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Thread: Bridge City HP 9v2 Block plane review

  1. #1

    Bridge City HP 9v2 Block plane review

    Its hard to find reviews on BCT tools...
    I have been working with the 9v2 and wanted to contribute my thoughts....

    I am a big Bridge City fan... love the innovative ww products. John is a brilliant tool designer. I love the blogs and the imagination he shares with us.
    I am always disappointed when there is no reviews of BCT products. I contribute to that issue by never writing reviews, so this is my first review of this new block plane, currently under promotion price for those interested.

    I wanted to love this block plane, but after running it through its paces, I have mixed feelings about it.
    First, as always, sitting on a shelf, all shined up, 5 stars,

    Packaging, presentation, stellar, as always. Nothing has changed there!
    Instruction manual, certificate, storage box, as always, superb and much appreciated.
    mine came a bit scratched up, which was unusual, but its not a collector item for me, so it would be scratched after minimal use anyway.

    The design is very clever, hinged heel release of blade for change out. Not mandatory, but cool.
    The blades are very short, sharpening a bit more cumbersome, but workable with the right jig.
    The blade has edges on both ends, allowing two different approach angles, set at 42 & 47 deg. With the flip of the blade you can change cutting angles, or re bevel and have two of the same. A unique and updated feature vs. conventional planes.

    I was comparing this 9v2 plane against a $360 LV NX60 block plane, a bit smaller, but it defies its size.
    The 9v2 weighs less, and is obvious when planning. Weight matters, even with small planes such as these.
    The NX60 blade adjustment is easier and more exact. Although the lead screw adjustment on the 9v2 is precise if you master its use, its a bit cumbersome. I had to use the two backlash adjustment screws a bit tigher than instructions call for, to prevent blade from creeping into the plane. It's a new design, so expect a small learning curve vs. traditional planes.
    the 9v2 cap screw diameter is too small, hard on the fingers, should be a tad wider with deeper recesses, such as a star design.
    The screw does not have that precision feel, like my other BCT planes. It appears to be aluminum.
    The ergonomics, for me, are not great. I have avg size man hands, and I kept moving for the right position, nothing ever felt just right.
    The cut in walnut, maple and cherry was OK at best. Remarkably, the NX60 cut much cleaner..both blades were equally sharp. Hard to know why, my guess, the NX60 is heavier, more solid components (all stainless steel). The type of metal matters in these planes. This was a good example of this. The 9v2 does have some alum. components.

    The 9v2 has depth skids though, so u are not just buying the plane. I only tried these for a few cuts. They seem to work OK after some tinkering. If you want depth skids, this is a very unique plane offering u the ability to turn your block plane into a thickness planer. Not much on the market that I am aware of that compares. It also comes with a side fence for 90 deg planning, which can be rotated for 45deg. So you get a lot of extra goodies for the price of the plane. It appears the new ownership is clealry moving towards better value for its customers.

    The 90 deg fence works well, and is definetly an incentive to buy a plane like this, as most block planes are not designed to perfectly accomodate a 90 deg fence for acheiving perfect 90s for glue ups. The fence is well built anodized alum. The connection is well thought out, however the thumb knobs holding the fence to the rods loosen during use. Finer threads, or double nuts might prevent this. A mild nuissance. Flip the fence, and it becomes a 45 deg fence for bevels.

    If you want a block plane with a 90/45 fence, and depth skids, well, this is prob. the best, and only option on the market I am aware of at this size.

    while I am still a big BCT fan, I am hoping the new ownership maintains the high build quality BCT was known for. I understand the need to go overseas for cost savings, as well as, the change in materials, there is tradeoffs for everything.

    Anyway, mixed feelings about this plane. Of course, my review takes into consideration the price of the plane. Sorry I could not provide a better review but felt obligated to be true to fellow woodworkers looking to spend there dollars wisely. I surely appreciate when I read honest reviews from fellow ww when I am considering a tool purchase.
    Last edited by Will Blick; 08-15-2019 at 2:50 PM. Reason: update for accessories

  2. #2
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    Will, thanks for the review, but you know deep down inside most of us galoots want pictures with all the details.

    First, as always, sitting on a shelf, all shined up, 5 stars,
    My feeling is a lot of a Bridge City tool's price is for its shelf appeal. My enjoyment of pretty things sitting on a shelf exists but is not up to the level it is with many folks. Besides my wallet and SWMBO have different feelings.

    On my budget my old Stanley #60-1/2 will have to do. Well a few years ago SWMBO did let me spring for an LN #60. It is a much nicer plane, but the weight is a bit much for me right handed due to an old injury.

    jtk
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

  3. #3
    My feeling is a lot of a Bridge City tool's price is for its shelf appeal. My enjoyment of pretty things sitting on a shelf exists but is not up to the level it is with many folks.
    jtk[/QUOTE]

    Well, often what u state is true...but not always, at least in my experience. Some makers master both style and function. In the pix below, the S20A by Marcou fits that category, its gorgeous on the shelf, and slices through any wood like slicing cheese. Its mass, dense metals, ergonomics, truly remarkable difference in performance vs. the more commonplace LV and LN planes which I also own many of. Of course, lets get real, per dollar spent, LV and LN wins hands down. Its like comparing a Porsche and Toyota, the value is always with Toyota.

    In all fairness to BCT, some of the planes I own from them, perform well, and look great as well, so by no means has this one plane tarnish my BCT experience. Since they are low volume, of course they will be higher priced planes. But I do agree with your general premise, we expect performance with higher prices

    20190814_171410.jpg

  4. #4
    Viewing BTC has that appeal... From the aesthetics to it's machining. But the durability is not very assuring. Veritas and LN would be top on my list on that quality. Still a collector plane to me. On moving to China I believe they are still following the original specs so that does not really matter in that sense. The chopstick jig is very nifty

  5. #5
    Will,
    You may be able to answer a question I've had. I've often wondered how well the BCT performs over the full duration of an actual build, rather than in short burst tests; eg: are your hands tired after using them a while, do the purported innovations actually help in a meaningful way, do the these planes actually deliver better performance (and how), etc, etc.

    How do they do, from what you've seen using them to build stuff?

    Fred
    Last edited by Frederick Skelly; 08-18-2019 at 9:48 AM.
    "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."
    - Sir Edmund Burke

  6. #6
    John, u might be right regarding the specs not changing. I dont know enough about the design process over time to know that. I dont recall seeing much aluminum in BCT planes previously, at least in block planes and larger, and in the cutting area.

    Fred, good question. BCT has made so many planes through the years, and I dont own them all, so I am not fully qualified to answer about their entire line. As u know, BCT makes planes at all different price points, albeit, none with the value of LN and LV. Of the ones I have used, they have all performed well in tests, and in build. Most are rock solid, and heavy, which IMO is one of the most critical factors of excellent performance. What I learned about this 9v2 is, I think the aluminum components holding the blade, reduces mass, lessening the ability to absorb the vibration of the cut, so I feel a bit of micro chattering, not extreme, but noticeable. The 9v2 has a short blade as well, further reducing mass / size absorption in the cut area. The NX60 seems to have more mass in the blade and holding mechanism. It's my guess, the reason the Marcou planes cut sooo smooth, is not only due to the mass of the plane, but the mass in the blade, and the blade holding assembly which absorbs the vibration and shock of the cutting action. The S20A shown above weighs approx. 12lbs. The Marcou miter plane I own weighs about the same. The difference in cut feel of these planes is very noticeable, vs. any planes I have ever used. Just to be clear, I am NOT making any comparisons to the S20 and the 9v2, completely different planes, different uses.

    How does this effect an overall buid of a project? I guess it first depends on how much hand planning you do If u are 100% Neander, of course it matters more as u prob. will obsess over it more. But, regardless of all these issues of the plane itself, having ultra sharp blades, and re sharpening still trumps all. I am sure we all would agree, the best plane with a dull blade will not perform well. The other variable is, how hard is the wood your using? The 9v2 performed flawless on softer woods, I only noticed these minor issues on the harder woods.

    BTW, I own a LOT of LV planes, and what I love about their BU planes is the ability to share blades between planes. I keep a lot of sharpen blades in the batters box, as I hate re sharpening while planing. Keeping a sharp blade in the LV planes, they perform amazing, some better than others. I think there is a mass vs. size factor that efffects performance. For example, I think the LV jointer plane is a bit too light for its size. (very average though for all jointer planes) I have added alum. blocks for weight, to bring it up to about 11 lbs, and that helps to build inertia for edge planing.

    As with all tools, a smart operator is a critical factor in performance... reading the grain, setting the blade properly, keeping blade tight, sharpening skills, angle of cut, clamping wood securely, mass in the workbench, etc. etc. I am NO expert in hand planes, I use power tools a lot, and often clean up with planes. But sometimes I avoid power tools when in the mood to go Neander. But like many would prob. agree, these hand tools have level of appeal that is hard to explain There is something so gratifying about hand planes....as many have warned me years ago on this forum, hand plane fascination is a slippery slope. But, I justify it, by saying, its healthier than other obsessions

    My short answer to your question is... (as stated many times on this forum) a good craftsman can make mediocre tools perform as well as higher end tools.

    You asked a good question Fred, I would be curious how the real pros, such as Chris and Derek would respond to your question, as they have used many planes over the years, and spend hours analyzing their differences and performance features, as they do reviews, editorials, books, etc. I would love to hear thoughts from Rob on this as well, or even John from BCT himself!

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