been working on Commemorative Tool #19. For those of you new to this Totally Awesome and Worthless Blog, we make one tool each year (well almost) that we will never duplicate. They are considered the finest series of tools in our almost 34 year history.  (The first Commemorative Tool was introduced in 1991 or 1992, I am too old to remember.) Continue reading

First Pics of the CT-18 Dual Angle Smoothing Plane…

"You'll never find a better sparring partner than adversity." — Golda Meir

Drivel Starved Nation; It’s Friday and I am about to take the afternoon off to meet some old friends. But, I thought you might like to see the first pics of the CT-18 Dual Angle Smoothing plane…

We still have about 4-5 weeks of work before we ship. All the bodies get their soles ground beginning next week, and this is slow, each has to be put into a special fixture. Stainless steel does not like heat so in order to flatten the soles, the grinder is set to cut 0.0002″ per pass. That’s two ten thousands of an inch.

The irons are all out being sharpened and the scrub irons have yet to arrive, but beginning next week, we will start assembly of the bodies as they trickle in from the grinding house.

Oh, all of the aluminum TB-2v2’s are done and are being shipped starting Monday. And so are the stainless versions. These are crummy cell phone pics, but you get the idea;

Continue reading

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.


CT-17 First Peek…

I want to thank all of you crazy people for participating in the CT-17 guessing game–although nobody won the $100,000,000,000 prize, EVERYBODY who contributed to this thread (up until noon 4/15) has a $50 Gift Certificate coming–I thought this was fun.  AND, I have at least two new ideas to pursue!

Should we do this again next year?  What if I bumped first prize up to $100,000,000,000,000?

Oh, I almost forgot; here’s a little clip of the CT-17…our website/store will be updated later today.

Thanks again-for making this all possible.

Now I get to go home and do my taxes. I know I am not getting a refund but we are hoping you do!


Bridge City Announces Commemmorative Tool #16

One of my favorite quotes dates back to the turn of the 20th century and has been the foundation for all of our Commemorative Tools;

“It must be useful, it must work dependably, it must be beautiful, it must last, it must be the best of it’s kind”. –Alfred Dunhill

Once each year we announce a very special tool that we pledge never to make again–and we try to honor Alfred Dunhill’s maxim with each edition. We are pleased to share that the the 2008 Commemorative Tool is the CT-16 Palm Brace.

Unless you own our original PB-1 Palm Brace introduced back in 2000, it is unlikely you have ever used such a tool–here’s the back story…

While on a trip to the east coast, I found myself in a dank basement surrounded by old engineering books (it’s a long story) when I stumbled across a user’s manual for a Model-A Ford (could have been a Model T, I can’t remember). The illustrations caught my eye, they were all woodcuts and the work involved to illustrate this manual seemed staggering to me. The mildew stench was a bit much too, but an image of a hand tool designed to hone the engine block valve seats caught my eye. This tool was not made to make full revolutions, apparently you swung the arm to and fro and the tapered abrasive cone honed the seat. It was the scale of the tool that really intrigued me–it appeared to be about six inches in length.

Once back in Portland I played with a couple of ideas and hit many dead ends regarding the scale of a new tool and the scale of available 3-jawed chucks–I could not make this work visually. I took a quick trip to Taiwan to visit a chuck manufacturer but that too was a dead-end. Only when the epiphany of “why use a traditional chuck at all” did the project come together.

The original PB-1 was a big hit amongst our customers as it was designed to use most bits/drivers with 1/4″ hex shanks. Not only did it do a great job drilling all the small holes required in project making, it is likely the best screwdriver I have ever used. The CT-16 Palm brace is superior in many ways–and like many well made hand tools, once you can count on reliable and consistent results, you find great joy in knowing that you are the motor.

First, the chuck has a positive lock–drills back out of holes and stay in the chuck–an occasional annoyance of our first chuck design that has now been fixed.

The swing handle of the PB-1 was awkward for those of you with bear-paw hands–that has been rectified.

The CT-16 Palm Brace is made from stainless steel, black chromed aluminum and  black chromed steel (the swing handle is aluminum which keeps the majority of the mass centered over the drilling axis) and is one of the nicest tools we have produced over the past 25 years. And for those who had a chance to play with the CT-16 prototype at WIA last month, feel free to share your thoughts.

Pricing will be announced in a day or two and when complete we will update our website. Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy the sneak peek of the short video Michael put together–we think Alfred would be pleased.


What the BLEEP is THIS? The backstory…

It is not easy inventing a tool that every woodworker in the world will want–but we have done it again (the others you don’t know about yet). Which prompts me to ask this question; Does anybody know of a bauxite mine for sale? We are interested–particularly if the owner is setup to take the Discover card. We are, after 25 years, finally thinking big here–real big.

Our new mystery tool, the tool that you WILL want REAL BAD is pretty cool. Here’s the story.

If I sound a bit amped it’s because I have started making things out of wood (after a 25 year exile) thanks to the JMP (Jointmaker Pro for the acronym impaired).  I am also off my meds. Just discovered coffee too.

So one day I am making parts on my Jointmaker Pro and the joints were so small I had a hard time measuring (and seeing) to get light-tight results. And then an idea pooped into my head.

NOTE: There are no typos in the above paragraph.

What if there was a tool that instead of measuring all you needed to do was gauge? So we built a prototype and all I can say is you will want one, maybe two, and this want will hurt real bad until the little Bridge City box shows up on your doorstep.  Here’s why…

If you have a table saw, router table, radial arm saw, chop saw, band saw, JMP, or any other tool that makes a kerf 1/2″ or less, this device will blow your mind. Please don’t try to send us any money–they are not for sale yet!


Is this cool or WHAT?

gauge-stock-hereREAL LIFE EXAMPLE #1:  You are making drawers with veneered ply bottoms. Plywood is like snowflakes–no two sheets are the same thickness. So you cut your bottoms and it is time to cut the grooves in the four drawer pieces.  Depending on your drawer, you will likely use a router, router table, table saw or–our HP-6 hand plane. Either case, our new secret weapon will work wonders. Here’s how.

All you need to do is gauge the thickness (you DO NOT MEASURE SQUAT) of the plywood with the tool (it’s so easy even YOU could do it), tighten the knob and this creates an offset at one end of the tool that represents the outer boundaries of your kerf within one or two thousandths of an inch of your ply thickness!  The tool then lays on it’s side and acts as a flip stop against a reference. The days of widening a kerf by test cuts is OVER. As in F-O-R-E-V-E-R.

We will demonstrate this via video in the coming days. If your drawer sides are cross-grain grooved at the rear to accept the tenons of a rebate cut on each end of the drawer back, it doesn’t matter what the thickness of the tenon–you gauge and cut–no measuring and I GUARANTEE YOU CANNOT SCREW THIS UP!

This is no pre-game seven Stanley Cup boast made by an overpaid, loudmouth atheletethis is a REAL LIFE boast made by an underpaid loudmouth toolmaker–furthermore book it–I guarantee a gallery quality cut. Did I mention you cannot screw this up–ever?
Is this cool or what?

REAL LIFE EXAMPLE #2: Many think I am nuts, and they are getting warmer. That said, I am actually making a gallery piece out of  coffee stirrers that I rescue. OK, I steal them–and I ask first even though I am a charm school flunky.  This material is approx. .050″ thick and the joint possibilities are limited–primarily cross and half laps. Not easy. Oops, it is now. Film to follow.

There are other examples but the video will spare you from me. Coming soon. –John


What the BLEEP is THIS?

It’s summer and we are supposed to be having fun. Let’s begin…

The video elves at Bridge City are busy compiling footage of our newest tool which by no coincidence is pictured below.

Can you guess what it is?

Here is a free clue; the mystery tool will sell for $59 (the equivalent of 12 snow cones at the county fair, one bucket of movie popcorn or one bag of dog food for Louie) and we are almost certain you will want one. Or two. How do I know? I’ll tell you later.

Yet another free clue; the image below contains all the information needed to complete your detective work. There are also a couple of dead-end visual clues. Time to awaken your inner Agatha Christie.


In my excitement for the discovery of this little device, I demonstrated it at at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking several weeks back. You people know who you are and remember, you are sworn to silence so zip it, lock it, and put it in your pocket! This means you too Zane.

Also, one of the editors at Popular Woodworking (name rhymes with Chris Schwarz) has seen this in action. Oops–was that a clue? Oh, he wants one too! Just ask him!

Now, I am no stranger to tool hooplah so you just need to believe me when I say that those that have seen this work want it! Want it bad. Have we had people offer us their first born for this? Sure, but that ain’t right–it’s wrong and needs to stop.

Since you haven’t seen it yet, your uncontrolled desire for this new tool is suppressed–this will pass.

In the meantime, post your guesses and I will respond with one of five words; cold, colder, warm, hot or Bingo! I will try my best to tell the truth too. Sorta.

In the spirit of fair play, I will help you with 10 more free clues. No need to send money now.

1. This device has nothing to do with animal husbandry, parachutes or rock climbing.

2. This device will not increase gas mileage, monitor tire pressure or help you find your car keys. (Got myself on a little roll there with all those automotive clues…)

3. A zeppelin repairman might use this device.  It’s a stretch but if I was a zeppelin repairman I would want this tool. Really.

4. We haven’t figured out how to open a beer with this–yet. BREAKING NEWS! We can open a beer with this new gizmo. Attention Marketing Department: Revise sales forecast upwards!

5. This device could be used as an impromptu garlic press.

6. It has a name.

7. We invented it.

8. You will want one.

9. You will want one real bad.

10. We won’t stop you if you want two.


Stainless Steel Shoulder Plane…Going…Going…

This is a courtesy post regarding one of biggest surprises we have seen around here in a long time.

Last week we announced plans to build a limited edition of the plane pictured below.

With the run limited to 50, we thought this would sell out in 3 months, not a week or two — as of this writing (Monday, June 22, 4:10 pm) we have 8 remaining.  I don’t believe they will last the week.  As such, we are moving the delivery date from October to September–maybe earlier.  Further details of this plane can be obtained by scrolling down to my original blog post from last week.

I don’t want to sound overly optimistic, but maybe this is a harbinger of a change in the economic climate–we sure hope so!


Special Limited Edition 25th Anniversary Plane

Last year when we introduced the CT-14 Shoulder Plane, we made a couple out of solid stainless steel with no intention of ever producing a stainless version–the machining costs are astronomical.

I have hauled one around with me at several of the Lie-Nielson Hand Tool Events and it is definitely a head-turner–works great too. Recently we had a customer who wanted to buy the plane and it was explained it was not for sale.

“Name your price.”  he said. I have heard this before and it is hard to ignore.

We held our ground. Until last week.

In a staff meeting it was suggested that we make a very small run of these and include them as part of our 25th Anniversary celebration.  What is a small run? 50.

Each of these planes will be hand signed and serial numbered. Delivery will be in October, the price; $2500.

If this interests you, give us a call (1-800-253-3332). As of this writing there are 17 remaining. Phone orders only–serial number will be assigned at time of order.

If you are looking for a something that is truly unique, perhaps a great investment, this may be worth considering. There is nothing like it.

Did I mention I have developed a tool fetish for stainless steel?  This stuff is awesome!



The CT-15 is Coming Together!

The best part of my job is when components of a new tool arrive for first article inspection–and in this case it is really a big deal because the parts on my desk today are for Commemorative Tool #15, our limited edition multi-square.

As mentioned earlier, I have developed a fetish for stainless steel. It is tough, durable and likely will not rust (all stainless steels will rust under the right conditions–as dumb as that sounds.)

Over the past couple of weeks we have been testing various bead-blasted finishes and have settled on a matte finish that feels just plain sexy. Below are a couple of pics of some parts–the t-bevel lock lever/pocket clip is really cool.


PS: I have actually gone two days in a row without making Squiggle Wood. I think I need help.

The image above is a computer rendering of the CT-15 Multi-Square, it is five layout tools that fit in your apron pocket.

The finish and form of this cam lock/clip is really cool!

When this tool is completely assembled it is really going to be fun to use.

News from the Sticks and Stones Will Break Bones but Words are Worse department: We used Michael as a hand model because I was informed by my staff that my hands are not as photogenic as my knees or elbows.