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Behind the Scenes at Bridge City Tool Works
Updated: 34 min 16 sec ago

Bridge City Hardware Adoption/Warehouse Sale Launches Monday, Jan. 15th

Thu, 01/11/2018 - 1:23pm

Drivel Starved Nation!

The last time we had a warehouse/hardware adoption sale, and some of you likely remember, all hell broke loose.

First, our site slowed to a crawl, which caused buyers to press the “submit order” button several times. Behind the scenes we were getting paid for each button push. Over the next week, we refunded over $250,000 to those impatient buyers.

While the site was having fits, we notified our IT contractor who said “no problem” and then quit on the spot. We had to find a new IT company in 24 hours. In hindsight, I think it would have been way more fun taking the money and spending a month or two running from the FBI.

This year, we are liquidating all of our partially assembled rosewood and brass square blanks. Unless you are only interested in reclaiming the rosewood for other purposes, you need to be warned that this is not like buying a LEGO kit. There is work involved. (BTW, we have had this rosewood since 2000, long before it became illegal.) We are also selling brass square blades and there is no guarantee that the brass will fit in the slotted blanks on sale. In this case, you will need to buy some brass and hand dress to the slot if ours is too thin. It is work, and it is fun. And to make it a bit easier, the fine folks at Popular Woodworking have given us permission to share the step-by-step instructions on how we made this incredibly popular tool. You can download the original color article PDF here.

Most of this stuff has been sitting in totes since 2000 so don’t be discouraged by the dirty look, they clean up like new. Regarding the pricing of the hardware, we should be approximately 30% – 50% below comparable prices if you can find this stuff elsewhere.

Here’s a sneak peek at some of the stuff going on sale and no, the ruler in the image is NOT included;
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BLEM 2

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There is another 150 items or so that we are liquidating. AND, we have an added bonus, any order over $150 will receive a $45 discount coupon code good towards our award winning Chopstick Master.

Lastly, Consuelo asked me to share the Warehouse sale rules;
Expect a lot of interested individuals who will be participating in this custom hardware adoption sale. With that in mind, our website may be extremely slow and phone lines will be extremely busy. Please make sure to read the following reminders, rules, and tips:

1. All the items are sold on a first come, first served basis. Items cannot be placed on hold nor be shipped with other open orders. We cannot combine shipping for multiple orders placed.

2. For those who live near our headquarters in Portland, OR, we are not offering will call/pick up orders as all the sale inventory is located in a fulfillment center.

3. Once inventory of an item is sold out, we do not anticipate having more of the same product going back in stock in the future. There may be a handful of new items that will be added at a later time, but majority of the clearance items in this sale will be released when the sale begins.

4. There is only one price available for each clearance item. No other additional discounts (such as the Founder’s Circle price) apply.

5. Even if the website may be slower during this time, ordering online will yield a better chance of successfully completing an order than calling our customer service line to try to speak with someone to place the order.

6. If you have forgotten your password and are having trouble resetting it online, send us a quick email and we will respond as soon as we can with one that works. We recommend doing this BEFORE the sale begins so that you aren’t rushing to get into your account to order when the madness begins.

7. Please make sure that the billing address you are going to use to create the order matches exactly the address that your bank card has on file. Do NOT put both the physical address and PO BOX on the address line, as only 1 address type is correctly associated with your card. In this day and age of credit card fraud and vulnerabilities, we do our best to make sure that your security is protected and that the billing address always matches the card that is used to make transactions on our website.

8. For those who are unfamiliar with our ordering processes, please note that in stock items will always create a separate order number from a pre-order item, even if it is placed in the same shopping cart. We indicate the splitting of orders in 3 different places: below the “Proceed to Checkout” button on the Shopping Cart page, under the “Submit Order” button on the Check Out page, and in our FAQ page on our website.

9. It is possible that items can sell out while you are filling your shopping cart. An alert should populate to let you know if inventory has run out for an item when you click on “Proceed to Checkout” in the shopping cart page.

10. How do I know if my order was successfully placed? Once the “Submit Order” button has been clicked, you should be redirected to a new page displaying the order number. Remember: the website may be extremely slow during this time and you may need to wait for the new page to refresh in your screen. If it did not generate an order number and you are uncertain if the order went through, click on the “My Orders” tab on the left-hand side. If your order was successfully placed, it will display it on the very top of the list with an order number, the date it was placed, and the list of items included in the order.

11. We will do our best to get back to you immediately and resolve any inventory or order errors. We appreciate the extended patience, especially during the first few hours of the sale period.

You might want to check and see if your login credentials are current and have fun. The sale will go live on Monday morning, Jan 15th at 9am PST.

Don’t press submit more than once

-John

The post Bridge City Hardware Adoption/Warehouse Sale Launches Monday, Jan. 15th appeared first on John's Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

New Year, New Tool from Bridge City Tool Works…

Mon, 01/01/2018 - 3:13pm

Drivel Starved Nation!

This little journey called Bridge City Tool Works is now in its thirty-fifth year. Some call this amazing. I call it too stupid to quit!

Going out of business 35 years in a row is not easy. However you see it, we thank you and look forward to going out of business again this year– with your help of course.

Before I share our first new tool offering of 2018, I thought you might enjoy this Christmas story…

I was asked to be Santa for a kids party. Why? Probably because I haven’t been to a gym since Eisenhower died. The rented Santa suit included lots of extra padding, as in Sumo Santa padding. The boots were black, the horned rimmed glasses fake, the custodial mop of a beard was odoriferous, and the white gloves 2 sizes too small–.an imaginary jury watched me struggle to put them on. The whole thing was hot as hell.

And, it has been at least three weeks since I last wore makeup.

Since several of these kids knew me (despite rumors you may have heard, I am actually fun after a couple of beers) I had to disguise my voice. It was the same voice I use when faking an illness, only with an over-the-counter dose of joviality.

I sat down in a chair next to a fake silver Christmas tree when the first little boy climbed up on to my lap. I believe he was 5.

LITTLE BOY: “Does Santa ever get boogers?”

ME: “No”

LITTLE BOY: “YES YOU DO, I SEE ONE!”

If there is a moral to this story I don’t know what it is.

We have lots of news brewing for 2018 that I will leak here, in this Totally Awesome and Worthless Blog when the urge to leak comes upon me.

In the interim, here is a pic of our newest offering;
Countersink Works 700

These are single flute countersinks and if you have never used one, they are a revelation. Absolutely ZERO chatter. And, we haven’t made these in fifteen or so years. We actually wore out our shop version, and with no replacement in sight, well, we have the need, and hopefully you do too.

Why 5 you ask? Well, you don’t have to buy them all (if you don’t we will probably go out of business again). But there is a reason, flat head screws sold in America typically feature an 82 degree head. Hence the 82 degree countersink.

Metric flat head screws feature a 90 degree countersink. In addition, we really like the 90 degree countersink for creating symmetric chamfers on holes. Hence the 90 degree countersink.

The 60 degree countersink is used when you want to guide a drill into a hole without drift. It can be used on the tail stock on a lathe or in a drill press prior to drilling a larger hole that is supposed to follow a smaller pilot hole – a 60 degree countersink really helps here.

The 82 and 90 degree countersinks come in two sizes. Why you ask? We recommend that you use the smaller ones for deburring and cutting countersinks in metals and for countersinks in small wooden holes. Reserve the larger ones for the larger wood projects like furniture, workbenches and other applications where you are flush setting large flat head screws or need large, clean chamfers. There is nothing worse than a large counter sink where the bottom half is chewed up and the top… not so much.

These are all precision ground, hardened tool steel and you will not find a more reliable and fun tool to use. Full details will be released soon when the pre-order window opens.

Lastly, watch your email box. We are having another hardware clearance sale real soon. (The last one crashed our server, overcharged our customers almost a quarter million dollars, and caused our IT firm to quit on the spot. Fun yes/no?)

I would leak more but right now an uncontrollable urge to blow my nose has come upon me…

-John

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

Categories: Hand Tools

Holiday Shout Out – New Tool From Bridge City Tool Works!

Tue, 12/05/2017 - 12:23pm

Drivel Starved Nation-

I am please to share the latest edition to the HP-10 Convertible Plane, which will allow you to cut coves/flutes and cores in four sizes.

Cutting flutes is an essential element of decorative woodworking. The Greeks and Romans were masters at employing flutes in both their architecture and furniture. Why you ask?

Texture typically adds depth and shadows–both create visual interest. Here’s a pic of some of the cuts you can make with our Cove/Core kits, they include a corner cove, flutes and a core cut;

HP10 Cove Cuts 700

We have never offered soles and irons that are commonly referred to as “hollows” to the traditionalists. I actually do not know why other than something else must have been bugging to get made first. We now will be making the following diameters in four sizes: 1/4″, 3/8″, 1/2″ and 3/4″. All four of these sizes will allow you to make core cuts which is all the way to the diameter line.

The most common use for core cuts is the ability to create a cylindrical half diameter cut in two boards, regardless of length. When they are glued together, you have hole that would be impossible to drill. Projects that benefit from this technique include musical instruments, lamp making, and any other project where you need a hollow that cannot be drilled.

When combined with a guide fence, you can create 90 degree corner cove cuts which are a nice alternative to a square corner, which is often visually boring. I like corner cove cuts on simple picture frames, there is a cove on the inside corner and small chamfer on the outside edges of the frames below. (The little boy is now an executive expat in Mexico City and that little girl is about to bear her second child…)
Wall Array 700

Here’s a pic of the complete 4 size kit (you will be able to purchase singles too);
Cove_Core 700

The irons are really cool, you simply hone the entire beveled face. Fast, easy and the larger two sizes have been cored so you you only need to hone the periphery of the face.

The many uses of these profiles include;
Fluting
Veining
Grooving
Ornamentation where a round bottom is desired
Drawer pulls
Musical instruments,
and whatever your imagination can conjure!

I’m going to do something with the smallest size that I can’t tell you about but I think you will find it fascinating… and yes, it involves electricity, maybe magnets too.

The pre-order window will open later this week – time to plant a holiday gift idea with your partner!

-John

The post Holiday Shout Out – New Tool From Bridge City Tool Works! appeared first on John's Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

The Woodworking Joint Used in the Arms of Ming Dynasty Chairs…

Thu, 11/16/2017 - 2:27pm

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;

As explained by Mr. Yang, his students are not allowed to build a chair until this joint is mastered;

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?

-John

The post The Woodworking Joint Used in the Arms of Ming Dynasty Chairs… appeared first on John's Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

Bridge City China Trip and Charlie Manson…

Tue, 11/14/2017 - 3:45pm

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;
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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?

Our perfunctory parting pic is below;
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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;
Rice Bowls 800

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!

-John

The post Bridge City China Trip and Charlie Manson… appeared first on John's Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

Bridge City Field Trip Report #4: The Hong Mu Arts Museum Tour

Tue, 11/14/2017 - 12:40pm

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.

We were all warmly received as you can see here;
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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.

When you first walk into the museum you see a large rosewood log on display and immediately to the left is an area of wood carvings from about 50 different countries. Here are a couple;
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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.
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This is not one piece;
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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.

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This is a bookcase;
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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.
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I love the texture in this piece!
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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.
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The piece below is Mr. Yang’s masterpiece. It is an original variation of a Ming Dynasty chair using bamboo as a theme. It is exquisite.
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This tour-de-force of craftsmanship was unreal. This bird cage is made out of rosewood and it is all mortise and tenon joints;
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The lasting influence of Chinese furniture design is never more evident than Han’s Wagner’s tribute to furniture from the Ming Dynasty in his Wishbone Chair below;
Hans Wagner Wishbone Chair

I don’t know about you, but I feel really insignificant in the shadow of the Hong Mu Master. What an experience.

-John

The post Bridge City Field Trip Report #4: The Hong Mu Arts Museum Tour appeared first on John's Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

Bridge City China Field Trip Report #3; Shanghai to Nanjing…

Tue, 11/14/2017 - 10:13am

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;

Nanjing train 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.

-John

The post Bridge City China Field Trip Report #3; Shanghai to Nanjing… appeared first on John's Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

Bridge City China Field Trip Report #2: Shanghai, the Largest City in the World…

Tue, 11/07/2017 - 3:20pm

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;

The Bund

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;

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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;
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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.

THIS IS JUST PLAIN STUPID DEPT.
Lastly, I forgot to share in my previous post the dumbest product I have EVER seen. I spotted this at the Canton Fair in Guangzhou;
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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.

-John

The post Bridge City China Field Trip Report #2: Shanghai, the Largest City in the World… appeared first on John's Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

Bridge City China Field Trip Report #1: Adventures in Eating…

Mon, 11/06/2017 - 2:53pm

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…IMG_1172

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I asked our Chinese host if there was anything the Chinese would not eat. His response;

“People”.

The next report will be the sights and sounds of Shanghai.

Now, go get a snack.

-John

The post Bridge City China Field Trip Report #1: Adventures in Eating… appeared first on John's Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

Pencil Precision Video, China Field Trip, Other Bridge City News

Tue, 10/17/2017 - 4:16pm

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…
PPGroup without HP6 PP Version
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!

The kit with the plane is only about $100 more.
PPGroup with HP6 PP Version 700 Yes, the orange crank is removeable to reveal a 1/4″ hex… do the math on that one you power freaks!

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.
Ferrule wo Eraser Black.70
Red Ferrules with Eraser 700

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.

Just sayin’.

 

-John

The post Pencil Precision Video, China Field Trip, Other Bridge City News appeared first on John's Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

Introducing Pencil Precision from Bridge City Tool Works

Tue, 10/10/2017 - 4:13pm

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.
Cutting Pencil Lead Channels 700

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.
Glue Up Image 700

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.
Round Pencil Pass 700

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.
Extruding a Pencil 700

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;
Paint Setup 700

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.
Ferrule Shoulder 700


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.
Cutters 700

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.
inserting the ferrule 700

What’s not to like?
Beaded Pencil 1 700

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.

-John

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The post Introducing Pencil Precision from Bridge City Tool Works appeared first on John's Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools