Forty one years of searching for good quality parts has been a blast. A treasure hunt. I have had moderate luck finding vintage components and enjoy selling them worldwide. Occasionally, we can no longer locate certain mechanical parts that our customers desire. So we contract to have them made. Fighting the urge to stock what everyone else does. Import that. Knock-off this. Well, recently we were put in the corner by a manufacturer we have used for decades. One product they made for us for many years has slowly degraded with poor workmanship and inferior components. The last batch was rejected for multiple reasons and I needed to decide whether to continue with our trademark Turns Counter we have sold for 25 years, or retire it. What happened next was a complete upgrade and rebuild. My dad always said “If it’s worth doing – it’s worth doing right!” We took on the full production of our magnificent counter and now have something we are proud of.
SHW-TCV Turns Counter – Mechanical
“Since every piece of equipment that uses a turns counter has no capacity for skipped turns, we solved the problem.”
We started over at ground level. The main problem other knock-off counters have is the shaft moves laterally when the knob is cranked. This action in turn causes slop in the gear placement which in turn interrupts the counting. Since every piece of equipment that uses a turns counter has no capacity for skipped turns, we solved the problem.
Turns Counter – Front
In our counter, the shaft is locked in place both in forward and aft lateral moments. Another feature of the rejected counter are extremely cheap plastic gears. They are held in place with friction and are inferior at best. We have solved the problem with stainless steel miter gears made exclusively for our counter. Our new SHW-TCV Turns Counteris now flying off the shelves and can be found on commercially produced equipment in the medical world as well in amateur radio projects.
Producing a video about your business requires multiple major decisions be made first. Chief among them is who to hire and what is the end goal. In the fourteen-month process we started from a GoPro strapped to my Giant Schnauzer’s head, bounced to an interview style fixed camera storyteller and made our way to a professional full service production company. Our choice was the latter and we hired Torchwerks to create our masterpiece.
Dozens of hours of footage of ad-lib interviews, b-roll footage and a dynamite narrative were woven into a seven-minute play-by-play video that describes what we do to a T. Seriously though, the crew nailed it! We agreed early on that nothing would be scripted. When you give total control to a good producer, they can tell a story that makes sense to them, notwithstanding the fact they know little about our particular business. They ask and answer fundamental questions about the business in such a way that I found myself glued to this 7:33 film while watching it for the first time. And second. And third. I didn’t want it to stop. They told me the normal attention span for such an informational video is 2-3 minutes. We took the risk with this extended version primarily to provide answers. I have no doubt that the subject matter was covered in a much more dramatic, less technical style than what we could have accomplished with Sirius Black and the GoPro. If left up to us nerds, we would have bored the audience into a deep sleep with part numbers, dates and useless information.
Mr. Ben Drickey, owner of Torchwerks, struck home with a note when I asked him if our movie had too much content. He reminded me what the Emperor of Austria told Amadeus Mozart when criticizing an opera he had composed. He said, “You have too many notes”. Mozart famously replied, “There are just as many notes as I require – no more, no less”. Indeed, I agree, our Surplus Sales presentation is as balanced as The Abduction from the Seraglio.
A big thank-you goes to Josh and Jennifer for their perspectives. I was not present during their individual interviews and was humbled by the stories they told. This year I have now survived 40 years in this wonderful surplus business and hope to last a few more. Each and every day is an adventure.
Maybe it has more to do with the fact I know the quality of a US-made part is historically high. An import is more of an unknown. It’s not a coincidence that most of our millions of vacuum tubes are NOS (New Old Stock) , largely US with a handful of European makes. The ONLY parts we import, in over 200,000 line items, are a line of coaxial relays, a solid state relay, adhesive tapes and a few rf connectors. That’s it! Beauty is in the eye of the beholder… or maybe just the peddler. If the seller has US made products, chances are, his price is higher than for an import. If he only has imports, he will tell you they are just as good as any US made part. In particular, the subject today is vacuum tubes.
Most tubes dealers have had the opportunity to buy off shore valves, including Surplus Sales. Many manufacturers to choose from, Chinese, Russian, all of which will sell you their product branded any way you want it. Your brand, their brand or something new. Whether you have a US-made NOS or a new import, what separates a “must have tube” from one better off in the trash can comprises variations in raw materials, tolerances and workmanship. We dropped the imports and have had to do without a complete lineup as many numbers slip away to oblivion in the NOS world.
5U4GB’s have been hard to find for years. For Surplus Sales it is one of the highest demand high power rectifiers we have ever had. Most dealers today run prices from $30-$50 for what precious NOS stock they have left. I am happy to announce we have secured a portion of the last remaining government stock of Philips JAN 5U4GB vacuum tubes, manufactured from 1985 to 1987. This is arguably the finest 5U4 available today. US made for our military’s radio equipment, likely of Rockwell Collins manufacture. Due to the large quantity of this premium 5U4GB now available we can offer a price from decades ago. Starting at $24 with deep discounts to $15 each when buying in quantity. Stock up now. Once our inventory reaches a preset level, the deep discounts will cease.
In addition to the great news on our Philips JAN 5U4GB, we have cut prices on all remaining new and removed 5U4’s to reflect a proper relational sale price compared to the Philips. This is a golden opportunity to stock up. Once these are gone, there will be no more!
Compass Technical’s armory stuffed collection – before the Grinnell tornado hit
September 11, 2001 was a date no American will ever forget. I personally embarked on a treasure hunt just a month after the disaster and the destination was Paterson, New Jersey, just across the Hudson River from NYC and the smoldering Twin Towers. It was a shocking environment relative to my home turf, Omaha, Nebraska. I made a deal to buy Compass Technical Services, a surplus business and small manufacturer of military equipment. The volume of a National Guard Armory, wall to wall, 2.5 floors. Loading started late October and we departed when my packing team mutinied on Thanksgiving Day. We had packed 29 semi-trucks over the month. One a day. Each maxed out to about 40,000 pounds. So the story goes.