Author Topic: What's the deal with Bridge City Tools?  (Read 8172 times)

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Offline avanderhoorn

  • Posts: 77
What's the deal with Bridge City Tools?
« on: April 13, 2015, 12:39 AM »
I'm starting to get into hand tools more and came across Bridge City Tools the other day. Besides looking really nice and fitting some edge cases for tools that would be really handy to have, I was struck by the staggering cost of the tools and am at a little of a loss as to understand how their business model works. For instance, several of the tools I was tooling at seemed to be out of stock (pending a rerun) and others seems to still be in production, also how does a tools company have limited edition tools, etc. Hence I'm left wondering are they really worth they money, are they that good, is it worth going on a waiting list for the privilege to buy one of these tools, how does anyone afford them, etc?

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Offline ScotF

  • Posts: 2515
Re: What's the deal with Bridge City Tools?
« Reply #1 on: April 13, 2015, 12:46 AM »
BCTW makes some of the finest hand tools available. They are a small company and make things in batches at certain times of the year. When you order from them you have to be patient as they build once they receive the minimum numbers. All of their stuff is top notch and usually adds some innovative feature/function that you cannot get elsewhere. That model is not right for everyone and they explicitly state it on their website. But I find the stuff I have bought from them to be worth it and have no regrets.

Many folks treat them like collectibles and some things are only made once and then discontinued.

Offline Untidy Shop

  • Posts: 2673
Re: What's the deal with Bridge City Tools?
« Reply #2 on: April 13, 2015, 12:47 AM »
Have a look at the Veritas range from Lee Valley.

http://www.leevalley.com/en/Wood/page.aspx?p=48944&cat=1,41182

True, BridgeCity make exceptionally high quality tools. However through their limited edition models they are as much pandering to collectors as practical craft persons and woodworkers.
If you don't like Signatures, just go to Look and Layout and tick No Signatures.

“The test of the machine is the satisfaction it gives you. There isn't any other test. If the machine produces tranquility it's right. If it disturbs you it's wrong until either the machine or your mind is changed.”
― Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values

Offline zipdang

  • Posts: 3
Re: What's the deal with Bridge City Tools?
« Reply #3 on: April 17, 2015, 08:32 PM »
If you look at Bridge City for the last couple of years versus most of the first 15ish years of their existence,  I believe you can see a transition from the high quality but collector-type tools they started with to the very useful tools they sell now.  Certainly the prices remain high, but that is what quality costs.  I have seen the tools in action at Handworks in 2013 and believe the focus is very much on being innovative but more importantly being useful tools.  As for availability, yes, it can be difficult to wait.  But small (and large) businesses today don't have the deep pockets to maintain large inventories.  Therefore you end up with manufacturing based on demand.  Either you are OK with that and buy a tool you have to wait for, or you move on. Certainly not for everyone, but neither is Festool. I happily own both. [big grin]

By the way, when BCT says the tool will be finished on_____, always add a month or two!

Offline SittingElf

  • Posts: 1374
  • 66 Systainers and rising! YIKES!
Re: What's the deal with Bridge City Tools?
« Reply #4 on: April 17, 2015, 08:37 PM »
I don't really have an interest in much of their tools, but I DO own a KM1 KerfMaker, and it's outstanding!  I'm sure their other items are as well made....but I just don't have a use for them.  The KerfMaker is one of my favorite non-Festools.


Frank
Woodworking is 3% talent and 97% paying attention to the FOG! 

hammerfelderowners.com

Offline Ellingferd

  • Posts: 19
Re: What's the deal with Bridge City Tools?
« Reply #5 on: April 17, 2015, 09:11 PM »
As someone born and raised in the Northwest, and a cyclist for as long as I can remember, I can tell you it is a common theme among people in Portland who make nice things that people want. Take, for example, Vanilla cycles. They make custom bike frames that are very nice, but cost an absurd amount and require you to wait upwards of 1 year from initially placing a deposit. Sure, they are probably the epitome of a steel frame bicycle, but good lord. I feel bridge city is the same. Vanilla didnt necessarily start out that way, but now that enough people have found out, Vanilla wised up and realized the reality of having a product that allows a business model where they can sit back, collect cash, and work at what I call the "Portland Pace". The "Portland Pace" is slow, wrought with midday breaks for Stumptown coffee, tainted with mustache grease, and ultimately produces a superior product resulting in the individual who placed the order being genuinely surprised upon delivery. Both because of the ultimate quality of the product, and because they forgot they even ordered it in the first place. The show Portlandia is fiction, but not as much as you might think.....

Offline teocaf

  • Posts: 598
Re: What's the deal with Bridge City Tools?
« Reply #6 on: April 17, 2015, 09:28 PM »
There are similar parallels in the mechanical watch world, the pen world, and many other areas.  Limited editions, superbly crafted, presented and coveted by the discerning gentleman.  Take a look at the plane containing machined copper that they're currently taking orders for.  Almost all of the edition has already been pre-sold. 
http://www.bridgecitytools.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/SE-2015-700-x-700.jpg
They also develop other tools that are for a broader audience.

If nothing else, it is a most fascinating story about a guy led by a passion whose company has gone through a number of changes and who has developed a devout following of tool aficionados.  For about a hundred bucks you can get the book that came out with his recent tool exhibition at the Museum of Craft. 
http://www.bridgecitytools.com/default/other-products/books-1/quality-is-contagious-book.html

Or you can follow John's blog on the BCTW website for free and get some fuller insight into what they're all about, along with some great stories about all sorts of things.
« Last Edit: April 17, 2015, 09:32 PM by teocaf »

Offline bkharman

  • Posts: 1983
Re: What's the deal with Bridge City Tools?
« Reply #7 on: April 17, 2015, 10:23 PM »
I have the KM-1 and use it often... Very simple yet effective machine.

I also have my name in the pot for their new square the AS-24v3. I don't have a problem with the price or the wait as this thing looks to be a great addition to my shop for many, many moons.

Cheers. Bryan.
People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along? Can we get along?

Offline Untidy Shop

  • Posts: 2673
Re: What's the deal with Bridge City Tools?
« Reply #8 on: April 18, 2015, 03:39 AM »

So is this a superb piece of engineering, Artistic sculpture or a practical tool?

I would never say any Festool was an Art piece, but this plane just might be!



However come to think about it this might be Festool's Artistic triumph of Design.



Or even this -


« Last Edit: April 18, 2015, 03:56 AM by Untidy Shop »
If you don't like Signatures, just go to Look and Layout and tick No Signatures.

“The test of the machine is the satisfaction it gives you. There isn't any other test. If the machine produces tranquility it's right. If it disturbs you it's wrong until either the machine or your mind is changed.”
― Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values

Offline Steve Rowe

  • Posts: 828
  • Teach them safety when they are young.
Re: What's the deal with Bridge City Tools?
« Reply #9 on: April 18, 2015, 08:14 AM »

So is this a superb piece of engineering, Artistic sculpture or a practical tool?

I have several Bridge City planes and will say that they are all three and I do use them in the shop.  In reality, they don't plane wood any better than a Lie-Nielson or a Veritas but they do it with a bit more style.

Offline APRP

  • Posts: 11
  • If I agreed with you we would both be wrong!
Re: What's the deal with Bridge City Tools?
« Reply #10 on: April 18, 2015, 10:49 AM »
Just thought I would through in my 2 cents. Lee Valley Veritas stuff is fantastic! There was an article in fine woodworking about 2.5 years ago that showcased the manufacturing facility in Ottawa, ON Canada. The company has gone through great length since they began to acquire every Hand woodworking tool that has been manufactured since the start of the industrial revolution. Very few companies put that much R&D into there products They catalogue all of them store them in archives and research the design of the old tools.  From there, they then prototype all of the things they think are good and useful and design a better tool within its segment.  Pretty neat idea since there is much to learn from the past, good and bad. To my understanding all Veritas is made in the U.S. or CND. They also now make a bunch of custom order planes. Everything I have from the Veritas line has never let me down in quality or performance. Here is the link for the article, you may have to subscribe to get the whole thing.

http://www.finewoodworking.com/tool-guide/article/lee-valley-turns-35.aspx

I have to admit. BCT look completely awesome!

Offline Wonderwino

  • Posts: 802
  • That Green Koolaid causes mutations.
Re: What's the deal with Bridge City Tools?
« Reply #11 on: April 30, 2015, 09:45 AM »
Having invested more in BCTW tools than I dare disclose to my wife, I must say that I use every tool I buy, regardless of the cost or brand.  Many of the BCTW tools have unique capabilities that are unmatched by any other maker. 

The JMPv2 saw is a prime example.  I was fortunate to be on BCTW's "Dream Team" at WIA in 2012 and demonstrated the saw making consistent, repeatable, difficult cuts that would be impossible without it.

I also have several HP6v2 planes with interchangeable soles that cut a variety of profiles.

Yes, they cost more than your everyday tools and they're not for everyone.  But your creativity is not limited by the capability of your tools.  As John Economaki says, "I've been going bankrupt for 30 years making tools."   [big grin]
Water separates the people of the world; wine unites them.

Offline fdengel

  • Posts: 854
Re: What's the deal with Bridge City Tools?
« Reply #12 on: April 30, 2015, 12:34 PM »
I remember reading somewhere about a guitar maker who will only allow any one customer to order one guitar... ever.

The guitars are largely hand-made, sometimes months or years after being ordered, and in too much demand as it is.

Offline VW MICK

  • Posts: 881
Re: What's the deal with Bridge City Tools?
« Reply #13 on: April 30, 2015, 01:35 PM »
I think the bridge city tools look amazing they are definatly art work

I don't know how to post a link but have you seen that chess set the guy made with there cross cut saw thingy

Ha ha I'm sure that's not doing it justice but I think you will know what I mean

Offline JimH2

  • Posts: 633
Re: What's the deal with Bridge City Tools?
« Reply #14 on: April 30, 2015, 02:14 PM »
As someone born and raised in the Northwest, and a cyclist for as long as I can remember, I can tell you it is a common theme among people in Portland who make nice things that people want. Take, for example, Vanilla cycles. They make custom bike frames that are very nice, but cost an absurd amount and require you to wait upwards of 1 year from initially placing a deposit. Sure, they are probably the epitome of a steel frame bicycle, but good lord. I feel bridge city is the same. Vanilla didnt necessarily start out that way, but now that enough people have found out, Vanilla wised up and realized the reality of having a product that allows a business model where they can sit back, collect cash, and work at what I call the "Portland Pace". The "Portland Pace" is slow, wrought with midday breaks for Stumptown coffee, tainted with mustache grease, and ultimately produces a superior product resulting in the individual who placed the order being genuinely surprised upon delivery. Both because of the ultimate quality of the product, and because they forgot they even ordered it in the first place. The show Portlandia is fiction, but not as much as you might think.....

I'll throw precision analog watches into the mix alongside your bikes.

Offline Cheese

  • Posts: 5175
Re: What's the deal with Bridge City Tools?
« Reply #15 on: April 30, 2015, 02:58 PM »

I'll throw precision analog watches into the mix alongside your bikes.

I'll second the mechanical watch addition. Love em...

While we're talking about planes, this reminds me of a conversation I had with the local Woodcraft store. About 3-4 years ago I noticed that they were no longer selling Lie-Nielsen planes. I asked the manager at Woodcraft the reason for that policy change and he told me that Lie-Nielsen said that Woodcraft was selling too many planes and rather than ramp up manufacturing to fulfill the increased demand, they'd rather remain a small enterprise and continue to hand finish the planes and do business as they have in the past. Interesting...

Offline RL

  • Posts: 3039
What's the deal with Bridge City Tools?
« Reply #16 on: April 30, 2015, 04:53 PM »

I'll throw precision analog watches into the mix alongside your bikes.

I'll second the mechanical watch addition. Love em...

While we're talking about planes, this reminds me of a conversation I had with the local Woodcraft store. About 3-4 years ago I noticed that they were no longer selling Lie-Nielsen planes. I asked the manager at Woodcraft the reason for that policy change and he told me that Lie-Nielsen said that Woodcraft was selling too many planes and rather than ramp up manufacturing to fulfill the increased demand, they'd rather remain a small enterprise and continue to hand finish the planes and do business as they have in the past. Interesting...

I don't think that's the main or only reason. Lie Nielsen decided to sell directly to the consumer in North America with the exception of Highland Hardware with whom they had a long-standing relationship going back to the start of the business.
« Last Edit: April 30, 2015, 05:44 PM by RL »

Offline Len C

  • Posts: 86
Re: What's the deal with Bridge City Tools?
« Reply #17 on: April 30, 2015, 05:31 PM »
Craftsman Studio in San Diego also carries LN.   

http://www.craftsmanstudio.com/html_p/lie-nielsen.htm

Offline RL

  • Posts: 3039
What's the deal with Bridge City Tools?
« Reply #18 on: April 30, 2015, 05:41 PM »
Yes I missed them- they're the only other authorized retailer in North America.

Here is a link to an article about the split.

http://www.finewoodworking.com/item/22352/lie-nielsen-toolworks-and-woodcraft-part-ways
« Last Edit: April 30, 2015, 05:43 PM by RL »

Offline Cheese

  • Posts: 5175
Re: What's the deal with Bridge City Tools?
« Reply #19 on: April 30, 2015, 06:27 PM »
Yes I missed them- they're the only other authorized retailer in North America.

Here is a link to an article about the split.

http://www.finewoodworking.com/item/22352/lie-nielsen-toolworks-and-woodcraft-part-ways

Thanks for the link, interesting article. Also interesting that they did retain 3 of the Woodcraft stores as dealers.

Offline Peter Halle

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  • Posts: 11607
Re: What's the deal with Bridge City Tools?
« Reply #20 on: April 30, 2015, 06:52 PM »
I think the bridge city tools look amazing they are definatly art work

I don't know how to post a link but have you seen that chess set the guy made with there cross cut saw thingy

Ha ha I'm sure that's not doing it justice but I think you will know what I mean

Here is a link to Neil C's thread on his chess set:  http://festoolownersgroup.com/member-projects/chess-set-at-precision-(pic-heavy)/msg353724/#msg353724

Peter
« Last Edit: April 30, 2015, 06:54 PM by Peter Halle »

Offline Richard/RMW

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  • Posts: 1753
Re: What's the deal with Bridge City Tools?
« Reply #21 on: April 30, 2015, 07:04 PM »
Having invested more in BCTW tools than I dare disclose to my wife, I must say that I use every tool I buy, regardless of the cost or brand.  Many of the BCTW tools have unique capabilities that are unmatched by any other maker. 

The JMPv2 saw is a prime example.  I was fortunate to be on BCTW's "Dream Team" at WIA in 2012 and demonstrated the saw making consistent, repeatable, difficult cuts that would be impossible without it.

I also have several HP6v2 planes with interchangeable soles that cut a variety of profiles.

Yes, they cost more than your everyday tools and they're not for everyone.  But your creativity is not limited by the capability of your tools.  As John Economaki says, "I've been going bankrupt for 30 years making tools."   [big grin]

@Wonderwino - Love the new avatar. If ya gotta do a selfie, make sure there are antlers...

Nice to see you more active on the FOG recently.

RMW

RMW
As of 10/17 I am out of the Dog business and pursuing other distractions. Thanks for a fun ride!

Offline greg mann

  • Posts: 1842
Re: What's the deal with Bridge City Tools?
« Reply #22 on: April 30, 2015, 08:18 PM »
This is a great thread. When discussing these business models it probably makes sense to throw Woodpeckers into the mix as well. Personally, I feel more affinity for the Veritas approach. I see it as making a very high quality product, but reasonably affordable, so as to make it if not ubiquitous, at least more so than your competitors. To do this requires a passionate dedication to efficient manufacturing. Economies of scale only go so far and even in the best of circumstances for Veritas the scale cannot be that large. To keep costs down, and prices as well, equipment and manpower need to be highly flexible with very short changeover and setup times. Highly productive woodworkers should be able to relate to this but Veritas must do it on a pretty large scale.

The company I work for aspires to do the same thing providing precision components to the commercial truck axle industry. We only make one class of components which would be kind of like Veritas if they only made planes. I would love to benchmark against them someday.

BCTW makes really cool stuff but I suspect Veritas could duplicate their products exactly, sell them for half as much, and most likely make more money doing so. This is not to disparage BCTW or their business model. They are just that different.
Greg Mann
Oakland, Michigan

Offline Wonderwino

  • Posts: 802
  • That Green Koolaid causes mutations.
Re: What's the deal with Bridge City Tools?
« Reply #23 on: May 20, 2015, 05:28 PM »
I had the opportunity to visit with Robin Lee, President of Lee Valley/Veritas at Handworks last weekend.  We talked about tools and the economics of making them.  He said some of the specialty proprietary steels they use must be "mixed" in $40,000 batches; forged as bar or flat stock as close to the final product size as possible.  Any resizing by either cutting or machining wastes valuable material.  That's a lot of cash that's not working if it's back-stock products or material in the warehouse.  He said they have dozens of new designs ready to go, but won't produce them until they have the ability to pay as they go and a reasonable expectation they will sell well.  That is a sound business model; not overextending to keep costly products on hand.

BCTW's model takes this a step further; not producing a product until it has orders and some cash in hand.  They can do this because they produce high-quality tools that are unique and many have unique capabilities.  As long as there is the "Drivel Starved Nation" (DSN), John will continue to have success!  LOL!
Water separates the people of the world; wine unites them.