Inspiration is Everywhere: This Video is Fascinating!

Mathematical reasoning may be regarded rather schematically as the exercise of a combination of two facilities, which we may call intuition and ingenuity. — Alan Turing

Dear Drive Starved Nation:

I just discovered this video and thought it worth sharing. It’s about making. So don’t freak out when you don’t see any wood.

There is another version where he makes a similar project from wood, but it’s nowhere near as interesting as what he does here. It is particularly fascinating how he uses a three jawed chuck and the proper geometry to make a cube on a metal lathe. This is a perfect example of how math can be taught using a real, mind bending idea. I hope you like it-

-John

PS: His choice of music had me reaching for the mute key.

A China Woodworking Story that is Barely Believable…

“Joy is to fun what the deep sea is to a puddle. It’s a feeling inside that can hardly be contained.” — Terry Pratchett

Drivel Starved Nation!

We have been selling Jointmaker Pros through our distributor in China for several years now, along with numerous other BCTW tools. As you know, it is a big country and avocational woodworking is in a pre-nascent stage (if such a stage exists). So the sales are not large but they are growing—right up there with our sales to Cooter Ditchman.

As a token gesture of gratitude for the business, I volunteered to attend China’s largest woodworking show as a guest in our distributor’s booth. My goal was to replicate the squiggle wood chopsticks demo that I concocted out of boredom at a similar trade show in Japan.

The Japanese are typically not outwardly demonstrative, however, these worthless chopsticks had folks laughing their asses off watching others try to pick up a grain of rice with chopsticks that were not capable of picking up a feather… actually you can’t pick up Jack Squat with these things. I never forgot how humor can unite disparate cultures.

Like other ideas of mine that should never surface, I realized, rather late, that I was going to need a chopstick supply. And although it would be no problem to buy them in China, in order for the squiggle wood part to work without a lot of effort, they all needed to be identical in size. I then embarked on a chopstick making jig with zero thought of ever making them for sale. It was a folly idea. A gesture for a good friend. Or so I thought.

I sent my CAD files to one of our suppliers without really knowing how I was going to hold these things. I also knew that I didn’t want to spend my time in China sharpening irons, so I designed the bed of the jig to be just under the plane iron width (we used the all-aluminum HP-8 block plane with depth skids). I ordered 10 prototypes because I blabbed this idea to my foodie friend, Wake, who owns the E-Bike Store and he wanted some for Asian themed dinner parties. I laughed.

About four days before my China flight, I actually made some chopsticks only to learn that my math was off, and the most important part of the jig, which facilitates making the octagonal business end, was impossibly flawed. I had that same bad feeling from eleventh grade, when I was handed my 100 question trig test and the number of correct answers was a single digit.

Furthermore, my friend and host wondered out loud as to whether my idea would actually work. I was running out of time.

In the weeks leading up to the trip, my friends asked me why I was going to China. I replied that I was going to teach the Chinese how to make chopsticks. “A tad arrogant don’t you think?” was a common sarcastic response. Most just awkwardly laughed and I could see in their eyes that a pity party was in the works.

The math error was corrected with a couple of shims. I fixed the octagonal goof with a piece of brass super-glued to the jig. The night before I left, I made a perfect pair of chopsticks. And believe it or not, this is not a simple, slam dunk project. I am talking gallery quality chopsticks. The 13 hour flight, which is never fun, was much less stressful than it could have been.

I hauled four flawed prototypes in my luggage. On the China side, my host made 500 pairs of 7mm square x 270mm long chopstick blanks in a mix of hard maple, padauk, and some brown wood.

I don’t know how this happened but within the first hour, there were 60 or so people in line waiting to make chopsticks. In the second hour, two of the HP-8 planes were apparently needed by others so we were down to two functioning stations with over three days to go. Staff were assigned to guard the remaining planes on hand.

In my opinion, the most important part of the chopstick design was the diamond cut on the fat end and it is a staple of well made chopsticks. These four hard lines unite all the hard lines and when perfect (and they ARE perfect), it is special. Oh, a pair of chopsticks takes less than 5 minutes. No sawdust, just shavings. Here’s a pic;
Ends 700 a


This is fifteen minutes worth of work;
Shavings

For three straight days, there was a line to make chopsticks. Young, old, women, and kids, all made perfect chopsticks. We gave them a little canvas bag with “Chopstick Master” printed in Chinese. On the drawstring was a little card that said “These chopsticks were made entirely by hand by _________________ on ___________.

Chopstick Bag Image JPG 700

For those of you who follow this Totally Awesome and Worthless Blog, you know that this is the place where I don’t have to try real hard to be moronic. But what I am about to say is from the heart;

Never in my life, which includes almost 50 years in the woodworking community, have I witnessed as much joy as I did those three days in China. One maker came up to me and in an excited, yet broken English, said; “Giant white guy came to China to teach us chopstick making. THANK YOU!”

So now among my other nebulous titles is “Giant White Guy”. And in a politically incorrect world, I am honored to be “Giant White Guy”.

For many of these folks, it was their very first woodworking experience. And the results were perfect. How cool is that? My first woodworking project wasn’t perfect and it got me kicked out of Cub Scouts—but that’s another story.

One man I will never forget asked to have his picture taken with me. With moist eyes, he shared that his son was three years old and when he graduates from high school, these chopsticks will be his gift.

“I want buy!” was the most common thing I heard and I heard it several hundred times. The Chopstick Master has now been perfected and it is being licensed for manufacture in China. We will have them available this summer and it is a complete kit, some of which I can’t share because of the patents in the stream. But I can tell you that I don’t think it is possible to make any other perfect wood project in 5 minutes. Maybe I am wrong, but this is simply plain fun.

I had to pose for lots of pictures (not my favorite thing), most likely because I was the “Giant White Guy”, but I can tell you that I love the Chinese people who crossed my path those four days. We have much in common, including a readiness to bitch about our respective governments. At the end of the day, making is fun. Making perfect is indelibly fun.

Quality is truly contagious.

So what really happened? I wish I knew, but I know it touched a deep nerve. Clearly nobody knows how chopsticks were made, including me three weeks earlier. The Chinese invented chopsticks over 6,000 years ago and they are a ubiquitous part of their culture, and for the five or six minutes it takes to make a pair, perhaps we were able to reunite some disconnected synapses that were patiently waiting to be reconnected with generations past. Personally, I despise working trade shows, but I would do this everyday for the rest of my life. The joy, the smiles—I just don’t know how to describe it other than it was magic.

We made approximately 400 pairs of chopsticks in three days and probably could have doubled that if my planes were not hijacked. Ironically, I did not make a single pair of squiggle wood chopsticks.

The only camera I had was my cell phone and it unfortunately ran out of storage on day two. Though the video is a little crude, I think you will get the vibe. The crowd was so crazy they brought in a DJ1 quad copter to shoot from the above. Insane.

My favorite story from this experience?

A gentleman returned the next day to make more chopsticks. He told me that he gave his first pair to his mom.

“They are too skinny,” Mom replied.
“But Mom, I made these!”
“They are too skinny,” she retorted.
“Mom, do you understand I made these?”
“What?”
“I made these!”
“YOU made these?”
“Yes!”
“These are BEAUTIFUL!”

Thank goodness for Mothers. I really wish my mother was still among us. I would give anything to see the look on her face after this experience — I am certain it would be much different than “the look” after seeing my report cards.

-John

 

PS. Chris Schwarz stopped by our headquarters recently and made chopsticks entirely by hand using the Chopstick Master. Read more about his experience here.

 

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The 2015 Bridge City Fab 50 Tool is Announced… Think Copper!

“The person who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The person who walks alone is likely to find himself in places no one has ever seen before.” — Albert Einstein

Drivel Starved Nation;

I spent the month of February working on some new concepts and I finally finished the 2015 Fab 50 tool. Why the name “Fab 50″? Because each year we pick a design and fabricate 50 units and move on to something else the following year. This year’s version is something else…

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Limited Edition North Bennet St. School Try Squares are Done!

"Presents are made for the pleasure of who gives them, not the merits of who receives them."— Carlos Ruiz Zafón, The Shadow of the Wind

Drivel Starved Nation!

Next week I begin my annual work retreat, and I can’t wait to see what the muse will deliver this trip. This will be my 14th year of holing up somewhere and do nothing but think about tools for two weeks. And as long as Megan Fox leaves me alone, it is incredibly productive… Continue reading

New Mystery Tool from Bridge City Tool Works… Guess It and Win It!

"If I had 60 minutes to solve a problem, I would spend 55 minutes defining it and 5 minutes solving it."— Albert Einstein

Drivel Starved Nation-

This I know about the DSN; you have too much time on your hands. You cannot possibly justify spending time on this Totally Awesome and Worthless Blog. And you love solving a mystery.

So, here is a new mystery tool for you to ponder. The rules to get your hands on this incredible gizmo/contraption/device/awesomeness for FREE are at the end of this post! But first some clues… Continue reading

All New CS6v2 from Bridge City Tool Works

"Put your heart, mind, and soul into even your smallest acts. This is the secret of success." — Swami Sivananda

Drivel Starved Nation;

I have been busy, so busy in fact I just remembered that the Drivel Starved Nation needs food  more drivel so here ya go…

On the top of our request list is the CS-12v2 Combination Square and I am pleased to announce that we will open pre-orders in the next week or so. That said, I always wanted to make the 6″ version, so we will piggy back the 6″ and the 12″ runs and make both a brass and stainless steel versions of the 6″ combination square.

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HP-10 Foxtail Convertible Plane Crown Kit …

Dear Drivel Starved Nation;

For those of you that follow this Totally Awesome and Worthless Blog, you know that one, you need to get a life – you should be in your shop making something. Oh wait, you are at work… Continue reading

Last Call for the CT-18 Dual Low Angle Smoothing Plane …

Drivel Starved Nation –

This is a courtesy announcement that we are assembling the last 40 or so CT-18 Dual Low Angle Smoothing Planes. We have approximately 10 boxed and ready to go, and the balance will be assembled next week. Based on the previous 17 Commemorative Tools, these will be gone forever in the next couple of weeks.
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Introducing the HP-8 Mini-Block Plane that Will Quickly Become One of Your Favorite Planes…

"You can be childlike without being childish. A child always wants to have fun. Ask yourself, 'Am I having fun?" — Christopher Meloni

Dear Woodworker,

Manufacturing is a scale based process; the more you make, the lower the price. What I am about to share doesn’t happen to us very often but when it does it creates a great opportunity for our customers.

We recently received a large custom order of our HP-8 Mini-Block Plane with depth skids to be made from aluminum and it has to be delivered the first week in December. Here is a pic;

HP8-A-with-Skids-700-x-700-with-logo

The ability to use depth skids gives handwork, particularly precision hand work a completely new meaning. Case in point, my sculpture, “Fog of War” would simply not be possible without this ability. You can see how here.
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The Math Behind Crowned Edges in Woodworking…

To All Designer/Makers,Woodworkers and the Drivel Starved Nation;

In a couple of days we will announce the first profile kits for the HP-10 Foxtail Convertible Plane. There will be a total of four profiles and I thought it might be helpful to share the “why”…

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