Bridge City Tools HP-8 Block Plane
Review: Raf Nathan
Bridge City Tools have a name for high quality, cool looking tools. This mini block plane is made of mostly aluminium with steel screws and knobs. It’s very small at a tad over 4" long, and beautifully made with crisp CNC machining of components.
The cap screw pivots on a small aluminium button that sticks to the iron with an embedded magnet, a very nice touch. This is a low angle plane with a 12° bed so it’s always going to work best on endgrain; long grain planing quality will depend on how the straight the wood is.
The blade is 26mm wide and 2.5mm thick and was flat on the back out of the box. The factory grind is at 25° with a micro bevel at 30°. The blade was not ground quite square across the width in relation to the side. There is a small adjuster for blade depth adjustment but no lateral adjustment mechanism although most of the time it automatically aligned itself perfectly.
Depth adjustment is good but there is quite a bit of backlash on the thread. The sole of the plane was not flat, in fact to me it seemed that the whole plane was perfectly made and assembled and then an operator had poorly linished the sole and dubbed over both ends. Not great for a premium tool.
However, the aluminium was easy to linish, in fact two minutes of hand rubbing with an abrasive on a flat surface and the sole was flat enough. I didn’t want to take too much metal off a review tool so flattened the sole properly but had to leave a few millimetres on each end unfinished.
Two skids are supplied that fix with screws to the sides. These allow the tool to be a thickness plane which can handle up to 46mm height. It’s easy to set: sit the wood on a flat surface, sit the plane on the wood and put thin packing such as card under the skids. Lower and tighten the skids and it’s now set up and will stop cutting when the skids bottom out. The first time I tried this on I got variance over the length by 0.25mm. With practice though I got a variance over 200mm length of (wait for it) 0.03mm! Now that’s very impressive accuracy.
This is a small light plane but I tested it on hard myrtle endgrain and it worked well leaving a polished surface. Soft wood, as expected, was easier to plane both long and endgrain. I found the plane best for narrow stock up to 10mm wide.
After a bit of use I started to like the plane a lot. Its small size makes it like an extension of your fingers and it was fun to use for chamfering corners and making small bevels.
Bridge City Tools are available from www.carbatec.com.au