Monday, June 14, 2010

Bridge City Toolworks HP6v2 Multi-Plane

My recent post on designing mirror frames used the Bridge City Toolworks HP6v2 Multi-Plane to apply a multi-bead profile to the mirror frame.  I realized I never discussed this little gem before so this post is an introduction.  But first, a warning.  Bridge City Toolworks (BCTW) is a slippery slope.  While the first hit isn't free, it has the same addiction.  While many buy the tools and keep them in a box only to be creepily admired, I prefer to use them.

This is the current humble composition of my HP6v2.  The plane body is in the back along with various fence profiles.  Four different molding profiles are shown next; the black part is the blade hone with the blade leaning against it.  The brass pieces form the toe and heel of the sole that complements the profile.  The leftmost blade is leaning on a honing rod as it cuts a bead.  The syringe contains diamond honing paste, although its availability in a syringe is clever given the addictiveness of BCTW.  Just saying.

The plane body (shown here with the optional fence attached) does not come with an iron or sole.  Each profile set contains a full sole (toe and heel) along with the profile blade.

The blades are robust and thick; they are also double-ended.  The profile is duplicated on both ends.  This allows you to quickly hone both ends before starting and simply flip the blade when one side stops cutting phenomenally.  The blade position is set by the screw on the top of the body; the blade can be removed and replaced (or flipped) without losing the last blade projection making mid-work honing error-free.

There are many profiles available (beads, coves, multi-beads, dados, etc.) plus each comes in a variety of sizes.  The blade width is the same for all, but beads and coves come in a variety of radii.

Honing the blade is done with a custom hone for each profile  The black bar shown is an anodized aluminum hone that has two profiles, one on each side.  For a particular type of profile (here, multi-bead), the hone will accommodate two available radii.  Notice how the sole complements the cut profile; this greatly helps the plane track on successive passes regardless the fence.

To hone the blade, spread a little water-based diamond paste on the hone and hone the bevel.  There is an optional honing guide, but the thick size of this blade makes hand-honing trivial.  The diamond paste cuts very quickly; only a few passes will give a razor's edge.  Do both edges while you're here.  Since anodized aluminum won't rust, I can leave the dried paste there and hydrate it next time; after a couple uses, though, discard it since it will have swarf in it.

You never hone the back of the blade.  But you do need to eliminate the wire edge by dragging it flat across a strop.

 The soles attach to the plane body with dovetail keys that pull the sole into recesses in the sole for a positive lock.  Adjusting the toe gives the throat clearance while the heel should always be abutted against the back of the iron to eliminate chatter.

The observant types will have noted that in the first picture of the soles, some had holes in the corners.  This model body is the HP6v2 as in version 2.  The original HP6 attached the soles with 8 screws.  Much slower.  The v2 accepts soles for both models while naturally the v1 cannot accept the v2-specific soles.  I will say that I wish there was an adaptor sole; that is, a thin brass sole with 8 holes for the v1 sole to attach to along with the dovetail slots on the other side thus converting a v1 sole to a v2 sole.  Naturally, people would buy many to retrofit popular profiles.  The blade can easily project far enough to compensate.

One blade profile deserves special mention.  The dado profile comes in a variety of widths including a tiny 1/16" dado.  Shown here is a 1/4" dado.  The dado blade itself hones with a flat stone as you would any other blade; the black hone you see in the background is for the double knicker.

The knicker sits in the toe and scores the material before the blade cleans up.  This makes for exceptionally clean dados even cross-grain (yes, I know, dado is cross-grain by definition, but the term is tossed around a bit; good grooves, too :).

The projection of the knickers can be adjusted to match the blade.  A more interesting use comes when you don't even use the blade.  If you needed to score a line either using a fence or riding the plane body up against a fence, you could easily do it without using the blade.  This can be handy if the score line is to mark the outside of a much wider dado you'll cut with a router for example.

The 1/16" blade (that I don't have, yet) lends itself to even more eccentric use.  With the fence and the 1/16" dado blade with knickers in place, you could score the edge of a tenon getting the fibers perfectly scored before completing the cut with a tenon saw and back-paring with chisels.

Don't say I didn't warn you; slippery indeed.


  • Jim A said...

    Curse you, Paul-Marcel. My bank account was finally starting to recover from the damage done by your reviews of Festool (21 sustainers and counting). Then after multiple iterations of returning to this video I decided to tentatively dip my toe into this slippery slope (beat that for horrible mixed metaphors!). Twelve profiles later I'm back at the 7-11 on weekends. Thanks buddy.


  • Paul-Marcel St-Onge said...

    Jim, 7-11 needs ya! :)

    You'll love the plane. I used it a bit for a unique profile it makes easily on my latest video ("No Comment #2"; not out yet!)

    Now, I dunno if you picked up the soles and irons from the Bridge City sale, but there are several 'over-stock' soles and irons on their clearance page; look near the bottom. If you didn't get all the hones you need, several are there, too.

    Lemme know which 7-11 and I'll come by for a chat! :)