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Drivel Starved Nation-
My latest trip to China was my favorite to date. When you are on an informative trip, fun is easy to find. When the weather is perfect, trips like this become magical.
The highlight for me was the gift Mr. Yang, the Hong Mu Master presented to me. It is a sample of the joinery used in his masterpiece pictured below;
Incredibly, mastering this joint can take up to a year. The rosewood supply he has is finite, so there is no tolerance for waste when it comes time to make a chair. And because there is no finish, the joints need to be perfect to become invisible. It truly is an amazing display of craftsmanship. The joint itself (I wish I would have asked if it had a name) is a thousand years old I am told.
Here is a short video by Academy Award Winning Cinematographer Wanna Be Consuelo;
Each chair arm has 6-8 of these joints. They are incredibly strong and could be completely functional without adhesive… they are that strong.
Pretty cool yes/no?
The post The Woodworking Joint Used in the Arms of Ming Dynasty Chairs… appeared first on John's Blog.
Drivel Starved Nation!
After spending three weeks in China, my jet lag back here in Oregon is something else. I must be getting really old…
The day before I departed back to the States, my Chinese business associate Jack and his daughter Jessica accompanied me to Beijing for a special dinner.
It’s not a big secret that I am an Iowa son, born and raised until my graduation from Iowa State when I headed off to my teaching job in Oregon. Wow, that was 45 years ago! Ouch.
While living in Ames, I would occasionally get my hair cut–about once every three years. (I liked being a hippie where I learned that you could accomplish so much more in a day if you skipped bathing.) The place I frequented was called the Head Shop and it was owned by Al Thompson who was my barber. We have remained friends all these years and whenever he FaceTimes me he tells me my hair looks like it was cut with a Weed Eater…
Some things never change.
Al learned how to cut hair from a famed LA hair stylist and his Head Shop quickly became the most popular barber joint in central Iowa. Then he got a crazy idea…
In 1971, when hot pants and mini skirts were at their peak (did I just write that?), Al decided it was a good idea to shave ISU coeds legs for a buck. What do you think happened?
Back then, if a story was picked up on the AP wire, it went viral and yes it did! He has clippings of his exploits from around the world. The 1971 NPR radio story is now enshrined in their archives.
It wasn’t long before Al would make a monthly trip to Des Moines to cut the hair of the Governor. And now, whenever I go to Tennessee, or Al comes to Oregon, my haircuts are free. After each hair cut he proclaims, “Now, you no longer look like an idiot!” How cool is that?
So, what does this have to do with Charlie Manson? Al’s teacher in LA was Jay Sebring who was one of the seven people murdered by the Manson clan. But the crazy part is just beginning…
That Iowa Governor? Mr. Terry Branstad. Turns out he is the longest serving Governor in US history with 22 years of public service. He too stays in touch with Al from his new residence as the Ambassador to China in Beijing. See where this is headed?.
We were supposed to meet for dinner on Nov. 3rd, but got bumped by none other than Bill Gates. However, on Nov. 2rd, Jack, Jessica and your favorite tool Potentate took a cab over to the Ambassador’s residence where we were greeted at the gate by 4 or 5 Chinese army dudes. They asked, “What do you want?”
“We are here for dinner with the Branstads” I said.
“Who are you?”
“John” I replied.
About 5 minutes passed and the gate opened. It is about a 50 meter walk to the entry and awaiting us was Mr. Branstad’s wife Chris. We were there for almost 4 hours and had a great time (not once did politics get discussed). Here was our menu;
For a Chinese business man and his daughter, this was an amazing life experience. I probably won’t be invited back (it’s a trend I have noticed over the years…) but really had a great time. Mrs. Branstad actually made the ice cream on the menu. How cool is that?
BUT WAIT–THERE IS MORE! I have even more crazy friends! Michael Hosaluk, one of the most famous woodturners in the world claims that he used to play hockey like me. No, not as bad as me, but hockey…. you get it. This dude won the Canadian equivalent of the the MacArthur Genius Award which means he got free money!
So I begged Michael to make me something special that I could give Mr. Yang the Hong Mu Master, Jack and the Branstads as a gift. He said sure, then in order to bring the price down (even though he got all this free money, he has to charge me because he is flippin’ famous, which is always expensive) I ordered ten sets of these;
They are ceremonial rice bowls, one with red lacquer, the other with gold leaf. And yes, that is actual rice you see. How cool! We will offer 5 of these limited edition sets in our upcoming holiday email.
The next day I walked over to the American Embassy because I have never been to an American Embassy before and was given a private tour by a docent. Not once did I spot a spy.
And that brings my latest China adventure to a close. It was a great trip… Until I received this email from Chris Branstad;
“John, are those rice bowls dishwasher safe?”
I knew it was a joke so now I have yet another crazy friend!
Drivel Starved Nation,
This is a long post, and it is full of pics. So there DSN, lots of Drivel! (If you have slow internet, you may have to wait a bit for all the pics to download).
Our last day together on the Epic Bridge City China Field Trip was spent at the Hong Mu Arts Museum. This 30,000 square meter facility was built specifically to honor Mr. Yang, the Hong Mu Master. He is China’s most famous woodworker and is a national treasure. The museum was privately funded (just under $40 million USD) by a wealthy real estate mogul who is living the giving chapter of his life. The museum is private and when complete next year, the grounds will include the now finished museum, a tea garden and a brand new private residence for Mr. Yang and his lovely wife. Attendance is by invitation only.
Mr. Yang and I are the same age (old) and share a ready sense of humor. (While at dinner, he commented that when he visited New York city he had no money. I quickly gave him $2 bucks for his next trip which was a good for a long 5 minute laugh.) More important, his passion for his work is unrelenting and his productivity is actually unbelievable. He is one of “those guys” that does not have an enemy in the world, and it is really an honor to call him a friend.
All of his furniture is made out of an Asian dalbergia species (rosewood). All of it. And get this, in his pieces you are going to see below, NONE of them have a finish. That is not a typo, NO FINISH. It is simply the luster of the wood rubbed to a lacquer-like finish. Incredible.
If you turn to the right, there is an entire floor dedicated to student work.The pieces you see below are made from ONE piece of wood (no joinery). This is just a sample of the incredible work. The students spent one year on their projects.
What follows below are examples from the three floors of Mr. Yang’s work. Many of the pieces are grouped as they might appear in a residence. The “paintings” interspersed in the images below are all silk embroideries. They are all worth fortune! Even more amazing, this furniture was all crammed into his house on my visit last year!
Enjoy the images.
This is a our equivalent of a “love seat”. The center section is for tea, and the couple sit cross-legged facing each other. The flexibility needed to sit like this does not exist in my body. Anywhere.
This is Mr. Yang’s bed and it took him 5 years to make it. Most of the pieces you see here took over a year and the reason is simple, the rosewood was not kiln dried. He would work on a piece, let is sit for a month or two, do more work, repeat.
I don’t know about you, but I feel really insignificant in the shadow of the Hong Mu Master. What an experience.
The post Bridge City Field Trip Report #4: The Hong Mu Arts Museum Tour appeared first on John's Blog.
Drivel Starved Nation;
Nothing quiets prejudice, hatred and biases more efficiently than travel. Only until one sees, smells, hears and learns from different cultures and their people can you intelligently grow as a citizen of planet Earth. Over the past 4 years, my 8-9 trips to China have been filled with wonderment, awe, disgust, dismay and joy. I thought this field trip idea would be an equally fun learning experience for Bridge City customers. And it was.
We all had a great time in Shanghai so it was time to see Nanjing! To get there, we took the bullet train.
The Chinese government is fully committed to connecting all corners of China with bullet train service. These sleek, all electric vehicles with bodies of extruded aluminum, shuttle passengers at an amazing 300 km/hr. (That is a Nascar speed of approx. 186 miles per hour!) The ride is incredibly smooth so of course I had to ask how that was possible.
In order to go that fast, and that smooth, the tracks need to be smooth. How smooth you ask? They are actually surface ground once in place and the tolerance is 1mm every 16 meters. How accurate is that you pesky knowledge seeker? 0.00075 inches per foot! That is crazy. How crazy? That is flatter than our precision straight edge!
I then inquired about heat and cold and expansion joints. I was told the rails are not welded but joined with a special alloy that keeps them “on track” during extreme temperature swings. There is no clickety clack, clickety clack, unlike my experiences on Amtrak here in the States. I would say that on average, the bullet train is smoother than air travel. That’s is simply amazing to me. It is also relatively inexpensive.
The train stations are nothing short of enormous. With the exception of the Boeing assembly building in Everett, WA (do put that on your bucket list of places to see), these train stations are the largest buildings I have ever been in. They are sleek, modern, and so damn big they disguise the fact that at any given moment, there are thousands of people waiting to catch a train. Here’s a pic of the Nanjing station;
This pic was taken in the middle of the station, and those windows down yonder are at least three football fields away. It is the same going the other direction. The place is huge, shiney, new and unbelievably impressive. AND, this is just the UPSTAIRS! You take an escalator down to the train terminal to an equally large space to catch one of the many trains, which like German trains, operate to the minute. I was also told that this year, for the first time, bullet train travel was profitable.
Here’s a little video of a train coming into the station;
What 180 mph looks like from a window seat…
Once in Nanjing we had a guided tour of the Harvey Industries facility, and were able to see the new Gyro Air Dust Collector in production as well as the Bridge City Tool Works assembly area. We had a fascinating time culminating that evening with a BCTW hosted dinner, our last dinner together.
The next day was the highlight of the trip…
… To Be Continued.
The post Bridge City China Field Trip Report #3; Shanghai to Nanjing… appeared first on John's Blog.
Drivel Starved Nation;
After our kick-off dinner, we all took a nice walk along the Bund which was a block or two from our hotel. Here is how it looks to my cell phone at night;
After this spectacular view, we retired for the evening. Well not all of us… but that is another story.
Early Saturday morning we were picked up in a 15 passenger van and our first stop was the Oriental Pearl Tower. Until 2007 it was the tallest structure in China at 468 m (1,535 feet) high. It is memorable for the glass floor on the observation deck. Here are the shoes I wore that day;
What a fun people watching place! Yes, it is a bit unnerving to walk out onto a glass floor that high in the air, but for some people, it is outright terrifying. I was terrified at first, but then remembered there is nothing more terrifying than running Bridge City Tool Works…
TRIVIA: As of 2017, China is home to 5 of the top 10 towers in the world. #2, #5, #7, #8, & #10. You can look them up, I have jet lag.
After circumnavigating the glass floor a couple of times, we headed off to an old part of Shanghai where the streets were narrow and filled with the most awful smell imaginable, and it emanated from a food booth! It’s called 1,000 year old tofu and apparently it is delicious. NO ONE in our group tried this which is the strangest source of pride I suppose. Here’s a pic from a similar booth in Guangzhou;
The motto for this stuff is, “Smells like hell (understatement of humankind), tastes great!”
We then were chauffeured over to a part of Shanghai that reminded me of upper Manhattan. It was a walking tour with stops at a couple of famous residences that now serve as museums. I, of course, went around and checked out the woodworking. Wow, Chinese woodworkers are really good at making miter joints. We then had a great meal that was sponsored by our host company, Harvey Industries.
According to 2017 data, Shanghai is the most populous city in the world with approximately 35 million people. That DSN members is within a million or so of the entire population of Canada. It’s also within a couple million of the entire population of California. It’s also one of the safest places I have ever been. These people do not seem to have the anger gene found in western societies, which I find fascinating. People are happy, healthy and know how to enjoy themselves, and they are way more family centric than what I have observed in America. Again, these are simply my observations.
I asked the guy “Who buys this?” His response, “Only Americans”.
This left me totally depressed for an hour or so. Incredible. And embarrassing.
Just think, somebody got paid to come up with “The Potty Putter”. I also wondered how much the male model was paid for that image. And why male… ? So many questions!
Next report features our bullet train ride to Nanjing.
The post Bridge City China Field Trip Report #2: Shanghai, the Largest City in the World… appeared first on John's Blog.
Drivel Starved Nation-
Your favorite Tool Potentate just returned from three weeks in China. I spent a week in Guangzhou, 3 days in Shanghai, a week in Nanjing, and 3 days in Beijing.
While in Shanghai I met up with the Bridge City China field trip participants. And while in Beijing we had the privilege of a private dinner with the American ambassador of China and his wife in their private residence followed by a private tour the next day of the American embassy, the largest American embassy in the world. In short, this experience was more than any of us expected and will take multiple posts to share all that we explored.
TRIVIA #1: “Jing” means capital. “Bei” means north. “Nan” means south. Nanjing is the old capital of China and Beijing is the current capital.
Before I dive into the details I am reporting that what is happening in China (over the past 20 years) is the largest renaissance in human history. The scale, the speed, and the importance of what is happening in China cannot be ignored. It is almost beyond imagination. It is also beyond my intelligence grade to judge, comment, disagree or approve of what is happening in China, this post is to simply share what I observed from my limited perspective. That means no politics in this safe space I call my Totally Awesome and Worthless Blog.
The Canton Fair is held in Guangzhou every October over a three week period and is the largest trade show on the planet. If you have ever been to a woodworking show in America, the attendance ranges from 1,000 to 5,000 and around 25,000 for the two big shows that alternate between Atlanta and Las Vegas. The week I was there the attendance was around 500,000. That is insane.
We were showing the Chopstick Master and other assorted Bridge City Tools but honestly, my jet lag was so bad I had a hard time staying awake. I did find it fascinating that several attendees asked me about Pencil Perfection which is crazy because we just released it for pre-order two days before I left for the exhibition. The speed of the digital world still amazes this old guy.
Our Chinese host and I arrived in Shanghai on Friday and that evening Bridge City hosted a get acquainted dinner for our field trip participants. We had several cancellations at the last minute so the group totaled 10 or so for the duration. The dinner was fun and I enjoyed watching Americans push the limits of their palette with the various Chinese dishes that have been perfected over their 5,000 years of cooking. My limits were pushed too — check out these menu items…
I asked our Chinese host if there was anything the Chinese would not eat. His response;
The next report will be the sights and sounds of Shanghai.
Now, go get a snack.
The post Bridge City China Field Trip Report #1: Adventures in Eating… appeared first on John's Blog.
Drivel Starved Nation-
Here’s the latest news regarding your favorite Tool Potentate…
JOHN OUT OF THE OFFICE DEPT.
This Thursday I depart for China, first stop is Guangzhou. A week later, I will meet up with the BCTW field trip participants in Shanghai for a couple of days of food and tourist attractions–this should be really fun. We then will all board the bullet train (over 300 km/hr and smoother than flying!) for Nanjing. More great food and a visit to the museum of China’s greatest living woodworker. This will be an incredible experience, and I will be sure to take lots of pics and videos for you.
On November 3, I will be taking the bullet train to Beijing and that evening we are meeting the American ambassador to China (Mr. Terry Brandstad) and his wife Chris for dinner, and chopstick making! (Did you know that they extrude the bodies of the bullet train out of aluminium? It’s the largest extrusion in the history of the planet!)
NEW PRODUCT DEPT.
This week we will open the pre-order window for Pencil Precision™. I think you will thoroughly enjoy making pencils–I’m an old guy and not easily amused (except at my own mistakes) and this thing is just a blast to use.
Many of you own an HP6v2 plane so we are offering two kits, one without the plane and the other with an HP-6v2. This is a globally sourced project with components made in the USA, China, Germany, to name a few. Without question, this is the best value tool making kit we have ever produced – Here’s a pic of the kit without the HP-6v2…
This kit includes two sole kits for the HP-6, the planing fixture, the extrusion fixture, and enough blanks and ferrules to make 12 pencils. It will allow you to make round pencils. The extrusion die kits for beaded and Reuleaux pencils will be sold ala carte and are $89 per set. This way you can buy just what you want. This kit is under $450!
In both kits you will receive a sample of six ferrules with erasers and six without. This will allow you to explore both pencil making options. The ferrules come in eight colors and you will understand why when you make your first pencil with child or grandchild assistant. Watching the look on their faces when it is their turn to pick which color is priceless.
We will announce the spectrum of colored pencil options at a later date as we are in negotiations with potential suppliers. The kit comes with 12 2H leads and we will offer black lead options in the following hardness: 4H, 2H, H, HB, B, 2B and 4B and Red and Blue. We recommend H and HB for little kids.
AND, all pencil component options, whether it is 12 leads, 6 plain ferrules, 6 ferrule/erasers or 12 cedar blanks are all under $9.00. The material costs for making beautiful custom pencils will be right around $2.50 each. Combine that with the fun of involving your entire family is simply unbeatable.
When I return from China we will begin filming the HOW-TO video tutorial but to wet your whistle, here is a short video peak at one of our prototypes in the skunk lab. I removed the crank and I am using a Dewalt power screwdriver (I love this tool) with an almost dead battery. Each die is really a circular plane iron and serves as not only the cutting edge, but the chip breaker as well. It doesn’t get any easier than this!
Pencil Precision is a complete hobby/factory in a box and this is what it isn’t: a toy. This is a professionally made tool that will last generations–which is a whole lot longer than a smart phone.
The post Pencil Precision Video, China Field Trip, Other Bridge City News appeared first on John's Blog.
Drivel Starved Nation!
It’s always exciting when we have something new to share… which I suppose makes this post news. (I did that math all by myself – FYI)
Since 1983, (that’s 34 human years, but 311 tool maker years), we have been producing impeccably crafted bench tools primarily for avocational woodworkers. It’s been mostly fun, but not as fun as it could have been knowing what I know now…
Three years ago, I experienced a life changing happening in China that I cannot get out of my head. If you missed my original post, you can read it here.
What I learned over the previous three years is the enthusiastic joy the Chopstick Master™ has brought to people’s lives the world around is something I hope to duplicate with future offers from Bridge City.
I believe the thrill of using the Chopstick Master is not the pair of chopsticks (yes, they are beautiful and function perfectly), but the self-esteem boost one experiences from the making process. Learning something new is always its own reward (good and bad) but there is another aspect in play here that is noteworthy. And that is the power of gesture.
To make a pair of chopsticks takes about 15 minutes. Giving them away as a gesture creates a feeling that lasts way beyond those fleeting 15 minutes. It is simply about as good as one can feel about themselves. And it is contagious, as in Quality is Contagious™.
Last January I met with the lawyers that manage our patents and trademarks and we were discussing the improbable success of the Chopstick Master when one of them blurted, ”What’s next, a gizmo to make pencils?” This unintended comment, meant as a joke, was simply a great idea in my mind. Why? Because I felt that making pencils would be 10 times more fun than making chopsticks! And having fun, is a big deal to me. I now love lawyer humor too!
I left on my annual work retreat in February and immediately jumped head first into the rabbit hole of pencil making (when the Muse talks you listen). I have been doing almost nothing since. So yes, your fearless Tool Potentate has yet again “bet the farm” on this improbable idea. It worked with the Jointmaker Pro and I sure do hope it works here…
The patent and trademark has been filed so here’s an overview of how Pencil Precision™ works;
Using our venerable HP-6v2 Plane (any version with locking dovetail nuts), you attach the pencil groove soles, insert the iron and adjust for a whisper cut, attach the fixed purpose acetyl depth skids, and plane the supplied 170mm cedar blank until the plane quits cutting. This process creates two 1mm radius channels and dimensions the blank stock to exactly 4mm in thickness. Repeat this for the second blank. The blue knob tightens the red clamp jaw which freezes the blank in place. The unit was designed to work on a kitchen counter or workbench. This step for both halves is less than 5 minutes.
Once the two halves are complete, you put a thin film of wood glue on one side, position the 2mm dia lead blanks in place and use the fixture to clamp the blanks for at least 1 hour. No other tools are required (OK, a small hammer will help later…) but this device is literally a factory in a box.
You next place the pencil sandwich back into the fixture using the orange index clamp pads. These keep the pencil blank centered while you plane 1/2 the diameter of a round pencil blank. All pencils shapes emanate from this round pencil blank. When the plane quits cutting (the depth skids control everything so you cannot screw up), flip the blank and repeat. The result will be two round pencils! Again, about 5 minutes for this step.
Next, you decide what pencil profile you would like to make, your choices are to stay with round (perfect for colored pencils) or hex, or beaded or our modified Reuleaux profile. In the image below, we are making a beaded pencil. Put in fixture and crank away. You are literally extruding wood through a series of progressive dies (think circular plane irons). The results will almost make you scream with joy the first time, the second and third… it is that much fun! This takes about 1 minute.
With a completed blank, you have to decide now how to finish your pencil. You can paint, or go natural, the many choices are yours. (I will post later why making a pencil out of cocobolo/ebony/rosewood is a stupid idea). With a piece of cardboard under the fixture, your paint set-up looks like this;
Painting will require at least 3 coats, so you need to plan accordingly. We will provide detailed painting tips (I have an airbrush which is awesome) but in the shop we are painting with a brush using acrylics and a top gloss coat. Once the finish is dry, it is now time to cut the tenon to receive the ferrule. This is strikingly easy for anybody regardless of skill. First, you put the pencil blank in the hole and lower the guillotine. Spin the pencil with the cutter engaged to score the shoulder. This takes 15 seconds.
Once the pencil blank has been scored, you remove the excess wood by repeatedly pushing the ferrule end of the pencil into the hole at the end of the fixture, rotate and repeat. This shaves the pencil to the proper diameter. The other cutter you see is the built in pencil sharpener.
The supplied ferrules (we have not decided on all the colors yet, but we really like the champagne color, works for everything) are beautiful. Plop one in the the fixture, raise the guillotine to the fixed 90 degree position (no, the blade is not exposed, it just looks that way) and with the pencil resting against the guillotine and the orange body, tap the pencil home. Without this setup it is way too easy to get the ferrule on crooked. All that is left is sharpening and inserting the supplied eraser.
Yes, we have a way to identify the lead types and we will offer colored pencil leads for the adult coloring book market.
Imagine making a pencil for your child’s SAT test? Your grandchild’s first pencil? The gesture opportunities are endless. This “pencil factory in a box” can be enjoyed by your entire family on the kitchen counter!
I will give a report on the crazy way our contest was won in my next post. And, we are still working on pricing.
The post Introducing Pencil Precision from Bridge City Tool Works appeared first on John's Blog.
Drivel Starved Nation!
I know, this is hard!
This part is 210mm in length. And, it serves several purposes, one of which is in conjunction with an earlier clue…
For those of you who follow this Totally Awesome and Worthless Blog (about 4.2 billion people when I last didn’t check) you know that when we use the color red in our products, there is a reason…
Drivel Starved Nation!
We have our two winners who identified what I have been working on over the past 7 months. Now watch it make me the laughing stock of the internet.
It’s called Pencil Perfection and here is what you can do with it;
I have some commitments that will keep me out of the office until next Monday, but when I return, I will share the story behind our winners, this project and what it means to me and hopefully you too.
Drivel Starved Nation,
This milled and anodized aluminum part looks similar yes/no?
I am happy to share it is exactly 300mm in length.
Drivel Starved Nation,
Got a headache yet? I would if I were you. Think about this, I’ve spent 7 months of my life figuring out how to become the laughing stock of the internet. This is my way of sharing the pain headed my way.
Here’s clue #4, this component is 77mm in length. Milled from aluminum and it is known internally as “the rack”.
Drivel Starved Nation!
Before I share the next clue, I am informing all that we have a winner! NO! You say. Me too! So, why clue 3?
Well, it’s my contest, my rules, and our fun. It’s just too early to stop my ability to insult our customers. I do promise however to share this story and why we are going to have TWO winners for this contest. That’s fair, don’t you think?
Oh, one more thing… both winners will receive this thing whether they want it or not. How cool is that?
OK, now back to the mystery–What you see below is 350mm in overall length. And yes, those are acme threads.
Drivel Starved Nation-
Here’s your second clue to the thing that will make Bridge City the laughing stock of the internet…
If you guessed bent stainless steel wire you are correct! The longer version is about 90mm in length.
Driveled Starved Nation!
Over the past several months I have alluded to a project I began on my work retreat last February. Today is September 21st and it is finished! I’ve been playing with the last physical prototype for about 3 weeks and I am pleased to share that we are going into our pre-production routine next week which includes sourcing and pricing. The pre-order window is still several weeks away.
Before I share our first clue, I am admitting that this project very well may make us the laughing stock of the internet–maybe you too. And if so, I could care less, this thing is so MUCH FUN! Actually, it is so much fun I will give you TWO clues today (isn’t that nice?), one a word and the other an image:
See the little red aluminum part? It is 47mm long. And the threaded shaft that is driving it is M6x1.0, Left-hand threads too. From those clues, you can size the rest of the assembly. (We have converted completely to metric here, so don’t read anything into this other than the Imperial measuring system is SO inefficient.)
The subassembly pictured also contains the following (not all are visible);
2 steel washers
1 retaining ring
1 spring washer
1 nylon washer
1 set screw
My only response to your comments will come from this short list;
What meds you on?
Who gave you insider information?
I haven’t decided what the prize is going to be for guessing this invention… maybe a copy of the letter from my patent lawyer questioning my sensibilities…
Drivel Starved Nation!
You talked and we listened. Over the past couple of years we have received numerous requests for a larger KM-1 Kerfmaker. I am pleased to announce that I finally got around to designing one. And in the process, we have made it better!
If you are new to our Kerfmaker tool, we conceived and patented this device several years ago and over this time it is our number one selling tool. Here’s a video of how the original KM-1 works–the KM-2 Kerfmaker is no different;
The KM-1 Kerfmaker is limited to a maximum stock width of 2 inches. The KM-2 Kerfmaker will allow you to make cross laps and other joints with stock up to 100mm (4 inches) in width. Here’s a pic;
It is a scaled up version of the KM-1 with the exception of the two magnets you see embedded in the end of the two referenced faces. These magnets firmly hold the the KM-2 in place so you do not need to by hand. This is incredibly handy. Here’s a pic of the setup using our new magnetic reference stop (you clamp this in place). As you can see, the KM-2 can be used with this stop either in the vertical or horizontal position;
With a wider capacity, you can now use the KM-2 with a dado head and the KM-2 can be calibrated to any kerf size up to 25mm in width. Pretty cool. Hey wait, there is more! The magnets allow you to stick the KM-1, and the stop, directly to your saw. Pretty cool again.
So, what does this mean for the KM-1? I really don’t know as of this writing but I am entertaining the thought of adding the magnets to the KM-1 with a magnetic stop that fits that tool the next time we make them. The magnetic base really is a huge benefit in use. The KM-2 closed is 182 mm in length, 44 mm tall and 16mm thick and gauges stock width up to 100 mm with a maximum kerf of 25 mm. FYI.
We will open up pre-orders for the KM-2 the second week of September with delivery in early December. The whole set-up will be around $100 bucks.
JOHN IS STUPID DEPARTMENT…
In other news, we are making an incredible new tool that has caused some confusion, mainly because I did a crappy job of explaining how it is used. I actually explained my reasoning to my two dogs and they looked at me like I was an idiot. Let’s try round two…
Pictured below is our new Universal Gauge;
The tool at the top is the LEFT version of this tool (UG-L) and the unit on the board is the RIGHT (UG-R). If you are using this tool to set-up a table saw, you would use the RIGHT version if your blade tilts to the left, and the LEFT version if your blade tilts to the right. The confusion we created is for those woodworkers who want this tool but will not use it on a table saw, so here is the definitive answer to “Which one?”
See the unit on the piece of wood? It is the UG-R (R for Right). If you were going to scribe a line along the bevel arm, which hand would you use. If you said LEFT… BINGO! If you are right handed you will want to order the unit in the top of the image. Make sense? Regardless, this may up being my most favorite layout tool, my shop at home is really small.
Look for an email soon regarding our FREE SHIPING OFFER on the Gyro Air Dust Collector that runs through October 15th.
Some 15 year old kid with illegal fireworks deliberately (through ignorance I presume) started a forest fire in the beautiful Columbia Gorge east of Portland last weekend. You cannot imagine how bad the air quality is here, the worst I have ever seen and I was here when Mt. St. Helens blew. I mention this because if you are a parent or a grandparent, this is great teaching moment to inform those you love that their lives can change in an instant and that every action has an unintended consequence. This fire is unbelievably tragic and right now it is about 40,000 acres and is 5% contained. Ugh!
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Drivel Starved Nation!
In my previous post I mentioned that I would “grade” the functionality of our new UG-1 Universal Gauge pictured below.
The reason for this self-critique is twofold: I am typically not fond of multi-purpose tools. Too often the compromises are just to hard to deal with. Hopefully we have not fallen into that trap and I want to share why by grading all the functions. Secondly, as painful as they can be, critiques are crucial to understanding both the design and functional aspects of the things we make.
Prior to beginning, and as a reference point, I am using the following criteria for my grades;
1) Scale. My comments will address the functionality at scale. For example, I will not degrade the centering rule because it is NOT 400 mm long. I want to grade the tool for what it is at scale. Make sense?
2) Woodworking knowledge. I’ve been making things from wood since the mid 1960′s, and most of you know of my furniture making history. I will, to the best of my ability, issue grades based on the reality of a real woodworker’s perspective, and one who values time. If any bias telegraphs through this review, feel free to call me out on it.
3) Limitations. Since I designed the UG-1, I will, to the best of my ability, candidly share the limitations. And if I miss something, feel free to chime in!
The copy below is from our website. My comments and grade follows. Let’s have some fun!
The UG-1 Universal Guage is a tool designed for makers who work in a confined space, or, for those who understand the value of their time. It is also a killer accessory for JMP owners. Made in the USA, the UG-1 comes in either a right, or left-hand versions. Here are the major talking points;
There are two 90-degree references within the functionality of the UG-1, one fixed and one utilizing the protractor arm. In use, both utilize the reference hook on the back of the tool or the parallel magnetic reference base. Accuracy of the fixed square is plus or minus 0.002” over the length of the 90mm leg (3.5”).
The 144.5mm (5-5/8”) long protractor leg can be set to 90 degrees and features an offset which serves two purposes, the first allows the 2mm (0.079”) thin blade edge to fit between the teeth of a circular saw blade and the second function facilitates the tilting of drill press tables. By chucking a drill rod blank in the drill press, you have two surfaces on the arm to help precisely set the drill press table to either square or any angle up to 45 degrees.
In summary, the square aspects of the UG-1 are best compared to a “speed square” on steroids. For a small square, you cannot beat a milled, non-adjustable reference. It’s accurate to within 0.002″. If I were to align the adjustable arm to 90 degrees, it would be against a reference line made with the fixed square. Even though the laser grads are 0.005″ in width, and setting it to 90 degrees is easy and fast, furniture grade work requires the double check. Fixed square Grade = “A”. Because the adjustable reference requires two steps to be dead on Grade = “B-”
Utilizing a laser etched 45-degree quadrant, (.5mm etched resolution, it is easy to visually reference a quarter of a degree), the UG-1 is one of the handiest protractors we have ever seen. Combining this adjustability with the reference hook of the body creates an efficient layout tool or as a set-up tool. It also features quick reference icons for the common angles needed to make polyangular forms. Locking ability Grade = “A”. This protractor gets an “A” for locking ability, it is best-in-class awesome. .Accuracy Grade = “B” If there was room to fit in a Vernier scale I would give it an “A”
For those who make hand-cut dovetails, it is easy and fast to quickly set the protractor arm to either 6:1 or 8:1 ratios using the quick set icons as a reference. Yes, setting the dovetail angle is easy but impossible to layout both halves in less you have both the left and right hand versions of the UG-1 so this would require you to use the UG-1 to set-up a “t”-bevel. Grade = “D+”
The UG-1 is an effective layout tool substitute for the standard “T”-Bevel. The blade sits flat on your work piece which allows for precise transfers of angularity between the tool to your stock. It feature a two point locking system, and the only way you can budge your intended setting is to damage the tool. And, the locking lever facilitates those with hand strength constraints. This is a solid small bevel that does not slide. Grade = “B-”
The depth gage function of the UG-1 will measure depths in cavities as small as 6mm in diameter and up. Depth capacity is 76mm (3”). Use this to determine the depth of mortises, dado’s, rabbets, holes and other assorted recesses. It is fast, and locks via a jammed dovetail slide. It is particularly useful in conjunction with measuring depths when cut by a router. In addition, this is the tool to use when you need to precisely offset a split fence on a router table or shaper. This gage works as promised, it is limited to a minimum hole size of 6mm. Grade = “B+”
Often overlooked as a valuable shop aid, a good height gage can save a lot of time. It is primarily used as a static way to set the height of circular saw blades, JMP blades, router bits and shaper cutters. It positively locks via a jammed dovetail slide. Combined with the magnetic base, this height gage simply works. Grade = “B+”
The marking gage on the UG-1 is a quick way to layout lines a specific distance from the hook reference. It is not as efficient, or as versatile as a stand-alone marking gage but works well for tenon layout and other smaller scale applications where parallel lines of a known distance are required. Simply set the red indicator at the desired distance and mark along the bottom edge of the indicator. No question about it, this is not a replacement for a serious marking gage. Grade = “C-”.
The UG-1 can be used to quickly find dead center of stock up to 140mm (5.5”) in width. The scale is metric which is ideal for a centering rule, all you need to do is align the two same numbers on the right and left of the stock, and rule will indicate center at the 0 mark. Really nothing to talk about here. It is elegantly simple and a nice feature. Grade “A”
The back of the purple depth gage arm is laser etched with a 76mm or 3” rule. Simply slide it out and use as a rule or a hook rule and replace. OK, this is a bit gimmicky, but I bet you will find it handy at times. Grade = “B-“
INCH/METRIC COMPARISON TOOL
One of the difficulties with Americans switching from the archaic imperial measuring system is that it is not easy for our old brains to estimate comparable distances in millimeters. The marking gage of the UG-1 features opposing scales, one imperial, one metric. Sooner than you think possible, you will learn that 25mm is about an inch, 12mm is about ½” and so on. It’s a benefit for those that need it and any feature that educates is good in my book. Grade =”A”
LEFT and RIGHT VERSIONS
If you are contemplating one or the other, we recommend you add the version that matches the direction your table saw tilts. For example, if your table saw blade tilts to the right (as viewed from the front of the saw) select the UG-1R, and the UG-1L if it tilts to the left. If it wasn’t so damn awkward, I would have made a universal version, but I would have hated it. If you do not have a table saw, pick the version that is opposite of your handedness. For example, if you are right-handed, we recommend the UG-1L (left version) Grade = “C+”
THE MAGNETIC BASE
There are times where a magnetic base is ideal when you need both hands for other tasks. I love this. Grade = “A”
JOINTMAKER PRO OWNERS
The UG-1, both left and right versions, are the ideal JMP accessory. Precisely controlling blade height, tilt and fence angles has never been easier. And since most JMP owners have the metal stand, the UG-1 magnetically attaches to any part of the stand. It is fast, convenient and accurate. NOTE: When using the UG-1 flat for miter gage and fence angle settings, a flip stop built into the marking gage indicator will keep the face parallel with the table. There is still much to explore using the JMP. And yes, this is a totally biased grade, but this may be the best accessory for the JMP since the Precision Fence. It is compact, efficient and saves time and space. Grade = “A”
The specifications for each version are identical and are listed below;
Material: 6061 T6 Anodized Aluminum
OAL with blade @90 degrees = 185.6mm
OAH with blade @90 degrees = 153.2mm
Body Height Only = 100mm
Magnetic Sole Width = 16mm
Mass = 560 grams (exclusive of packaging)
Depth Gage Capacity = 3 in/76.2mm
Depth Gage Minimum Hole Capacity = 6mm
Height Gage Capacity = 3 in/76.2mm
Marking Gage Capacity = 2.75 in/70mm
Protractor Resolution = 0.5 Degree
Center Rule Capacity = 140mm
Rule Units = .5mm or 1/16”
Never in our history have we made a tool that addresses the needs of the confined-space shop and we are thrilled with the results. For those who would enjoy working on a bench with the fewest number of tools laying around, the UG-1 is for you. This is the most bang for the buck tool to ever leave this company and we are certain you will be thrilled with the way it improves your productivity. I give this comment an “A” for honesty. I believe it and I also believe you will too once in use. This tool is the result of over 30 years of tool making and my only regret is it did not occur much earlier in my career and for that I give myself an “F”.
There you go DSN! Your thoughts?
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.
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.
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…
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
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!
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