The HP-12 Low Angle Smoothing Plane, designed by John Economaki, founder of Bridge City Tool Works, is unlike any other smoother—past or present. The all metal front and rear totes, the symmetrically pierced sides, dual ground irons, a unique blade locking mechanism, and the ability to attach depth skids makes this plane one of the most versatile and usable planes you will ever own.
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. It also makes it difficult to house an iron with dual grinds.
Several years ago, John Economaki, pioneered the use of a unique toggle lock mechanism in shoulder planes and expanded this concept to block planes. 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 HP-12 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 aluminum, bead blasted and anodized black. We believe this shape is more hand friendly than the more common “balloon” totes. This tote is threaded into the throat plate allowing for precise adjustment of the mouth.
The rear tote is investment cast 304 stainless steel with the interior cavities painted black. Shaped to invoke the illusion of movement. The highly polished curved surfaces add a nice reflective contrast to the colors of the plane components. The gradated chamfer at the top of the tote ties in nicely with the graceful chamfers of the plane body. The angle of the tote is perpendicular to the iron edge directing the forward motion of the plane straight at the cutting edge.
Both the rear and front totes will fit hands both large and small.
The symmetrical HP-12 plane body features an adjustable mouth also made from 304 stainless-steel. The body, twelve inches long (304.8 mm) heel to toe, features a twelve-degree bed, with all profiles CNC milled. The sides are CNC milled from 360 aluminum, anodized. Each side is press-fit to the sole with dowel pins and retained with cap screws. 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 unique design of the HP-12 Low Angle Smoother allows for dual ground irons. Two irons 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 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. The guard attaches to the iron with rare earth magnets.
THE IRON DEPTH ADJUSTER
The iron is engaged to the depth adjuster via a pin nut attached to a 0.5mm thread pitch lead screw. One full revolution of the lead screw increases the depth of cut by .1mm (0.004”). The 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 by hand. This mechanism 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, or as fast, as canting with the fingers through the sides of the plane body.
The single distinguishing feature of the HP-12 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 is an incredible benefit for box makers, for 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 gauges. It is entirely possible, and easy, to make multiple components with a thickness that does not vary more than 0.003”!
The skids feature rounded soles which not only reduce friction but 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.
SPECS (without depth skids attached):
L = 304mm/12”, W = 70mm/2.75” H = 133mm/5.25”
Weight with Depth Skids = 2575 grams (5.67 lbs)
The HP-12 may be the only bench plane many woodworkers will ever need!