Crucible Dividers: a Tool and Totem

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During the day, I hold a pair of our Crucible dividers and rub them like a worry stone or a rosary as I write, think or ponder my path forward at my workbench or my laptop.

The curves and chamfers of my dividers – I own only one pair – are as familiar to me as my wife’s hands or the tote of my Lie-Nielsen No. 3. The weight is reassuring. The stiffness of its hinge is something I measure every time I pick them up.

And when my mind runs out of ideas, I look down at the dividers in my hand and marvel at how difficult it has been for us to get these five pieces of steel to fit together and move deliberately.

During the last two years Raney, John and I have had to learn a lot about metal, casting, machining, laser-cutting and a host of other allied skills to keep Crucible Tool afloat, making tools and growing. Despite all this effort (and sometime anguish), these dividers remain a true wonder to me.

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Raney began his design with an Art Deco pair my mother found in an antique stall. That vintage pair was an interesting design, and Raney and I stared at them for a long time, knowing they contained the kernel of a good idea.

But the tension in its hinge wasn’t adjustable. It was difficult to pull the legs apart. They had unnecessary bulk.

After weeks (months?) in his lab, Raney emerged with this tool. And it has replaced my pocketknife as “the thing” that is always in my hand.

Truth: They are a total b&^%h to manufacture. The fit between the sex nuts and the two legs has to be within a half of a thousandth of an inch. If we miss that specification, the legs have a bit of slop in them that we consider unacceptable. Many dividers have this slop, which can make your layouts a bit cattywumpus (though not disastrous).

John, who does our quality control, puts it this way: “That slop would be fine if these dividers were $50. But for $187? They have to be better than that.”

They are. Thanks to Raney and John, these are the best pair of dividers I’ve ever owned. I know this sounds like bullcrap coming from someone who is part of Crucible, but so be it. I am unashamed at my love for this tool. It is the result of hundreds of hours of grief and inspiration.

Every day, dozens of times I day, I test them. They open smoothly. They close the same (and without slipping). And so I test them again and stare at the work on my bench.

— Christopher Schwarz

P.S. We have 30 dividers in stock today with another 30 about to go to the warehouse and another 100 in the CNC mill. You can order a pair here.

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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25 Responses to Crucible Dividers: a Tool and Totem

  1. *Ahem* I don’t recall seeing any *sex* nuts in the dividers I received. Or perhaps that was a (humorous) typo above?

  2. ralmcc7yahoo.com says:

    Guys, I bought a pair of dividers, from the first run i believe, is there a major difference between mine and this run? If so how could/ should I have them upgraded ? Or am I getting too anal.?

  3. jfthomas70 says:

    Where can I get a tool to take the ‘nuts’ apart?
    I have a divider made just like yours.

  4. First thought on reading the opening of this post: “Dear Lost Art Press, I never thought this would happen to me…”
    I have very serviceable dividers. But they are not fondle-worthy.

  5. jfthomas70 says:

    I do have other things that I would rather fondle, 🙄

  6. Robert Mose says:

    Will they be available in Canada any time soon ?

  7. leeboyz86 says:

    $187 for a tool I would use only occasionally didn’t make any practical sense, BUT it did make spiritual sense. I was ready to purchase immediately. So, it was painful to wait-out the “sold out” sign on the dividers on the Crucible website for several months. It was a happy moment when i was able to make the purchase. The design, materials and craftsmanship of the dividers are amazing. Thank you for bringing this small work of art into my life.

    • tsstahl says:

      Sounds like you are more of a tape measure/ruler type of woodworker. I took the plunge with By Hand & Eye by Tolpin and Walker.

      I now have dividers all over the place, including one from Crucible. I still have my tape measure and two rules handy (12″, 6″). I can’t see myself ever ditching dividers after having a taste of the kool-aid.

      Now for my pitch. I have found that I could use a size smaller, and a size larger of the Crucible dividers. I don’t know if I would actually purchase the smaller size, but I certainly would the larger. I have several vintage larger dividers and they are just a bear to keep where I left them.

  8. I’d love to see a picture of the art deco pair from your mom. Post up for the historical record.

    • I’m getting a “403 access denied” to look at photos. Rather than ask you to repost…. maybe just drop a pair of said dividers in a future blog photo and I’ll just keep a sharp eye out for em. Thank you though.

      • I updated the links (apologies). Try again.

        • spoiler says:

          Thank you. They are simple/clean/elegant. I can appreciate the improvements you made to the Crucible design even more now. It is an odd thing but I like to keep my pair of improved pattern dividers clamped down to near maximum tightness. If the “finger dent” thing were not there I’d never get em open but it just seems to make the act of setting them a more deliberate action that I enjoy.

  9. dividersvshatchets says:

    Never have I wanted an object so wholly unjustifiable to my ever-scolding checkbook. Someday this change jar will overflow in just the right way.
    Thanks for doing what you do!

  10. Daniel says:

    Having heard similar stories from all small, “do it right”, tool makers (the complexity, anguish, love), it’s a miracle that anyone produces tools for any price, ever.

Comments are closed.