We began production of our Type 2 Dividers this week, and we hope to begin selling them in June or July.
As long-time customers know, we struggled to produce the first version of these dividers. They were beautiful. They functioned very well. But they were difficult to manufacture in great volume. While we were charging $185 per pair, we probably should have charged $285 or more because of all the hand-fitting and hand-polishing.
So we took the dividers out of production and have been tinkering with them for some time.
OK, so the next part of this story is what you don’t ever get to read when it comes to tool production. Many toolmakers are loath to credit the designers and machinists who figure out the nitty-gritty stuff. I want to give them their due.
Last year, we began working with Josh Cook, a mechanical designer and woodworker who was really interested in our original dividers. He sent me a pair that he’d made based on photos from our website. And we went from there.
Enter machinist Craig Jackson of Machine Time. You might know Craig as the creator of the EasyWood turning tools, which I love. After the EasyWood business was sold to another party and things went south, Craig went back to high-tolerance part production. But he loves making woodworking tools. So he took pity on me and now works with Crucible on some of our tools.
Together the three of us worked through a bunch of variables to come up with a design for these dividers that is:
- Functionally perfect from the user’s point of view
- Easy to make with minimal setups on the mill
- Relatively inexpensive
The Crucible Type 2 dividers are new from the ground up. I can promise you that they have the same feel in the hand – like a heavy and smooth stone you found on a riverbank. Ever since we finished the first pre-production versions, I have kept a pair at arm’s length.
The hinge is completely redesigned and astonishingly smooth in use. While the pointy legs of the dividers are the most visible aspect of the tool, the hinge might be the most difficult part to design and manufacture. After I-don’t-know-how-many iterations, the current hinge is (here’s a technical term) sweet. Its tension is adjusted with a No. 8 screwdriver – something every woodworker has. You can set the dividers to move stiffly and hold a setting. Or you can lock them down to rabidly maintain the position of the points.
We also wanted to make these as affordable as possible while still making them functionally and aesthetically great. And make them in the U.S. with U.S. materials. The goal was a $100 retail – a little less than you would pay for a Starrett compass.
On Tuesday, Craig called me to let me know that they were cranking out legs for the dividers. In a few weeks, hinges will begin production at another shop. If we have any luck, assembly will begin in June and we will start selling them shortly after.
Thank you for all your patience. It won’t be long now.
— Christopher Schwarz
P.S. I know that some of you are asking: Where is Raney Nelson in this? We parted ways amicably more than two years ago. Raney has evolved the design for the dividers to match his aesthetic. We have promoted his version many times on our blog this year and fully support his efforts at Daed Toolworks. If you are looking for ill will or grudges, you won’t find them here.
41 thoughts on “Crucible ‘Type 2 Dividers’ Begin Production”
What a magnificent entrepreneurial adventure and saga this is! How many customers are there world-wide for $100-200 dividers? And how is it possible, after all my long decades of life, that I have somehow gotten along without these two sharp sticks with a pivot point?
Ask Starret. Their carpenter’s dividers sell new for about 200 bucks. They’ve only been making them for 130 years or so.
They get away with it because of their name. I bet they don’t actually sell many of them but once they have the design and machinery its no big deal to keep a run of them on the shelf. When you paid off your plant and tooling you have that luxury.
Sometimes I wonder if you are running a charity or a business. $100 for the dividers and $135 for the chore coat are absolute bargains. I know you make what you consider a fair profit but I don’t know how you do it – but we all appreciate it!
It always amazes me when fellow woodworkers question the price of a tool let alone a piece crafted by a fellow woodworker. The hours spent designing, prototyping, perfecting, and producing a functional and aesthetically pleasing tool or piece of furniture is only part of the story. The creativity behind these items must also be factored. In this case I would add tenacity. I hope you sell a ton of these and make a decent profit in the process.
As for me, I don’t question anybody’s hand-crafted price for anything they make for sale. In fact, the more, the better. And if I were to make and sell dividers like these, I would charge thousands, and I would be slow to deliver at that. Nevertheless I can’t help but wonder, how large is this market?
It is not too big a market but machine tools are machine tools. They can run a job and then switch to another job. You don’t necessarily need huge production runs to stay profitable. I think a good example might be Woodpeckers. They do runs of tools and then move on. CNC allows you to call back a setup to make more later. A CNC mill and a CNC lathe would allow you to make almost anything. Those two tools with maybe a surface grinder would allow you to make the highest end planes imaginable. We woodworkers have just grown used to low quality tools over time and spent a lot of time finishing and tuning poorly manufactured stuff. You don’t see mechanics fine tuning and refinish their ratchet wrenches but we are expected to spend hours fine tuning a simple chisel. They should come to you flat, sharp and ready to use. We just didn’t demand that.
LAP, bravo I have 2 sets of type 1 and Starrett and others and I hope to have 2 of the type 2 I have sons and a son in law
Oh wow, these sound perfect! And perfect price point. I had been looking at some French made ones (forget the name) for around the same price but will hold out for these.
Probably going to have to do pull the trigger on these
Looking forward to seeing them in hand!
Some of us remember when you killed poor Raney off. If that didn’t end you friendship . . .
I was lucky to be able to buy a pair of the Daed Toolworks improved pattern dividers when Raney announced “the last of the Crucible Dividers” here on the blog back in November, and have happily noted that he have since managed to actually bring them back from the dead to the Daed (I just checked, and he has several tens in stock right now), full on.
I have furthermore been delighted with them, and am looking forward to being yet again delighted, when you release them later in the year, by getting a pair of New Crucibles as playfellows for their Daed cousins.
Can’t wait for the new dividers. And good for you guys.
Any details on the steel type?
That price sounds very reasonable to me for a high quality tool that will last a lifetime. On top of that, they have a sleek design that is aesthetically pleasing. That in itself is worth a few bucks.
Thanks Chris. I built a mini-ATC for taking to my dad’s to woodwork and am looking for tools to fill it. Mostly good vintage stuff but likely purchase these dividers for it.
Please don’t give up on the engineering square that you blogged about a while ago. I would love one with only 1/8th or 16th demarcations and would even be willing to pay a premium over a Starrett for it. Maybe your new technical team can sort this out or you can convince another established tool maker to do a production run for you.
I reached out to Starrett, they WILL make a beam with only 16th and 8th inches. However, a one off would run $700. I didn’t ask about the color combo. I’d like to think there are more woodworkers than I who would like to have a beam without 32nds and 64ths on them. I suspect the price would come down per unit if a larger order were placed. Not sure if you would to do some sort of pre-order system (like Woodpeckers does) to see if could get them to do a larger one off run. Below is the contact info of the person I spoke to if this is at all something you would want to do do. Sorry if am being a weiner by this. I completely understand if you decided to delete this info.
Tech Support / Special Order
978-249-3551 X 178
What type of steel are you using?
What type of steel are you using?
A high-carbon steel. Basically O1. But we are trying to see if we can use a pre-hard – though that’s expensive.
Pre-hard = less ops
Pre-hard = more material cost
Pre-hard = more tooling expense (higher wear)
My manufacturing background tells me labor time is biggest factor. Material cost should not be too significant because of the small amount in the tool. Tooling cost might be significant since it is not a huge production run. You need to know the effect of the pre-hard vs tool life and make sure the machining temperatures leave you with a hardness you can live with. My guess is pre-hard is worth it vs post hardening finishing steps.
4140 prehard would be great for these – Not prone to warping, good finish right off the tool, RC30 or thereabouts.
I am continually impressed by the path you have chosen for LAP and Crucible. The fact that you would continue to research and improve on this design and in spite of that effort work to lower the selling price is, unfortunately, surprising in this day and age. Unless of course you are doing that by cutting corners and going off shore.
Sometimes it feels like we take the most difficult path possible. But we all love making things. And none of us wants our name on something that’s crap.
Sorry, just want to make sure I understand the text. Is there still a possibility they will be at the $100 price point or does the past tense imply that isn’t going to happen?
If no one raises their prices on us for materials, then they will be $100.
Above pic shows them sharpened. Will these come pre-pointy?
I found I use my 1.0 divider with one leg wicked sharp and the other kind of blunt (but still sharp). Regardless, it takes less time to sharpen them than to type this.
That’s the goal. These were sharpened on the mill.
Speaking of Crucible’s projects, I was thinking of the thin wedges Peter Follansbee uses to split up his oak stock. He uses blacksmith made wedges, and I remember a few years ago he was using prototypes from Lie Nielsen. But it seems more like a Crucible product in that: 1- there’s no decent affordable wedges in mass production, 2- it is along the same line of manufacture of your holdfasts, so you may be able to use the same contacts in producing it (maybe ductile iron would be a good option for wedges?).
Lucian Avery, the blacksmith Chris wrote about just a week ago, sells wedges of the type you describe.
Yeah, Peter has one of Lucian Avery’s. But $62 feels pricey for a wedge. Just seems like something that could be cast to bring prices down.
Great job Chris. Production engineering is really complex. Things like surface finish, tool wear, and number of tool changes and work holding are huge factors in making things affordable and repeatable. It’s all about reducing touch points while maintaining high quality. You are just the right team to find the magic balance. If you ever get a chance check out Titans of CNC. He is strongly trying to educate people on keeping US manufacturing alive by increasing productivity of machining. He is a bit over the top but his heart and money are in the right place. He did a lot of parts for aerospace and grew his business by holding high quality but improving speed of manufacture.
You know, the disconnect between the machine shop world and woodworking world has always intrigued me. I have experience in both and it has always amazed me how a name brand chisel company cannot seem to get a flat back on a chisel when any decent machine shop could do it in a single operation on a surface grinder in less than a minute. Same with high quality planes. They are either ultra expensive hand built or craptacular raw casting junk. To me it seems there could be a middle ground CNC machined solution that gets you a high tolerance device for an affordable price. Look at an electric motor or a decent drill chuck. Both hold tighter tolerance and clearances than a hand plane with more parts at a much lower cost. Why? With the cost of machining centers getting down to the $20k range, someone should be able to make a go of small production runs with reasonable pricing. Hope you succeed.
Let’s take a look at a boutique plane. The sides might be dovetailed or doweled into the sole. As a machinist I see unnecessary operations. I would either machine a solid block or use a u shaped casting. After I machine it, the sides would be square to the sole (machinist square not woodworker square). Would it be as fancy as the boutique plane, no….it would just work the same. Some of what we spend is for the aesthetic more than the function. After all for many years people stuck a blade in a slot in a wood block, wedged it and made furniture masterpieces. Woodworkers are weird customers, we tend to be really cheap but drool over that $2,000 hand plane that realistically no one NEEDS.
There seems to be two types of hobby wood workers. Some guys make everything out of junk or by themselves justifying countless hours for a tool that costs under $100. On the flip side are the Daed hand plane and Festool fans that make one or two projects a year. Being a hobby throws the cost / benefit ratio out the window which is fine as long as you enjoy it.
Festool fan and I make far more than two projects a year. Their machines are productivity enhancers in my shop.
Im a Festool user as well so I am not being critical. Admitted though I am not sure I would be using a lot of Festool stuff if I was trying to turn a profit with my tools. They are nice but definitely more than needed to get the job done. The Domino might be an exception because it is unique but their drills, drivers, router are just too expensive for what they are.
Hand MADE, high quality $#!T. Keep up the good work, guys!!!
Glad to see good input on these. You absolutely cannot believe the hours spent engineering and perfecting to get to this price point!!
I’m in the market for good dividers. Daed’s were beyond my comfort level. I’m not hinting they are not worth the asking price but it is too much for me to consider seriously at the level of work I do. A C-Note is exactly my comfort level and I will purchase when they are released or before if you offer preordering. I would also be interested in the replacement beam for my Starrett if you decide to go down that path.
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