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Make Your Own Stew Mac Dial Calipers


tasty
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Excuse me, but what is wrong with saving some hard earned money by purchasing the same tools elsewhere than Stew Mac? It's not like I am selling Stew Mac knockoff tools and putting the money in my pocket (a violation of Forum Rules btw). You misunderstand that is not an anti-Stew Mac post, but an "anti-overspending money you don't have to" type of post.

Brian's tutorials demonstrate exactly how to make your own tools which save money (Fret Beveler, Fret Radius Tool, etc) so why would you suggest to "stop these anti-stewmac posts" when similar valuable information is provided by the Forum Master himself on the "Tutorials page".

If we followed with your cynical assertation and stereotyping of this post we would have to pull down basically the entire Tutorial section. I am sure people who haven't already overpaid for Stew Mac tools will appreciate the truth in information provided.

Perhaps you are just upset that you already paid the Stew Mac prices for the same item, and want everyone else to have to pay the 200% inflation rate on some of the same exact tools.

Best Regards

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Perry, In certain instances you're quite correct, and I get tired at hearing Stew Mac attacked, since I have a very high opinion of them.

However, I don't think this is one of those instances. I think it's worth pointing out that identical digital calipers are available inexpensively. It would be nice if the poster showed how to mod them though.

I've modified my own, and used a dremel cutoff disc and a DMT diamond hone to notch them for luthiery applications.

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For the record, Stew Mac is a great resource not only for hard to find tools but parts as well. This post wasn't an attack on Stew Mac. If it wasn't for some of thier tools and expertise, many of us here would not know nearly as much as we do. They offer hard to find parts and supplies which would be ordinarily hard to find as well as videos and instruction.

I just thought it was extremely interesting that the SAME exact caliper was availiable for almost 1/3 of the cost that Stew Mac sells it for (sans a few slots). They probably by them in bulk for even less! I did not describe how to mod the caliper because I haven't recieved them yet. However it seems pretty easy to modify, as Setch points out. Perhaps a tutorial is in order for the future?

I can understand how a business operates, but Stew Mac really has a sort of "monopoly" in the luthier-tool business. They offer "special" and "unique" tools that are "exclusive"...at really expensive prices only because there is no competition to challenge them. It would be like the only gas station in a 250 mile radius charging you $10 a gallon becuase they can. If I told everyone where another gas station was that sold for $3 a gallon would I be quashed as well?

These tools can often be made for a fraction of the cost, with a little know-how and modification.

Myself (and all the wannabe-aspiring guitar repair/luthiers ) choose not to take our guitars to the local shop because we want to do these repairs ourself. This helps save money and also gives us the satisfaction of a job well done (when things go right). If we were all suckered into paying outrageous prices for readily available goods, we might as well take our guitars into the shop and pay lots of $$ for it.

Trying to squash information like this isn't right, and isn't in the general interest of what this forum is all about IMO. This forum is about people helping people, even complete strangers. I agree that nobody wants to hear about how Stew Mac (LMI, xxx, whatever) sucks everyweek...but nobody wants to get taken for a ride either - that feels terrible.

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I think the issue is using emotive terms like 'taken for a ride' or 'suckered'. Stew Mac isn't some back street con artist trying to sell you a $20 watch for $50. They charge a premium, but that price includes unrivalled customer service and technical support, and freakishly fast shipping.

If they were really trying to rip people off, they'd up their parts prices to match the criminally expensive allparts, put all their free info section in a book and sell it, instead of making it freely available.

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I just thought it was extremely interesting that the SAME exact caliper was availiable for almost 1/3 of the cost that Stew Mac sells it for (sans a few slots). They probably by them in bulk for even less!

It's not the same exact caliper. It's one of many almost-identical looking calipers on the market. HF sells lots of tools that look identical to more expensive tools. In some cases they may be as good. In my experience, most of them aren't.

Of course both Stew-Mac and Harbor Freight buy bulk wholesale. But HF is a very big company that imports direct, while Stew-Mac is much smaller and no doubt buys through a direct importer. They would be paying more even if it were the identical item.

I can understand how a business operates, but Stew Mac really has a sort of "monopoly" in the luthier-tool business. They offer "special" and "unique" tools that are "exclusive"...at really expensive prices only because there is no competition to challenge them. It would be like the only gas station in a 250 mile radius charging you $10 a gallon becuase they can. If I told everyone where another gas station was that sold for $3 a gallon would I be quashed as well?

Faulty analogy. These are specialty tools, not an everyday commodity used by almost everyone. They have a very small potential market.

These tools can often be made for a fraction of the cost, with a little know-how and modification.

Yes, they can, and if you have the knowledge, you should. Just don't kid yourself about the amount of time you put into making your own.

If you think you can buy these at wholesale, accurately grind the slots, operate a web business, sell them for substantially less than Stew-Mac, provide the same customer service, and make a reasonable profit, then you should do it. I'm sure people would be interested.

I agree that nobody wants to hear about how Stew Mac (LMI, xxx, whatever) sucks everyweek...but nobody wants to get taken for a ride either - that feels terrible.

It's helpful to point out how you can do it yourself, without bashing Stew-Mac. It's not helpful to say that Stew-Mac is taking you or anyone else for a ride.

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I think the issue is using emotive terms like 'taken for a ride' or 'suckered'. Stew Mac isn't some back street con artist trying to sell you a $20 watch for $50. They charge a premium, but that price includes unrivalled customer service and technical support, and freakishly fast shipping.

If they were really trying to rip people off, they'd up their parts prices to match the criminally expensive allparts, put all their free info section in a book and sell it, instead of making it freely available.

Wow. So 'taken for a ride' or 'suckered' are emotive terms, but 'criminally expensive allparts' isn't? :D

Allparts is a wholesaler. That's the overwhelming majority of their business. If you qualify, you get the wholesale price. I qualify because I have a registered business name in my state.

They don't encourage you to buy direct. They would rather you buy from a retailer who carries their products. And in my area, most retailers discount their products 30% or more off list.

Their direct to the public price is full list price because they don't want to undercut the prices of their clients who are selling retail.

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Well, it may be emotive, but it's true :D

Even with 30% off list price, I think you'll find allparts are one of the most expensive sellers around. For example:

gotoh tune-a-matic.

StewMac: $16.10

Allparts: $30

Allparts less 30%: $21.00

That's still 20% more expensive than StewMac.

But you're right anyway. It was a poor call to use that term after criticising the use of emotive language.

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My problem is that every three or four weeks, some guy comes on the forum and starts ranting about getting ripped off by stewmac, because they offer a tool that has been professionally modified, to suit a purpose we all need, that most of us didnt even think we needed before we saw the stewmac catalogue.

That tool then gets compared to something else from a company who doesnt support our hobby/industry directly, who doesnt go out of their way to source the bits we need, and chooses not to offer the level of support that stewmac does. Only half the time is the tool being compared of an equal quality.

If you find a tool that you can then spend time modifying, to make it simular to the stewmac one, thats fantastic. What do you do if/when that cheaper tool breaks down? Once modified, your stuffed. Void warranty. Thanks for coming.

Id much rather pay a few bucks more, to source from a company that I NEED TO STAY IN BUSINESS for a long time. The few dollars they pick up on that tool goes towards unrivalled quality support, and excellent website with free information to assist you, and a continually expanding catalogue.

But, you can choose to buy the stuff where ever you like. Id rather spend time building guitars than wasting a few hours sourcing and then modifying a tool to save a few bucks (eaten by postage?).

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I agree with both partys..

alot of my special tools and almost all of my hardware is from stew mac, but some of the stuff I can just make.

Its not that Im being cheap, its that I dont see why spend $20 more for 15 mins of work.

Now, somthing like a caliper I dont see myself even touching, hell for $15 I didnt even want to mess with the radius sand board.

but rubber hammers, fret nippers, straight edges, etc. I can get anywhere..

and SM is awesome, I ordered somthing weds. and it got here today(friday) with no extra shipping, just USPS. Plus I added somthing to the order late, and they didnt up my shipping cost.. woot.

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I am sure Stew Mac has recieved more favorable endorsements from this forum than complaints about pricing. I think they are a very helpful company. I personally have found other companies that better suit my needs on many items (quality, selection,and pricing all coming into play). When I first started sourcing parts I new about Stew Mac and they recieved the bulk of my orders. As I found other sources and saw what was available. It didn't make me feel real good about some of my purchases, but I certainly don't blame them for my lack of knowledge of what was available. I don't believe I have ever recieved a poor quality tool or part from them.

I see it like this. I would not buy shell from Stew Mac. I go to either Depaule or MOP Supplies. All of these companies support building, and have good service(actually great service). I don't think that means Stew is bad, just not my first choice. If someone on this board asked for advise on where to buy shell. I will give them the name of the company I would use or even offer the suggestion to check my prefered sources before buying from a less prefered(by me).

Sharing sources and finds is a real(needed) part of building. Whether it is at a show and you are chatting with other builders or on a forum like this. This networking is good for the hobby, and actually a big part of how those LMI, Allied, Steward Macdonald catalogs get filled up with clever tools. As long as it is not a slam on the companies quality or service, and it speaks more to a better source because of price,quality,selection it is fair game to me.

Peace,Rich

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I see this as being the same as comparing (for arguments' sake) Craftsman and Snap-On tools.

If I'm working around the house doing honey-dos, or a shade tree mechanic working on cars in my spare time for fun and a little pocket money, Craftsman tools are great. Affordable, available. Can't be beat. I something breaks, I run down to Sears and get it replaced free, for life.

If I'm making my living with my tools, I'm buying the best there is. Sure, if something breaks I get it replaced free, for life, but they come to me. They know where I am and why I'm there. They do one thing and they do it better than anyone else (for arguments' sake).

The same goes for Stew-Mac. As a hobby/tinkerer* if there's something I can buy cheaper, or make, I might do it because I have the time and it saves me a buck or two. If I was on a schedule, counting every minute lost as dollars lost, I want something that will save me time, that I know will work every time, and be replaceable quickly if it breaks or wears out.

Emotive terms be damned. It's about practicality. :D

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Well to get back on topic......

Tasty-What are you going to use to calibrate that digital caliper? I personally use dial calipers (I am not family with digital). What can you tell me about the way digital calipers work. Do they all use the same method of tracking as they travel? I would imagine machining is as much a factor with digital as dial, and that is something you would have to inspect (and evaluate during a period of use). I am kinda curious because I have thought about trying a digital, but didn't have enough understanding to feel confident that I could use it correctly.

Peace,Rich

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Digital calipers work exactly the same way as dial calipers, except that the result is displayed on the LCD instead of on a dial -- making them a lot faster to read. They can be zeroed at any position, but they are normally zeroed every time they power up with the jaws closed all the way. Accuracy is of course a function of the quality of the tool -- which is just as true with dial calipers. The luthier mod discussed here doesn't affect the accuracy or calibration at all (if done correctly).

As previously mentioned, just because a tool looks like the same one doesn't mean it is the same tool or same quality. Most of the stuff from Harbor Freight is worth exactly what you are paying. I have several of the HF calipers. They are adequate for the most part and will meet most people's needs, but they are certainly not of very high quality.

In general, though, I agree that it is important to share these tool ideas and tips as long as it doesn't badmouth the good vendors. The most cost-effective solution that still meets the needs and works for you is the one you should use.

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<humour:on>

I'll reserve judgement on this thread as I believe in using the force and winging it, instead of measuring anything using those "number" things you kids of today are into. :-)

Seriously. I love Stewmac and I agree that you pay for the premium service and product convenience. Apart from DHL guaranteeing me an import duty bill, but that's another matter.

Certain items from Stewmac get peoples goat I guess, such as the fretwire bender etc. You know it'll work. If you run a guitar repair business, you'll probably save yourself LOTS of time on refret jobs if you do them regularly. The item will therefore pay for itself as the Stewmac site says. I don't think the materials justify the tag, but to some individuals the convenience WOULD justify it.

Hell, I never caught Stewmac putting their hand into my wallet whilst I wasn't looking. I think it's my fault I keep buying from them for some reason. Like spendalepsy.

Anyway. If Stewmac started to bone small businesses into the ground then I would take umbrage to them, but they offer an honest set of products which do what they say on the tin at prices which keep the company reliable and predictable (and happy to help).

Well done to the people who can bent all their frets in under a minute.

Well done to those people who can make their own tools to do similar.

Hooray!

</cynicism>

</sarcasm>

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Certain items from Stewmac get peoples goat I guess, such as the fretwire bender etc. You know it'll work. If you run a guitar repair business, you'll probably save yourself LOTS of time on refret jobs if you do them regularly. The item will therefore pay for itself as the Stewmac site says. I don't think the materials justify the tag, but to some individuals the convenience WOULD justify it.

And that was my point. :D

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Digital calipers work exactly the same way as dial calipers, except that the result is displayed on the LCD instead of on a dial -- making them a lot faster to read. They can be zeroed at any position, but they are normally zeroed every time they power up with the jaws closed all the way. Accuracy is of course a function of the quality of the tool -- which is just as true with dial calipers. The luthier mod discussed here doesn't affect the accuracy or calibration at all (if done correctly).

As previously mentioned, just because a tool looks like the same one doesn't mean it is the same tool or same quality. Most of the stuff from Harbor Freight is worth exactly what you are paying. I have several of the HF calipers. They are adequate for the most part and will meet most people's needs, but they are certainly not of very high quality.

In general, though, I agree that it is important to share these tool ideas and tips as long as it doesn't badmouth the good vendors. The most cost-effective solution that still meets the needs and works for you is the one you should use.

Well if it is all about the teeth and gears, and there is no real potential for error in the electronic pickup from the gears. I will go pick one up and see how it does.

Peace,Rich

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. . . and freakishly fast shipping.

Ordered some things last Monday, got a package on Tuesday. Sometimes the prices are a little over the top on some things, but, shipping is fast, shipping is cheap, and it's basically a one-stop shop for alot of things. Heck, I could go down to the hardware store and pick up a couple of things for a few bucks cheaper, but when it comes down to it, sometimes it's better to go with a place like Stewmac.

Good find though, I've been looking for a cheap pair. Now, since I hate reading micrometers, I'll start searching for a cheap digital pair!

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Stew-Mac up to dirty tricks ? Well, I don't know. Yesterday, I take the unopened bottle of Stew-Mac super glue out of the freezer, where it's been for 6 months. It's been said when you open it for the first time, you should unscrew the top to relieve any pressure that might be inside the bottle. So, I try to unscrew, and get nowhere. Then I'm going at it with a pair of Channelocks, trashing the outside of the spout pretty good from the pliers slipping, because the damn thing won't screw off !!! :D

I finally realize this new (made in Japan) Stew-Mac CA has a reverse thread on the screw-on spout. Been using CA for a long time, and never had that. It will be hard getting used to the threads being backwards (I swap the tops on CA bottles a lot, when clogging happens) .Perhaps its to help keep kids, or Idahoan "luthiers" from eating the glue ?

But keep complaining about their tools, because what that does is make them take the tool of theirs and paint it fire engine red for a new website photo, and then you aint sure no more if your cheaper version is the same thing, or not.

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stew mac charges what it does because it can. if you want to look around, and possibly some mods yourself you can save a few bucks.. their 100' roll of hookup wire is $38, at mcm electronics the exact same thing (brand everything) is $13. just trying to make a buck like the rest of us.

dave

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I can't believe how many posts that have been generated over my original post on how similar the Stew Mac calipers are to the ones at Harbor Freight! This was intended as a comparison. If you want to pay full Stew Mac retail (or already did) than go for it...for the rest of us we will save 200%. I can't stop ya!

Tasty-What are you going to use to calibrate that digital caliper? I personally use dial calipers (I am not family with digital). What can you tell me about the way digital calipers work. Do they all use the same method of tracking as they travel? I would imagine machining is as much a factor with digital as dial, and that is something you would have to inspect (and evaluate during a period of use). I am kinda curious because I have thought about trying a digital, but didn't have enough understanding to feel confident that I could use it correctly.

Peace,Rich

Digital calipers work without a rack and pinion type of setup. They utilize magnets and a sensor. 99% of the time that regular dial calipers fail is caused by debris in the rack. The little pinion then either gets jammed, or skips a tooth (resulting in a faulty reading). After a rack and pinion gets dirty, its near impossible to clean and the calipers are generally tossed. Digital calipers do not normally need calibrating, and can be set to zero at any point on the track. This feature is very helpful when comparing sizes of the same item. You can tell what is + or - and by how much compared to the original. Most of the time measuring errors are chalked up to inappropriate measuring techniques (operator error). With a tolerance of .0005, I don't think this caliper needs to be much better for the application at hand.

It's not the same exact caliper. It's one of many almost-identical looking calipers on the market. HF sells lots of tools that look identical to more expensive tools. In some cases they may be as good. In my experience, most of them aren't.

Did you even look at the pictures? How about this review regarding if "they may be as good"...:

HF Caliper Review

You are gonna tell me that the molded plastic LCD housing is different? You can see the same exact calipers, except for one difference. The Stew Mac version appears to have a silver track, where harbor freight's is black. The button placement, button colors, battery cover, LCD size, functionality, specifications...are all the same.

And as far as accuracy, as stated in the Harbor Freight review:

"The readout module is in a plastic housing with a 4-1/2 digit LCD display. The 1/2 digit reads out to the nearest 0.0005"

Stew Mac's:

"An accurate measuring tool for other guitar shop jobs as well, this caliper has hardened stainless steel parts. It's switchable for readouts in inches or millimeters, and measures outside, inside and depth dimensions up to 6" (152mm), with .0005" (.01mm) resolution. The jaws can be locked at any position."

Gee. I am not saying don't buy from Stew Mac. However if you feel the extra 200% markup is well worth the cost (on some of their items including this one) and nothing else will work...fine. I will be enjoying the extra money I saved that could go towards some wood, glue, MOP, strings, AAAAA flamed tops, etc...

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I can't believe how many posts that have been generated over my original post on how similar the Stew Mac calipers are to the ones at Harbor Freight! This was intended as a comparison. If you want to pay full Stew Mac retail (or already did) than go for it...for the rest of us we will save 200%. I can't stop ya!

Tasty-What are you going to use to calibrate that digital caliper? I personally use dial calipers (I am not family with digital). What can you tell me about the way digital calipers work. Do they all use the same method of tracking as they travel? I would imagine machining is as much a factor with digital as dial, and that is something you would have to inspect (and evaluate during a period of use). I am kinda curious because I have thought about trying a digital, but didn't have enough understanding to feel confident that I could use it correctly.

Peace,Rich

Digital calipers work without a rack and pinion type of setup. They utilize magnets and a sensor. 99% of the time that regular dial calipers fail is caused by debris in the rack. The little pinion then either gets jammed, or skips a tooth (resulting in a faulty reading). After a rack and pinion gets dirty, its near impossible to clean and the calipers are generally tossed. Digital calipers do not normally need calibrating, and can be set to zero at any point on the track. This feature is very helpful when comparing sizes of the same item. You can tell what is + or - and by how much compared to the original. Most of the time measuring errors are chalked up to inappropriate measuring techniques (operator error). With a tolerance of .0005, I don't think this caliper needs to be much better for the application at hand.

It's not the same exact caliper. It's one of many almost-identical looking calipers on the market. HF sells lots of tools that look identical to more expensive tools. In some cases they may be as good. In my experience, most of them aren't.

Did you even look at the pictures? How about this review regarding if "they may be as good"...:

HF Caliper Review

You are gonna tell me that the molded plastic LCD housing is different? You can see the same exact calipers, except for one difference. The Stew Mac version appears to have a silver track, where harbor freight's is black. The button placement, button colors, battery cover, LCD size, functionality, specifications...are all the same.

And as far as accuracy, as stated in the Harbor Freight review:

"The readout module is in a plastic housing with a 4-1/2 digit LCD display. The 1/2 digit reads out to the nearest 0.0005"

Stew Mac's:

"An accurate measuring tool for other guitar shop jobs as well, this caliper has hardened stainless steel parts. It's switchable for readouts in inches or millimeters, and measures outside, inside and depth dimensions up to 6" (152mm), with .0005" (.01mm) resolution. The jaws can be locked at any position."

Gee. I am not saying don't buy from Stew Mac. However if you feel the extra 200% markup is well worth the cost (on some of their items including this one) and nothing else will work...fine. I will be enjoying the extra money I saved that could go towards some wood, glue, MOP, strings, AAAAA flamed tops, etc...

i just saw some gibsons on ebay that were 50000% cheaper that the real thing. Even the logos looked pretty good!! Im never shopping at (insert store) ever again!

B):D:D:D

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i just saw some gibsons on ebay that were 50000% cheaper that the real thing. Even the logos looked pretty good!! Im never shopping at (insert store) ever again!

And I have played some $300 "Gibsons" that were %xxxx cheaper than the real thing and you know what...they played better! Tokai etc.... So I guess I'm never shopping at (insert dumb comment here) again!

:D

Perry, its okay that you spent too much on your Stew Mac calipers..i can see you are really upset about it. :D

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