When I attended the 20th anniversary of Lie-Nielsen Toolworks, John Economaki of Bridge City Tools was at the next table. When Thomas Lie-Nielsen called out Bridge City as one of the other pioneering modern toolmakers, Economaki interrupted the speech.
“Bridge City!” Economaki cried out. “Going out of business for 25 years now!”
The crowd roared. What made it particularly funny for me was how true that comment is for so many small toolmaking companies. There is a perception among a lot of woodworkers that Economaki, Lie-Nielsen, Mike Wenzloff, Wayne Anderson, Konrad Sauer and even Karl Holtey must be very rich men.
After all, they command such a high price for their tools, how could they not be wealthy?
As someone who has corresponded with these gentlemen for years I can tell you flat out that they live a lot like the journalists I know. All the makers of high-end tools whom I know live fairly low to the ground.
In fact, what I have found is that the people who have gotten rich in toolmaking are those who make the inexpensive mass-market stuff. If you sell a million drill bits in a year and make $1 on each one…¦ well, you can do the math.
So when I open the box containing a new tool from one of the smaller-scale toolmakers, I know it’s a labor of love to bring these from an idea into the real world of steel, iron and brass.
The Bridge City DSS-6 Double Saddle Square is just such a product. Milled from stainless steel (a notoriously difficult material), this square is a pleasure in all its details and functions.
The knob that locks the 6″ rule has beautiful elliptical knurling. The tab that locks the blade cinches down tightly with only a little pressure. And unlike spring-mounted tabs on other squares, this tool makes it simple to remove and then replace the rule with almost no fiddling.
The most interesting feature of the square is its built-in saddle square that folds out from the stock of the tool. You can use this to mark around corners with ease. (Remove the ruler when you do this; it’s easy to replace.)
The engraved markings on the rule are as finely milled and readable as those on any machinists’ square. All in all, the tool is perfectly balanced and a joy to use.
When Economaki was in our office for the Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool event in May, he also showed me something else about the tool. He designed in a representation of himself into its shape. The knurled knob is his head. The tapered cutout in the handle represents the tapering of legs from waist to toe.
“That’s me the toolmaker, in every tool,” he said.
The DSS-6 is $229 and is available from Bridge City Tools.
– Christopher Schwarz
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