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Behind the Scenes at Bridge City Tool Works
Updated: 2 hours 45 min ago

The Back Story on Our Latest “Different” Tool…

Mon, 08/14/2017 - 10:42am

Drivel Starved Nation;

It seems that whenever we introduce a tool that is not “traditional” factions of the woodworking community, using their internet bullhorn, feel compelled to condemn the effort as heresy, an egregious assault on our “woodworking heritage”. These anachronistic views to me, and to us as a company, are about as much fun as pre-chewed food. Ideas evolve and so do tools — at least I like to think so.

New ideas are almost always the result of a changing perspective. And this is what I believe we do best, we rattle the cage of conventional woodworking wisdom with tool ideas that either attack or improve functionality deficiencies, inconvenience and work-flow efficiency, all with an underlying passion for aesthetics. Ironically, nobody needs any of these tool ideas… except me.

When I started my furniture making career back in the mid-1970′s, my small basement shop evolved into a 2,000 sq.ft. woodworking studio located in an old defunct furniture factory which still resides in a huge Portland gully. My view was Interstate 84, which was about 75 yards away. That shop contained all the “traditional” purchased hand tools you can imagine, and I despised many of them.

Back then, I had no idea I would eventually become a tool maker, but I do remember cussing under my breath about squares that were not square, block planes that needed half of a day of work to be functional (maybe more), and particularly my Record shoulder plane — that plane could not be used for more than 10 minutes without causing hand pain.

I remember being acutely aware how my store bought tools shared a collective ugliness which I surmised was the result from pragmatic cost compromises. Little did I know I was littering my brain with seeds that would eventually become Bridge City Tool Works.

Fast forward some 40 years later and I now have two shops — and it is not as luxurious as it sounds. In the skunk lab at Bridge City I work primarily at a stand-up bench I built in 1977 (it is from my original basement shop). This shop is full of Bridge City stuff and working space is small and precious. There really is not much room except for one little tool prototype project at a time. We are so cramped here that the table saw has to be moved to utilize the entry door cavity for ripping long boards. I suspect you understand what I am talking about.

My home shop is a back bedroom of my house which houses my Jointmaker Pro. There is another stand-up bench in the garage, but it quickly attracks clutter with important items like dog food, light bulbs and currently, window washing paraphernalia. The garage is also home to our dogs “Hyatt Suite”. In other words, working in my garage is next to impossible.

With this in mind, my tool design perspective has changed and you can see it in our latest design, the UG-1 Universal gage (which, by the way is a stupid name — I lost the vote here). Currently I am interested in working with as few tools as possible to accomplish my needs because I don’t have the space, nor the patience to find, then put away what I need for whatever project I am working on.

UG_R.8 700

To be sure, I am rarely a fan of multi-tools and I own several, the most important of the bunch is the one I carry on my bicycle. That said, it seems multi-tools are full of compromises so when I set out to design one, it is not out of ignorance, I really want to solve my space constraints and simplify my work-flow in the most uncompromising way I can conjure.

In my next post I will explain all of the uses I have planned for this tool and will objectively (as much as possible anyway) grade each of the functions of this cool little tool! You will be able to agree or disagree, but I think the dialog might be enlightening.

-John

The post The Back Story on Our Latest “Different” Tool… appeared first on John's Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

New Tool from Bridge City Tool Works… It’s a Wild One!

Thu, 08/10/2017 - 12:48pm

Drivel Starved Nation:

Haven’t posted lately, I have buried myself in work… oh how the time flies.

FYI, blogging is not work, it is just a hassle… unless of course I come up with some meaningful drivel to feed the DSN!

Last February I started work on a project that has occupied all my time up until two weeks ago when the prototype parts arrived. This is when I learned that I had a ways to go to prove out this concept so I dropped it temporarily and finished up a tool that I started a year ago and did not finish. I am thrilled with what this tool can do, particularly for those with small shops. I think you will see, at least I hope so, that this device can make your life a whole lot easier when in the shop. Here’s a peek…

UG_L and UG_R.1 700

So, what is it? All of the following;

1) An accurate Try Square (within 0.002″)
2) Marking Gage
3) Depth Gage
4) Height Gage
5) Bevel Square
6) Protractor
7) Centering Rule

The UG-1 Universal Gage features a magnetic base for setting table saw blades, band saw tables and jointer fences a breeze. The notched arm allows you to tilt your drill press table to a drill blank for precise angular hole drilling.

Setting split shaper and router table fences is easy with the depth gage functionality. As is determining hole and mortise depths. You flip the beam to convert to a height gage.

The height gage is perfect for setting router bit and saw blade heights. Those are just a few of the set-up capabilities.

This may be the best layout tool to come out of Bridge City… it provides uncluttered access to a lot of traditional layout tools.

And as you can see in the image, it comes in both a Right and Left hand version. Pick the one that reflects which way your table saw blade tilts as seen from the front of the saw. Better yet, just add them both to your shop!

The height gage features grads in both Imperial and metric units. This is cool for those weening themselves off the archaic imperial measuring system, it gives you a ready reference comparison–before you know it, 6mm is really close to a 1/4″ and 12mm is really close to 1/2″. After a little practice your brain will start thinking in millimeters which is a really efficient unit measurement embraced by almost the entire planet.

And yes, we will have a left and right version available in all metric.

We will open up pre-orders next week.

Next week I will get back to work on my gizmo that has a really big chance of making me the laughing stock of the woodworking community.

I can hardly wait!

-John

The post New Tool from Bridge City Tool Works… It’s a Wild One! appeared first on John's Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

HP-14 Scraper Plane Details from Bridge City Tool Works…

Tue, 06/20/2017 - 4:25pm

Drivel Starved Nation!

I received lots of great questions regarding our Hp-14 Scraper Plane and will attempt to answer them here in this Totally Awesome and Worthless Blog!

Before I answer them, here are a couple of pics of the final design. The pre-order window will open this week and we will make this in two versions, the HP-14 Scraper Plane, and the HP-14 SS Scraper Plane. The later features stainless steel sides as opposed to champagne anodized aluminum and we will only make the SS version once…

HP14 Aluminum with Logo Final 700

HP14 SS Side Profile on Gray 700

HP14 SS 700

This is a really cool tool and we are excited to get going on it!

Now for the questions…

Q. What is the HP-12?

A. It is a tool that will be announced later this year. It’s been sitting “in the can” for almost 2 years now. I have been busy on some other things that has kept us from releasing it.

Q. What is the HP-13?
A. I don’t know… 13 is an unlucky number so it may never exist.

Q. Is the iron crowned?
A. No, and you don’t want it crowned, a scraper plane is designed to make a s linear scrape in wild wood, or in cases where you know you are going to sand the surface after scraping. (You should be able to start with 220 grit after using the HP-14)

Q. Is there a way to “bow” the blade like a cabinet scraper?
A. No, see answer above.

Q. What is the width of the iron?
A. Approximately 51mm.

Q. What is the steel of the iron and hardness of the iron?
A. A2 tool steel hardened to 48-50 Rc.

Q. What is the factory grind of the iron and how thick is it?
A. 45 degrees and it is approximately 2.4mm thick.

Q. Will the HP-14 come with a burnisher?
A. No. (we use the shank of a screw driver)

Q. Will the HP-14 come with depth skids?
A. No. There is no use for skids on this type of plane.

Q. How do you know when the iron gets dull?
A. Oh, you will know. You go from consistent shavings to dust. Dust is not good.

Q. Does the iron get how like a cabinet scraper.
A. Yes, but your hands are far removed from the edge so it is not a concern.

Q. How thick is the sole?
A. Approximately 8mm

Q. Do I need to worry about the sides coming off because of those little black screws?
A. No. The sides are actually press fitted to the sole via metal dowel pins. The screws are insurance and add an industrial aesthetic that I like.

That’s the Q and A so far.

To set up the tool, set it on a flat surface. Pitch the frog at approximately a 60 degree angle and lock in place. Next, you insert the iron (after rolling a hook and with the bevel facing the rear tote) and allow it to seat against the flat surface. We recommend pressing down on the iron firmly while tightening the cap screw. This typically creates a minute protrusion of the hook. Make a test cut.

There is not a depth adjustor on scraper planes, so if you are not getting shavings, either the hook is incorrect or the iron is not protruding from the bottom of the sole. If the latter is the case, repeat the set-up process mentioned above but shim the bottom of the plane off the bench surface with two pieces of thin paper.

When properly set-up, you should get shavings (as opposed to dust) 99.99 per cent of the time REGARDLESS of grain direction. Scraper planes are a must-have tool for serious makers and we think the HP-14 Scraper Plane will exceed your expectations and those of your heirs for generations to come.

The rear tote is a tour-de-force of tool making craftsmanship. Investment cast stainless steel, the tote is polished to a mirror finish and the interior cavities are powder coated jet-black. Lastly, the sides are grained and the tote is fastened to the sole via two stainless steel cap screws.

We think the HP-14 is a real head turner that will make wood grain shake in fear! Pre-order email will arrive sometime later this week.

-John

The post HP-14 Scraper Plane Details from Bridge City Tool Works… appeared first on John's Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

New Scraper Plane from Bridge City Tool Works…

Fri, 06/16/2017 - 3:46pm

Drivel Starved Nation;

We are pleased to add the HP-14 Scraper Plane to our plane family. Full details will be announced next week, but I wanted to share this image – this is a cool tool!  Pictured below is the version with champagne anodized aluminum sides. We will also release for pre-order an all stainless steel version. Both have stainless steel soles.

I did not have a scraper plane in the early days of my furniture making career but added one later. What a mistake. This tool, at times, is the only tool that will deal with crazy grain. It also is a must have tool for veneer work. When used properly, a scraper plane will NEVER tear out wicked grain. You can also use it to smooth out a finish. I will give you the full details next week in this Totally Awesome and Worthless Blog!

HP14 Aluminum Sides Scraper Plane w Logo 700

We tried to get this announced prior to Father’s Day but I was not happy with it until this week.

That said, happy Father’s Day to the Drivel Starved Nation Dads and we hope your family decides the only thing you really need besides their joyous love and companionship is well…

… a new scraper plane!

-John

The post New Scraper Plane from Bridge City Tool Works… appeared first on John's Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

Weekend Projects Using the New V Groove Kit for the HP-10 Plane…

Wed, 05/24/2017 - 4:42pm

Dear Drivel Starved Nation;

If there is one thing that drives me crazy about being in the woodworking business are customers who are reluctant to acknowledge the potential of new ideas. I will never understand this, and frankly, it frustrates me when I have to spend time with people who never appreciate that the world is full of new ideas yet to be revealed.

We recently introduced a set of four “V” groove texturing kits for our HP-10 Convertible Plane and all they do is make perfect “V” Grooves. Yup, that is all they do.

Don’t get me wrong, I love speaking with our customers but not like this…

CUSTOMER: “I saw the “V” groove kits for the HP-10 and like all your stuff, I know it will be incredibly well made. Why would you come out with this kit? I can see ZERO use for it.”

ME: (In my head only, “%$^*&(I*TGH #@$&!! UGH!) “Well, I believe it gives users an incredible opportunity to add texture, shadow and interest to their work.”

CUSTOMER: Like how?

ME: “OK, tomorrow I will post some ideas on my blog.”

The conversation ended amicably and I quickly doodled out some sketches and made some CAD dummy models of projects using this texture kit that can be achieved in a weekend.

These are what I call “low hanging fruit ideas” and by that I mean they should be obvious to most. All are makeable in a weekend.

One obvious use (to me) of this kit is for picture frames. Here is an 11 x 17 frame idea:11 x 17 Frame 700
In this instance, the texture was cut in the edge of a board and the frame member was liberated from the parent stock with the table saw blade tilted at 30 degrees. This creates the downward slope moving from outside to in that adds depth to the frame. The rabbet for the art and glass can be cut with a rabbet plane or the table saw. The bevels are cut with a block plane.

Of course when you shrink a frame down to where the inside corners touch, you create a mitered tile. In this example, this tile is just under 3″ square…V Groove Tile 700
When I make textured tiles, I glue the four pieces to 1/16″ aircraft plywood and use no glue on the joints. This allows me to pre-finish the textured strip before it is mitered and makes incredibly clean (no glue mess) miter joints.

Using this tile as a lid idea, I designed this small box…V Groove Box with Lid 700
Here, the box sides were grooved to receive “V” groove strips. When I make boxes where I am gluing strips across the grain, I like to make my own 3-ply plywood where the thickness of the two outer layers equals the thickness of the center layer. This method serves two purposes, it keeps the sides from cracking one day and it makes for glueable miters that are not solely endgrain.

A single tile can be ganged into a motif. From here you can play with variations on a theme, such as experimenting with different wood colors and arrangements. I caution getting too crazy with contrasting woods, it is SO EASY to create a contrived look that fails…V Groove Tile Array 700

Here’s a cool looking box idea using the same tile as the lid in the smaller box above…V Groove Cigar Type Box 700
If you make this you will be working to some pretty tight tolerances which I think is fun. Using square tiles it is easy to make items with clean proportions – notice the 3 : 5 ratio of the depth to length.

To create an incredible level of detail, you can make triangle strips (you can nest two textured boards together, “V” grooves to “V” grooves and run them through the planer, the top board will eventually become individual strips with a perfect triangular cross sections.) These strips can then be crosscut to create little tiles. Here is just such an idea…
Triangular Tiles 700

This is just the beginning of what is possible when you understand how much more interesting projects can become with a little texture!

-John

The post Weekend Projects Using the New V Groove Kit for the HP-10 Plane… appeared first on John's Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

Bridge City Field Trip to China Details!

Mon, 05/22/2017 - 10:45am

Dear Drivel starved Nation!

As mentioned earlier in the year, I have to go to China in October and thought it would be fun to invite members of the Drivel Starved Nation to tag along for a couple of days to see China and meet China’s most famous woodworker. It will be a trip you will not soon forget.

Here are some important details for those who have never traveled abroad and are considering this trip;

1) You will need a passport. Everything you need to know about obtaining a USA passport can be found here.

2) AFTER your passport arrives, you will need to apply for a Chinese Visa. The type of China visa for a tourist is “L”. Here is the link for the application process. The visa is good for 10 years.

3) We will be visiting both Shanghai and Nanjing. I am recommending that you fly in and out of Shanghai. We will all take the bullet train from Shanghai to Nanjing and return to Shanghai from Nanjing.

4) Here is the itinerary;

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 27: Bridge City will host a dinner in Shanghai. This will be really fun evening as we mingle and you will get to meet some of the team members from Harvey Industries. The location will likely be our hotel, but that could change.

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 28: We will visit some of the major Shanghai tourist attractions. We will be accompanied by Jack Xu, the president of Harvey Industries who is also a great tour guide! Saturday evening you will be free to explore the Bund area on your own or with fellow DSN members.

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 29: We will visit a couple more attractions in Shanghai prior to taking the bullet train to Nanjing. The cost each way runs from $20 USD to $60 USD. You will be on your own for dinner but I suspect we will all travel in a pack and find a great place to eat.

MONDAY, OCTOBER 30: We will be on a privately guided tour of parts of Nanjing, the old Chinese capital.

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 31: We will visit Harvey Industries and you will learn all about their rich history of making tools for the world woodworking market. In the afternoon, we will visit Mr.Yang Jin Rong, China’s HongMu Master. He is considered the most important woodworker in China. His showroom is literally unbelievable. Lastly, Bridge City will host a farewell dinner in Nanjing and both Jack Xu and Mr. Yang Jin Rong will be in attendance to talk shop with the DSN.

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 1: Nothing on the schedule, you can take the bullet train back to Shanghai and fly home, or continue to explore China. You can research flying home out of Nanjing as well.

5) Prior to researching your airfare, you need to understand that you likely cannot fly in on the 27th and make it to dinner. The latest you should arrive in Shanghai is Thursday, October 26th. You will likely not get to the hotel before 10PM. Regarding airfare, coach airfare can run from $400-$800. Business class is typically around $4,000. For those DSN members in the USA, it is approximately a 13 hour non-stop trip from the west coast.

6) You are certainly welcome to make your own hotel arrangements but we recommend staying at the Westin Bund Center, Shanghai. If you choose to stay with us here, we will make the reservations for you. The cost will be around $200/night. The hotel in Nanjing is the Crowne Plaza Nanjing. We will also make all reservations for this hotel. Cost is under $200/night. Every effort will be made to get a lower group rate at both hotels once we know the final count of those planning on this trip.

7) About the food. Simply, it is off the charts INCREDIBLE. This is a cooking culture with over 5,000 years of culinary history. Each day you will start off with the hotel breakfast buffet which is free. For those of you who refuse to sway from western food, you do not need to worry, western tastes are not ignored. The two dinners that BCTW is hosting will be typical Chinese style dinners where dishes are prepared and brought tableside and placed on a large lazy Susan. You pick and choose what you want to eat. Practice your chopstick skills! And regardless of how picky you are as an eater, you will not go to bed hungry.

8) A word about Baijiu. This is a traditional Chinese beverage that is definitely an acquired taste. It is served at dinner and all I can say is I thought it tasted like transformer fluid and I have never tasted transformer fluid. Beer and wine are both options as are all the non-alcoholic options. Lastly, DO NOT BRING marijuana into China. This would be really STUPID.

9) A word about safety. Last year I visited China five times, and went on self-guided walking tours whenever I was in the mood to walk. I think China is one of the safest tourist spots in the world if you follow a couple of simple rules. 1) Ask the concierge to write in Chinese your destination if you are taking a cab. Always carry the hotel business card with you for a taxi ride home. 2) Do not talk to strangers trying to sell you things. 3) Take a copy of your passport and Visa. That’s about it.

10) A word about money. I recommend you convert a couple hundred dollars at the Shanghai airport when you arrive. This is a much better exchange rate than what you can get stateside. The taxi fare from the Shanghai airport to the hotel will be around $70. AND, DO NOT accept a taxi ride from people inside the airport, simply head to the taxi line. The people in the airport charge double or triple. Lastly, if you run out of Chinese RMB, you can always exchange for more at the hotel. You can convert all of the excess RMB back to dollars at your departing airport. Credit cards are accepted just about everywhere.

11) We hope you bring your spouse or significant other. Shanghai is the largest city on the planet and if shopping is your thing, you will be a happy camper.

12) Depending on the size of the group, we all may end up sharing the expense for a private bus. Just sayin’…

So, what is left to discuss? WE NEED TO KNOW IF YOU WILL BE JOINING US! If so, please following these instructions!

1) RSVP with CHINA in the subject field of an email addressed to sales@bridgecitytools.com.
2) In this email, please provide the full names of the attendees.
3) IF you are going to stay at the recommended hotels in Shanghai and Nanjing, please let us know what days you would like reserved.
4) WE NEED TO KNOW THIS INFORMATION BEFORE JULY 1st PLEASE! The sooner the better.
5) If you have contacted me directly, you STILL need to formally RSVP. I have a crappy memory.

If you have never been to China, I highly recommend this trip. It will change just about every preconceived notion you have about China. This is what happened to me. The people, the food, the architecture, the history… all are simply amazing.

I hope you join us!

-John

 

The post Bridge City Field Trip to China Details! appeared first on John's Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

New HP-10 Profiles Uncovered…

Tue, 05/02/2017 - 12:17pm

Drivel Starved Nation;

Geez, do I have a bunch of stuff to report! But it will have to wait. Meanwhile, here are a couple of updates;

1) I have all the details for our excellent field trip to China this fall and I will post them before weeks end.
2) The parts for the CT-19 Transfer Bevel are done with machining, you can follow the progress here
4) The miter square run is back on track (we had some supplier issues). That’s good news.
5) Had a fire at my house, little damage, will report on this later – yes, it could happen to you.
6) Spent 5 days in the hospital 3 weeks ago. Not a fun experience. Will report on this later as well. (I am fine) And yes, this could happen to you as well.
7) I am now on month four of an idea that I am not sure will work. I am going to build a prototype and if it works, I will really be happy and I think you will be happy too!

I love our HP-10 Foxtail Convertible Plane and this week we will open the pre-order window for the four-piece “V” Groove Kit. Here are a couple of images;
Small V Groove on Wood Edge w Logo 700

V Groove Kits w Logo 700

Notice the unique iron design? To sharpen, all you need to do is hone the surface at 30 degrees, no special hone required. How cool is that?

Front Sole Profiles Dimensions 700

I’ve ranted about this before, but the lack of texture in avocational woodworking drives me crazy. From round trees come square edged stock that typically makes square edged, planar projects. By adding texture, you are adding shadows, and this almost always (when done well) adds interest. Remember, our eyes like to eat too!

Here are my thoughts on the four profiles in this kit.

60 Degree “V” Groove Profile

This profile does a couple of cool things. It obviously makes a sharp “V” groove that can be used as a design element or as a way to save your bacon when you have a seam that is not perfect – simply control the “V” groove depth with the depth skids and cut a “V” groove on said crappy seam to hide it. This is ironically called a “reveal”.

You can also make 60 degree chamfers or full equilateral triangle strips that can be used for inlays, or, grouped in sixes to make incredibly strong linear rods – think fly rods here.

I like the really sharp texture element this profile creates.

90 Degree “V” Groove Profile
When used with a fence, chamfering is an obvious use, as are all the ideas mentioned above with the 60 Degree Profile. The coolest use in my opinion is to use this profile to inlay corner moldings into planar surfaces to add contrast and/or texture. I’s fast, fun, and as always, when done well, adds much interest. This beat up sample has been in our showroom for over a decade, but you get the idea…
V Groove Molding

The “V” Groove Texture Profiles
I will post some really cool ideas for these two profiles in the next week or so to show how much fun adding texture can be. Meanwhile, one use for either of these profiles is for indexed glue joints. I like using this joint in thin wood that is not straight. I hate using clamping cauls to straighten out warped material in a glue up. What I prefer is to offset the offending curved stock so they cancel each other to create a straight board. To do this requires either dowels, biscuits, (neither work in thin stock well) or an indexed joint using “V” grooves. The added gluing surface creates an incredible joint that you will never have to worry about.

All done without power, noise or the need for a dust collector.

More later!

-John

The post New HP-10 Profiles Uncovered… appeared first on John's Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools