Crucible Tool simply wouldn’t exist without Raney Nelson. Raney, a planemaker and woodworker who works under the name Daed Toolworks outside Indianapolis, approached John and me last September about starting some sort of tool-making enterprise.
After talking about it for about an hour, all three of us knew it could work because we’ve known each other for many years – since before Raney was a professional planemaker and before John Hoffman and I had started Lost Art Press.
So before the idea for a tool company even came up, we knew Raney had the same business ethics as Lost Art Press. We knew that he worked his butt off. And we knew he was a wizard when it came to hand- and machine-based processes with metal and wood.
Though Raney isn’t much for talking about the quality of his output, it is stellar. Ask anyone who has owned or used one of his planes and you’ll get the same story: He makes gorgeous planes that function at an extremely high level that also have a fully realized design.
So when Raney proposed starting a tool company, I said yes without thinking. Heck, I said yes without even telling my wife.
During the last eight months, Raney has transformed his three-story machine shop into what we call Crucible Lab – a fully equipped toolroom that can handle the prototyping and early production of metal and wooden tools that require precision milling and finishing.
(My part, as mentioned earlier, is working with the foundry, running the website and providing the historical design perspective on tools from Roman times to present. John’s job is to provide the administrative backbone of Crucible – getting orders to customers and fixing any hiccups along the way. I’ll focus on John’s role in a future post.)
Today I visited the lab and was amazed at how far things have progressed. We’ve installed a Haas CNC milling machine (about the size of an SUV), a precision belt sander, a Roll In band saw for cutting metal plus an incredible array of tooling and fixturing for the first tools on the design board. These machines are additions to Raney’s already well-equipped metal shop with milling machines, lathes and a surface grinder.
Though the Haas has only been up and running since April, Raney has mastered the thing and is cranking out both metal and wooden components.
So if you think it’s dumb that a writer started a tool-making company, you’re wrong. A writer didn’t start a tool company. Crucible Tool is an equal partnership of three guys who are passionate about woodworking and all bring skills to the table that we hope will make for a company that is successful at both making tools and staying in business for a long time.
— Christopher Schwarz
I don’t want to say too much about Crucible Lab because I’d like Raney to tell it from his perspective. He’s a reluctant blogger. Let’s hope he makes an extra pot of coffee this week and cranks out the story of the Lab.