Raney Nelson, Crucible’s Machine Head

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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.

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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.)

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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.

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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27 Responses to Raney Nelson, Crucible’s Machine Head

  1. This is awesome! Looking forward to hearing more about this exciting new project.

  2. meanmna says:

    The suspense is agonizing …

  3. nrhiller says:

    Profoundly cool and exciting. I look forward to hearing and seeing more.

  4. jborgschulte says:

    More reasons to help fund The Schwarz’s beer fund. Also, i dig that Misfits LP cover on Raney’s wall.

    • Oh Raney is a huge punk fan. He got my daughter Katy into the Misfits and Sex Pistols….

      • ajgodet says:

        Just when I couldnt be more excited about this, I learn Raney is a fellow punk rocker. Done and done.

      • When I was growing up a father would kill a boy for less!

      • jborgschulte says:

        Thats awesome. When I was in middle school, with no income, no decent radio stations, no record store, I have to thank the Internet for allowing me to download MP3s through questionable means to learn of great bands like these. Bad Brains, OPERATION IVY, Fugazi, Stiff Little Fingers, Bad Religion, Rancid, Judge, MINOR THREAT, Gorilla Biscuits, Cro-Mags, Choking Victim… almost all before my time. Of course, Ive now purchased all of it on either vinyl, digital or both by now. The least I can do for outlooks/ideas that have helped define me as a person.

  5. Dumont69 says:

    Whomever took that photo of that small smoother is a master. Master I say!

  6. xxxmike says:

    Best of Luck, guys!

  7. kendewitt608 says:

    Congrats on this venture, know it will fly high.
    So now the money I spent on things you wrote up will go directly to your group.
    All the best.

  8. Fantastic! Congratulations!!!

  9. tsstahl says:

    “…said yes without even telling my wife.”

    Wow, you are serious!

  10. jonfiant says:

    Wow, just when Karl Holtey decides to retire, someone else picks up the reigns! I couldn’t think of anyone better than Raney.
    All the best to all of you,
    Jon

  11. I am fascinated by the picture of the large machine being put in place next to Roubo style bench and am looking forward to what Crucible produces.

  12. Very interesting, but is the CNC machine involved in the holdfast production?

  13. toolnut says:

    Congratulations gentlemen. You guys are going to be very successful together.
    Will you be keeping a stock inventory of tools you produce or will it be pre-production ordering similar to BridgeCity’s production model? (Or a combination of both?)

    • Our plan is identical to Lost Art Press: Produce a stock inventory of our tools.

      We might do a short run of some tool here or there someday. But the heart of the business will be making tools, keeping them in stock and dispatching them as soon as they are purchased.

  14. abtuser says:

    Seems like an natural extension of what you all do, it’s no surprise that it all fits together well.

  15. flatironjoe says:

    Very exciting stuff! Can’t wait to see what you talented guys turn out. That CNC is pretty sweet too. I got to tour the Haas factory a few years ago, where they have the machines that make those machines! Now that was impressive.

  16. Bob Brown says:

    Hey Chris, Congratulations on Crucible. Diversity only makes us stronger in what we are already good at. We will be at WIA and hopefully can see some product at your studio.
    Cheers, Bob Brown

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