Tool News and Updates from Bridge City Tool Works

"I never run with scissors. Those last two words were unnecessary."— Unknown

Drivel Starved Nation-

John here, your favorite tool Potentate with a little news and some updates.

If you were not aware, we are about ready to enter our 33rd year.  This fact explains the letter I received yesterday for “Discount Crematory Services”…  If I am truly too stupid to quit Bridge City Tool Works, what makes me smart enough to croak in time for their big sale — what were these people thinking?
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The Chopstick Olympics and Other Cool News…

“Though I can and sometimes do use chopsticks, I much prefer using my hands to pee.” — Jarod Kintz

Drivel Starved Nation!

I am back from my third trip to Asia in the last six months and this was the best trip yet  — I have lots of news to share.

I stopped by the factory producing the Chopstick Master and watched as the very first units were being boxed. This was so cool to see. Production right now is constrained to 1,000 units per month, but will dramatically increase at the first of the year.  Here’s a pic; Continue reading

Making Chopsticks the Bridge City Way… September 9th is the Day!

"Creativity isn’t about wild talent as much as it’s about productivity. To find new ideas that work, you need to try a lot that don’t. It’s a pure numbers game." — Robert Sutton

Drivel Starved Nation;

Sunday I leave for China, my third visit in the last six months.  I must say, the experiences and friendships I have accumulated are lasting and incredibly rewarding.  This may be the most fun six months of my BCTW business life. To think it took 32 years to have this much fun doesn’t say much for me does it? Oh well. Continue reading

Making Chopsticks in Taipei with the New Chopstick Master™ from Bridge City Tool Works.

"When 99% of people doubt your idea, you're either gravely wrong or about to make history." — Scott Belsky

Dear Drivel Starved Nation-

Several weeks ago, over the Forth of July holiday, I traveled to Taipei to unveil the second generation of the Chopstick Master™.  If you have never been to Taipei in July, it is hot. So hot in fact, on my cab ride to the exhibition hall I saw two trees fighting over a dog…

The second generation of the CSM saw the addition of a small sliding table and saw blade for making the pyramidal finial — think mini-Jointmaker Pro without any bells or whistles.  Everything went without a hitch, and we made a lot of chopsticks as you will soon see.

Pictured below is version 3 and it is in production.


Continue reading

Making Chopsticks in Taipei with the New Chopstick Master™ from Bridge City Tool Works

"When 99% of people doubt your idea, you're either gravely wrong or about to make history."— Scott Belsky

Dear Drivel Starved Nation-

Several weeks ago, over the Forth of July holiday, I traveled to Taipei to unveil the second generation of the Chopstick Master™.  If you have never been to Taipei in July, it is hot. So hot in fact, on my cab ride to the exhibition hall I saw two trees fighting over a dog…

The second generation of the CSM saw the addition of a small sliding table and saw blade for making the pyramidal finial — think mini-Jointmaker Pro without any bells or whistles.  Everything went without a hitch, and we made a lot of chopsticks as you will soon see.

Pictured below is version 3 and it is in production.

CSm v3 on Butcher Counter Clear Guard 700 jpeg  - Chopsticks

Close-up of the Cutoff Sled

CSm v3 on Butcher Counter Clear Guard Close up 700  - Chopsticks

A happy chopstick maker!

Happy Camper 700 - Chopsticks

The chopstick making reception in Taipei was identical to what I shared from my Shanghai trip. In addition, we have now hosted five dinner parties this summer where our guests had to make chopsticks or they went home hungry. Interestingly, the joyful, enthusiastic reaction of our guests was identical to what I witnessed in Shanghai and Taipei. The similarities are so strikingly similar I think I have a better understanding of what is going on with the Chopstick Master™ and it may not only be about chopsticks…

Yes, there is instant gratification. Yes, it is really fun. Yes, the end result can be immediately put to work. And, it is really cool to end up with a finished product that is both flawless and professional, particularly if one has zero woodworking skills which is the vast majority of folks who have used the CSM so far.

Simply, I think it is all about “making”, and how starved many are to validate their own existence.”Making” awakens our spirit. Speaking from personal experience, “making” is a celebration of life itself — the feeling of being alive. Whenever I finished a piece of furniture I would sit in communion with this thing I made and bask in the warm feeling of being alive.  And then after about a half-hour, sometimes less, I began listening to the voice asking me “what the hell was I thinking?” But that is another story.

“I made this!” is a proud, powerful phrase and more often that not, I suspect a source of envy from non-makers. The Chopstick Master™ allows anybody to enter the realm of “I made this!” and it feels so damn good you can’t help but smile.

Here’s the Taipei video, and I think you will agree, we had a lot of fun. And the lady at the end… oh my, what a literal and metaphoric statement she spontaneously made…

I observed one lady in Taipei put her chopsticks in the little canvas sleeve and she held them to her heart and then began to slowly jump up and down with joy.  She was so excited I thought she was going to wet her pants, or knock herself out with her purse flopping all over the place.  She had a 5-star dentist smile for all to see.

On this trip I observed many couples who made chopsticks and as they walked away, holding their “his” and “her” versions (we have canvas sleeves for males and females), you could feel the affection they had for each other — a new bond from making.

Thanks for checking out the video, this was a damn cool trip!


  • Chris Schwarz, from Lost Art Press graciously hosted a chopstick making party this weekend and you can read about that here.
  • Yesterday an intrepid DSN member sent me a link from a woodworker in Japan who made a jig to make a 4 sided chopstick. It is a cool video, and aspects of it are remarkably similar to the path I chose for the CSM (which makes sense when you logically think about tapering a stick). This jig, properly scaled, could be used for tapering table legs and other four sided pieces where a sandpaper free, repeatable taper is desired.
  • After the Shanghai video was posted, my mother-in-law sent me a fascinating book all about chopsticks. You can check out 6,000 years of chopsticks here.
  • As mentioned in a previous post, the Chopstick Master™ is being made in China, primarily for the Chinese market but we are going to sell them in the USA and everywhere else.  The pre-order window will open in a couple of weeks and we will have all units delivered prior to the holidays. Full details, including the price will be announced at that time. I recommend ordering early, the first production run is underway and is a fixed number.
  • When you get a chance, Google “weight loss with chopsticks”.  Draw your own conclusions, but it is fascinating.
  • If you have a friend, family member or neighbor who might find the CSM fun, direct them over to  to get their name on the notification list.
  • The CSM you see in the video above is version 2. You do not need a vise for the CSM but at trade shows the vise is a handy inventory control tool. Version 3, (which is in production) looks really similar but has been tweaked — no more changes are required.
  • Yes, the CSM will make both Chinese style chopsticks (5mm tip) and Japanese style (2mm tip).
  • Yes, customers will be able to order extra chopstick blanks and sleeves (10 sets at a time) and in different woods.
  • No, I don’t know the woods yet.
  • The Chopstick Master™ comes with enough blanks and sleeves to make 10 pair of chopsticks.

Lastly, I will be headed back to Shanghai in September for the world’s first “Chopstick Olympics”. This should be a hoot as I have never been associated with a tool that is this much fun!

Thanks for taking the time to read this drivel!


The Chopstick Master version 2… V3 is in Production!

Drivel Starved Nation,

I just returned from a trade show in Taipei demonstrating version two of the Chopstick Master.

All I can say is “WOW”.  Just like in Shanghai, the people making chopsticks were about as happy as happy can be. I really feel damn lucky that this idea has been so well received, again. It was 4 days of pure joy – you can view the Shanghai video here. The Taipei video will be done in a couple of weeks and you will be able to see for yourself how much fun I had.  The image below is of Team Chopstick Taipei, the tall freak in the back is your favorite Tool Potentate. The “Chopstick Girls” are in the front row and they truly are Chopstick Masters after this exhibition! Continue reading

A China Woodworking Story that is Barely Believable…

“Joy is to fun what the deep sea is to a puddle. It’s a feeling inside that can hardly be contained.” — Terry Pratchett

Drivel Starved Nation!

We have been selling Jointmaker Pros through our distributor in China for several years now, along with numerous other BCTW tools. As you know, it is a big country and avocational woodworking is in a pre-nascent stage (if such a stage exists). So the sales are not large but they are growing—right up there with our sales to Cooter Ditchman.

As a token gesture of gratitude for the business, I volunteered to attend China’s largest woodworking show as a guest in our distributor’s booth. My goal was to replicate the squiggle wood chopsticks demo that I concocted out of boredom at a similar trade show in Japan.

The Japanese are typically not outwardly demonstrative, however, these worthless chopsticks had folks laughing their asses off watching others try to pick up a grain of rice with chopsticks that were not capable of picking up a feather… actually you can’t pick up Jack Squat with these things. I never forgot how humor can unite disparate cultures.

Like other ideas of mine that should never surface, I realized, rather late, that I was going to need a chopstick supply. And although it would be no problem to buy them in China, in order for the squiggle wood part to work without a lot of effort, they all needed to be identical in size. I then embarked on a chopstick making jig with zero thought of ever making them for sale. It was a folly idea. A gesture for a good friend. Or so I thought.

I sent my CAD files to one of our suppliers without really knowing how I was going to hold these things. I also knew that I didn’t want to spend my time in China sharpening irons, so I designed the bed of the jig to be just under the plane iron width (we used the all-aluminum HP-8 block plane with depth skids). I ordered 10 prototypes because I blabbed this idea to my foodie friend, Wake, who owns the E-Bike Store and he wanted some for Asian themed dinner parties. I laughed.

About four days before my China flight, I actually made some chopsticks only to learn that my math was off, and the most important part of the jig, which facilitates making the octagonal business end, was impossibly flawed. I had that same bad feeling from eleventh grade, when I was handed my 100 question trig test and the number of correct answers was a single digit.

Furthermore, my friend and host wondered out loud as to whether my idea would actually work. I was running out of time.

In the weeks leading up to the trip, my friends asked me why I was going to China. I replied that I was going to teach the Chinese how to make chopsticks. “A tad arrogant don’t you think?” was a common sarcastic response. Most just awkwardly laughed and I could see in their eyes that a pity party was in the works.

The math error was corrected with a couple of shims. I fixed the octagonal goof with a piece of brass super-glued to the jig. The night before I left, I made a perfect pair of chopsticks. And believe it or not, this is not a simple, slam dunk project. I am talking gallery quality chopsticks. The 13 hour flight, which is never fun, was much less stressful than it could have been.

I hauled four flawed prototypes in my luggage. On the China side, my host made 500 pairs of 7mm square x 270mm long chopstick blanks in a mix of hard maple, padauk, and some brown wood.

I don’t know how this happened but within the first hour, there were 60 or so people in line waiting to make chopsticks. In the second hour, two of the HP-8 planes were apparently needed by others so we were down to two functioning stations with over three days to go. Staff were assigned to guard the remaining planes on hand.

In my opinion, the most important part of the chopstick design was the diamond cut on the fat end and it is a staple of well made chopsticks. These four hard lines unite all the hard lines and when perfect (and they ARE perfect), it is special. Oh, a pair of chopsticks takes less than 5 minutes. No sawdust, just shavings. Here’s a pic;
Woodworking Story that is Barely Believable...

This is fifteen minutes worth of work;
A China Woodworking Story that is Barely Believable... Shavings

For three straight days, there was a line to make chopsticks. Young, old, women, and kids, all made perfect chopsticks. We gave them a little canvas bag with “Chopstick Master” printed in Chinese. On the drawstring was a little card that said “These chopsticks were made entirely by hand by _________________ on ___________.

A China Woodworking Story that is Barely Believable... Chopsticks

For those of you who follow this Totally Awesome and Worthless Blog, you know that this is the place where I don’t have to try real hard to be moronic. But what I am about to say is from the heart;

Never in my life, which includes almost 50 years in the woodworking community, have I witnessed as much joy as I did those three days in China. One maker came up to me and in an excited, yet broken English, said; “Giant white guy came to China to teach us chopstick making. THANK YOU!”

So now among my other nebulous titles is “Giant White Guy”. And in a politically incorrect world, I am honored to be “Giant White Guy”.

For many of these folks, it was their very first woodworking experience. And the results were perfect. How cool is that? My first woodworking project wasn’t perfect and it got me kicked out of Cub Scouts—but that’s another story.

One man I will never forget asked to have his picture taken with me. With moist eyes, he shared that his son was three years old and when he graduates from high school, these chopsticks will be his gift.

“I want buy!” was the most common thing I heard and I heard it several hundred times. The Chopstick Master has now been perfected and it is being licensed for manufacture in China. We will have them available this summer and it is a complete kit, some of which I can’t share because of the patents in the stream. But I can tell you that I don’t think it is possible to make any other perfect wood project in 5 minutes. Maybe I am wrong, but this is simply plain fun.

I had to pose for lots of pictures (not my favorite thing), most likely because I was the “Giant White Guy”, but I can tell you that I love the Chinese people who crossed my path those four days. We have much in common, including a readiness to bitch about our respective governments. At the end of the day, making is fun. Making perfect is indelibly fun.

Quality is truly contagious.

So what really happened? I wish I knew, but I know it touched a deep nerve. Clearly nobody knows how chopsticks were made, including me three weeks earlier. The Chinese invented chopsticks over 6,000 years ago and they are a ubiquitous part of their culture, and for the five or six minutes it takes to make a pair, perhaps we were able to reunite some disconnected synapses that were patiently waiting to be reconnected with generations past. Personally, I despise working trade shows, but I would do this everyday for the rest of my life. The joy, the smiles—I just don’t know how to describe it other than it was magic.

We made approximately 400 pairs of chopsticks in three days and probably could have doubled that if my planes were not hijacked. Ironically, I did not make a single pair of squiggle wood chopsticks.

The only camera I had was my cell phone and it unfortunately ran out of storage on day two. Though the video is a little crude, I think you will get the vibe. The crowd was so crazy they brought in a DJ1 quad copter to shoot from the above. Insane.

My favorite story from this experience?

A gentleman returned the next day to make more chopsticks. He told me that he gave his first pair to his mom.

“They are too skinny,” Mom replied.
“But Mom, I made these!”
“They are too skinny,” she retorted.
“Mom, do you understand I made these?”
“I made these!”
“YOU made these?”
“These are BEAUTIFUL!”

Thank goodness for Mothers. I really wish my mother was still among us. I would give anything to see the look on her face after this experience — I am certain it would be much different than “the look” after seeing my report cards.



PS. Chris Schwarz stopped by our headquarters recently and made chopsticks entirely by hand using the Chopstick Master. Read more about his experience here.


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