Recently I had the good fortune to get a new
shoulder plane: the Bridge City Tool Works CT-14.
Because I cut tenons a little oversized and fit each
to its mortise, I use a shoulder plane as much as
any other plane.
For years I had an HNT Gordon shoulder plane that is
a very good tool. I've realized, however, that
I'm just not comfortable with wooden planes. I much
prefer the precision afforded by a mechanical
adjuster. I know some of you will say that you
can be just as precise adjusting an iron with a
hammer but I always felt like I was fighting with
it. So it seemed that a metal-bodied shoulder
plane was in order.
The fourteenth tool in Bridge City’s annual commemorative tool
series, the CT-14, like all of the tools in the series, has a
limited production run. As shoulder planes go it is
relatively expensive. In fact, I never would have considered
buying it, except that I made the mistake of using it at a
event featuring John Economaki, founder of
Bridge City Tool Works.
The plane made an impression on me that evening. I
couldn't get it out of my mind. Finally, my wife tired of
listening to me talk about it and told me to buy it (I have a
newfound tool acquisition strategy). She didn't have to
tell me twice -- I ordered it. And then I waited.
And waited some more. Then for good measure, I waited.
The CT-14 wasn't yet available when I ordered it. When it
started shipping, I wasn't first in line. I began to
wonder if it would live up to my memory of it. I finally
received it after waiting very impatiently for nearly two
To borrow a technique from movie reviewers, let's kill the
suspense: this plane is every bit as good as I remembered.
It is practically flawless in every detail, a triumphant
marriage of form and function. With that out of the way we
can examine the tool in detail.
The first thing one notices about
CT-14 is its appearance. Beauty is subjective but I'll
state flat out that this is a beautiful tool. Fit and
finish are superb. The body is machined from solid brass.
Some surfaces are highly polished while others have been blasted
to a matte finish. Even the smallest details of design
have been perfected.
The most prominent feature is the
stainless steel foxtail at the back of the plane. Actually
a lever, the foxtail serves double duty as the locking mechanism
for the iron and as a wonderfully ergonomic grip for using the
plane. And this is a tool you'll want to use.