The tradition of wedging an iron to a metal plane bed with a fulcrum lever has remained unchanged for hundreds of years. Although this retention method works fine, it does constrain the aesthetic possibilities for the plane body.
Several years ago we pioneered the use of a toggle lock mechanism in our shoulder planes, and expanded this concept last year to the CT-17 Dual Angle Block Plane. This mechanism allows for the sides of the plane body to be pierced (or skeletonized). These openings, designed specifically for your fingers, dramatically improve the ability to cant the iron in minute increments while reducing the overall weight of the plane. The result is a distinctive visual appeal unique to Bridge City Tool Works.
Both totes of the CT-18 are metal. History suggests these two components (when made from wood) are the first to degrade, or fail, over time—typically rendering the tool to an uncertain and often unusable fate.
The front tote "mushroom" is turned from mild steel, polished, and plated with black chrome. We believe this shape is more hand friendly than the more common "balloon" totes. A threaded ferrule, turned from stainless steel is pressed into the mushroom turning. These two components are then threaded to the front throat plate and float upon a turned, black chrome plated spacer. The sinuous combination of these three parts is undeniably sexy.
The rear tote is investment cast 304 stainless steel with the interior cavities painted black. Shaped to invoke the illusion of movement, it also follows the overall essentialness theme of the plane—the highly polished curved surfaces add a nice reflective contrast to the grained plane sides. The gradated chamfer at the top of the tote ties in nicely with the graceful chamfers of the plane body.
Although it can be argued that rear plane tote shapes are subjective, we believe, after distilling almost two-hundred permutations down to a dozen physical prototypes, the opposite is true. Because it is common to plane with the body skewed to the direction of travel, a rear tote that fits like a glove pushing straight is almost always awkward when the body is skewed—we believe the hand should be able to "roll" on the tote as you change orientation as well as fit hands both large and small.
The symmetrical CT-18 plane body features an adjustable mouth also made from 304 stainless steel. The body is investment cast, twelve inches long (304.8 mm) heel to toe, features a twelve degree bed, with all profiles CNC milled. Lastly, the sole and sides are ground square to each other. We are hopeful these material decisions will allow this plane to serve its owners for several hundred years.
THE BLADE RETAINING SYSTEM
Simply pull the sculpted "D" lever and the entire blade retention mechanism swings out of the way to facilitate iron removal. It is fast, fun, the pressure is adjustable, and you have never seen anything like it. There are no free parts—the mechanism is integrated into the body.
The CT-18 Dual/Low Angle Smoother design allows for dual ground irons and two are included for a total of four distinctly different grind angles. With the plane bed milled to twelve degrees, the following three attack angles are possible; 42, 47 and 60 degrees. Also included is a scrub grind designed to be used for quick cross grain flattening of wavy or difficult grained stock. This plane, with these attack angle choices, may be the only smoothing plane you will ever use or need.
The robust irons (0.225"/5.7 mm thick) are a full two inches wide (50.8 mm) and are hardened to Rc 60-62 from A2 tool steel. They are cryogenically treated and lapped to a mirror finish—no flattening required.
When bedded, the non-business edge is protected with an aluminum blade guard. This guard is mandatory when sharpening to avoid injury—it attaches to the iron with two rare earth magnets.
THE IRON DEPTH ADJUSTOR
The iron is engaged to the depth adjustor via a pin nut attached to a 72 threads per inch lead screw. The radial knurled lead screw is housed in a split pivot nut turned from solid brass and the result is a backlash free mechanism that is field adjustable. This is the same mechanism used in the CT-17 Block Plane and it is as smooth as butter in use. Blade canting can be achieved by shifting the lead screw side to side but in practice this is not as preferable as canting with the fingers through the sides of the plane body.
One full revolution of the depth adjustor will change depth of cut by 0.003" (.076 mm).
The single distinguishing feature of the CT-18 over any other plane made today is the ability to add depth skids; essentially turning your plane into a 2" thickness planer.
The ability to thickness plane to a precise thickness up to 1.75" (44.45 mm) is an incredible benefit for box makers, making louvers, models, musical instrument makers, inlay strips...and the list goes on.
To set the skids, you can use shop made shims or, as is our preference, pin gages. It is entirely possible, if note easy, to make multiple components with a thickness that does not vary more than 0.001"!
The skids feature rounded soles which not only reduce friction, but also allow you to set them at different depths for creating tapered stock (louvers). Either straight or tapered, you cut until the plane no longer makes a shaving—it is fun and the accuracy is amazing. No sanding makes it even better.
THE COMMEMORATIVE TOOL TRADITION
Each year we produce one tool exclusively for our Founder's Circle members. It is a celebration of our history together and the shared passion for function, quality and design. For those that work at Bridge City Tool Works, the Commemorative tools are also powerful reminders that we exist because of you.
We do our best to make each Commemorative Tool a peerless example of toolmaking without regards to cost cutting, optimal price points or other compromises. We believe the CT-18 satisfies all these criteria and maybe a couple of emotional needs that are hard to put into words.
Lastly, whenever possible, we like to embed a United States penny in each Commemorative Tool, not only as a reminder of the American origin, but as a symbolic gesture of good luck for each and every user. The penny in the CT-18 is embedded in the bed of the plane body.
We know there has never been a smoothing plane that looks or works like the CT-18 Dual/Low Angle Smoother. It is our best shot—stainless steel, black chrome, robust irons, depth skids, and an aesthetic unique to Bridge City Tool Works. At minimum we hope you appreciate the hours we have dedicated to making this tool a reality. At best we hope you add it to your shop—it was designed from the beginning to be a multi-generational heirloom. Like the previous seventeen Commemorative Tools, we are only making this plane once. Thanks for taking the time to learn about this remarkable plane!
A custom Walnut Case was also made to fit the CT-18.
To download a free CT-18 Wallpaper image for your computer monitor or Ipad, click on the appropriate size below:
Please visit our CT-18 forum for questions and inquiry about the tool.
• Overall weight with the depth skids attached: 6.7 lbs.
• Body is investment cast 304 stainless
• Rear tote is investment cast 304 stainless--inside surfaces painted black
• Two irons included, A2 tool steel, Rc 60-62, Cryo treated, optical lap; rms <1.
• Bed is 12 degrees
• Attack angles of 42, 47 and 60 degrees. One serrated scrub grind. All feature micro bevels of 5 degrees
• 3 Aluminum blade guards included-attach via rare earth magnets
• Irons are 2" wide x .22" thick
• Maximum depth skid setting = 1.77"
• Front "mushroom" tote is black chromed steel as is the contoured washer.
• Adjustable mouth
• Backlash free stainless steel iron depth adjuster; 72 TPI, .003" of iron depth per rev
• Integral blade retention "over the top" mechanism
• Lateral blade cant achievable by adjuster but fingers through the side work better.
• Good luck penny nested in plane bed
• Tension arm, blade cap, link and spacers are anodized aluminum
• Mechanism clamp arm is investment cast 304 stainless steel.
• Sole and sides surface ground square to each other.
• Skids can be set at different heights for making tapered louvers
• Walnut display box is not included but available