Chris Schwarz's Blog

First Look: The Bridge City Jointmaker Pro

As I was unpacking my tools for the Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event in Chicago this weekend, John Economaki from Bridge City Tools stepped up to my workbench with an astonishing piece of wood.

It was a narrow slice off the end of a dowel that was .004″ thick. It was cut with a handsaw.

“I cut this with my new saw,” Economaki said. “You ready for a rematch?”

Earlier this fall, he and I had a sawing contest to see who could make the thinnest crosscut (he won that contest; see the full story here). Economaki handed me the paper-thin slice and I knew two things: I didn’t want a rematch, but I definitely wanted to see his new saw.

Turns out it is more than just a handsaw. It’s a Japanese sawblade mounted in a frame that was topped with sliding tables. It is, in essence, a hand-powered table saw with sliding tables. Economaki calls it the Jointmaker Pro, and it’s going to be available this summer (most likely June, Economaki said).

In this photo, Economaki pulled away the stops so you can see what the cutting action looks like across the sloped blade.

Here are the particulars: The sawblade is mounted teeth-up in the frame of the Jointmaker. And the blade slopes up from the front of the tool to the rear. On top of the Jointmaker are two sliding tables , one on either side of the blade , that slide on dovetailed ways (no bearings, just a perfect fit).

Some of the controls are like a table saw: You raise and lower the blade with a crank, and you can bevel the blade left and right. To make common cuts, the Jointmaker Pro comes with a series of stops that you can set for the particular bevel angles.

Look familiar? The Jointmaker Pro has controls similar to a table saw. And as a bonus it bevels both left and right.

The two sliding tables can be moved in tandem at any angle between 0Ã?° to 47Ã?° by securing the Jointmaker Pro’s wooden fence across them. Then you simply secure your work on the table with a couple very clever hold-downs and , zip , push the work over the blade.

The slope of the 28-tpi crosscut blade (a rip blade is available) cuts the work with surprisingly little effort. But how much wood can you cut with a human-powered table saw? Economaki said you can cut stock up to 5″ wide and 1-1/2″ thick. Thick stock requires a lot more strokes against the blade, but it’s easy (I tried it).

What is most surprising about the tool is the resulting cut. It is the cleanest sawcut I’ve ever seen, whether by hand or power. Economaki made dozens of different kinds of cuts during the hand-tool event for dovetails, tenons, half-laps and bridles , and all them were flawless from the saw.

At the end of the show, he made a series of compound miters, and they went together with an air-tight fit.

Economaki said the idea for the tool came to him during a sleepless night.

“I began by putting a Japanese saw blade upside down in a vise,” he said. “I made a cut by pushing the work over the blade, and the light went on.”
 
The Jointmaker Pro will cost $1,195 retail, Economaki said, but there will be an introductory price of $995.

“It costs 10 times that of a good dozuki,” he said. “Yet you get perfect results.”

– Christopher Schwarz

11 thoughts on “First Look: The Bridge City Jointmaker Pro

  1. Joe

    I can’t stand the sound of power tools, and feel that power tools plus dust collectors still far short of keeping dust out of the living room. With hand tools I can just use a cheap shop vac for any sawdust. If it works this well it would be worth the investment for me.

  2. Christopher Schwarz

    William (and others),

    There is more to write about now than ever before. Manufacturing something in America is newsworthy in and of itself.

    Now I’ve been at this awhile. Every day. But I’ve never taken a dime from these manufacturers.

    And so here’s how it really works: Someone introduces a new tool, and everyone poo-poos it as too expensive before they have seen it (Lie-Nielsen, Veritas and Holtey were earlier examples — believe it). Then the tool finds its audience and people see what it does. It succeeds or it fails.

    This tool is an improved miter box. And if you can cut wood as well as this tool, my hat is off to you. I sure can’t do it. Nor can my table saw. Nor can a plunge router.

    And that’s not worth writing about?

    Chris

  3. William Fariss

    I never stop being fascinated by the ingenuity of man (and how to part said man from his money). A machine to cut wood! Wonders will never cease.

    Of course in my day we did it a tad differently: a saw, a piece of wood; pick up saw, cut wood. I guess that this here new fangled device is for those that have trouble following a straight line. Come to think of it, for that price, you could attend any number of classes that would teach you to cut that straight line and cut some decent dovetails while you are learning.

    Just an aside, Chris are you running out of things to write about?

  4. Chris C.

    "It costs 10 times that of a good dozuki," he said. "Yet you get perfect results."

    Ah, now if only wood joints needed to be perfect I guess
    I would be excited. But they don’t, so I am not.

    Chris

  5. David

    Fascinating. And a tool that’s destined to become a much sought after and very expensive collector’s item on the antique market in 50 years. Sort of like a Langdon shoot-board plane and fixture. Low production numbers and unique design always brings attention, even if the device is not terribly practical (a skilled handsaw user can always cut a set of dovetails much faster without any jig than with – just ask Christian Becksvoort). The Stanley 55 plane comes to mind – not a terribly practical tool, wooden molding planes are far more efficient, but the "fascination factor" drives the price up to over a grand for a complete one.

  6. Jameel Abraham

    I saw this at the Chicago show. In a word, I was floored. For those of us who do precision small-scale miters (and I do), it’s perfect. This would save me oodles of time for the work I do, since it would effectively eliminate the need to refine the cut with shooting boards. The one-pass dovetails that he cut were incredibly thin and flawless. This is a very powerful tool for precision work, no doubt. Somebody wanna buy me one? 🙂

  7. Paul Kierstead

    Very very interesting. I sawed a bunch of half laps (Japanese lantern) a bit ago with a dozuki and set up mitre box so that everything was held quite firmly. The cut quality was extraordinary; it would cut quality is very closely related to steadiness of sawing direction, probably not that surprising. Might also explain why the very narrow kerf saws seem to cut so nicely. I might try building some simpler variation for personal use (probably just like 100 people are contemplating right now)

  8. Christopher Schwarz

    If you think about the tool for a moment, it’s a lot like an advanced miter box. The differences are:

    1) It’s Japanese
    2) It does wilder compound cuts.

    The unsolicited comments I heard at the show were along the lines of: "Wow." And: "I could use that for (inlay, small boxes, my apartment shop, precision miters)."

    I actually didn’t hear any grousing about price from people who saw and used it.

    Chris

  9. Ron

    One of those answers to a question we didn’t ask. But. I have several fingers that wish I had one.

    For the price you can get a pretty decent tablesaw; if he is serious the price is going to have to drop a lot. Otherwise his niche will be too narrow – and I want to be able to afford one. There are too many times where this would be great to have.

  10. Gary Roberts

    I know this is a serious tool, but I can’t help but think of a photo in an old copy of another woodworking magazine… two woodworker apprentices holding up a third, horizontal, who is holding a tool (can’t remember if it was a saw or a chisel), ready to cut some wood in a vise. I think they called it the Ian Kirby method.

    In a totally philosophical way, doesn’t this defeat the idea behind hand tool woodworking?

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