WHO WE ARE...
We are a two-person operation currently with a support crew of many who are mentioned in general below. We have many friends and customers throughout the world that have helped to make this business work, and I want to thank them for all they have done. Jeff Caplan; Owner, Darren Shackelford; Vice President
WHAT WE STRIVE TO DO...
Besides the obvious of making a great product and delivering on our promises, we like to make parts that are a small part of a larger assembly, that the manufacturer refuses to sell to the public, causing the public to spend needless money and waste a perfectly good part. If I can produce a part, sell it to a client where they save money and time compared to what it would have cost, then that is the part I want to be making. For example, a horn kit for an 850 Volvo. The concern: the horn would get stuck on because of cheap plastic insulators in the steering wheel. The only fix was to clip the wire or replace the steering wheel assembly at $300 plus. Jeff redesigned the horn parts and came up with a fix for $40. This saves from having to throw away a good steering wheel which helps to save the environment.
WHAT THE BUSINESS IS...
I (Jeff) wanted to fix my 1980 528i BMW odometer to complete the restoration of the vehicle. I called all the repair shops that I could find just to hear the same thing... "We won't sell you the gear. You have to send the cluster in." The cost runs between $85 to $250 depending on what vehicle you have. At the dealership, a new unit could cost as much as $1600 installed. I decided to make my own gear and a few of my friends. Once word got out, others started calling, and before I knew it, a business was born. My first goal is to help others fix their odometer themselves and save them time and money. I worked as a photojournalist, so I am constantly meeting new people. One of those was a model maker who showed me the art of plastic injection. I started off, and currently still working, out of my garage and living room making parts for all types of cars and other various items. If you don't know about injection molding, it sounds very simple but is actually very complex and takes a very large investment to make even the smallest piece of plastic.
I have a better appreciation for my laundry basket now. Just an example: A mold base from DME will run $1400 before I even start cutting on it. When the tools are cut into hardened steel, fitted into the mold base, kickback pins and ejector pins are put in place along with cooling lines, I have about $5k invested before I know it. Then there is the actual injection machine which is hard to put a price on because they vary so greatly in size and features. Let's just say, I don't like to talk about it much. Mine is relatively small, weighing in at 2200 lbs, about 12 x 6 x 3.5 feet with a really cool red light that flashes when something is wrong. Remember, these machines are three-phase and just about 100% of residential homes only have a single phase.
Another $4k later, and I have a digital phase converter in the corner of the garage. The support crew for all this equipment includes an electrician, service rep, a company to replace the 115 gallons of hydraulic fluid for maintenance, plastic supplier, machine shop(on call for emergencies), mold base supplier and rep, a few good friends that will bring cold beverage over when we are running hot plastic. Then there is the granulator for regrinding all the wasted plastic back into pellets, mold temp. the control unit, engine hoist to lift the molds (200lbs plus), forklift, machinist granite table to pull molds apart for changing, and the list goes on. I never sat down and thought about this before. No wonder no one ever bothered to do this.
MORE ABOUT WHO WE ARE...
Jeff Caplan - As I mentioned, I use to be a photojournalist by trade. For this reason, please excuse my spelling and grammar (that is what editors get paid for). I worked full time at the NASA Langley Research Center for the public affairs office and after hours I was shooting for all of the wire services and doing corporate work around the Tidewater area. I have since left the photography field behind and work full time for my two companies, www.OdometerGears.com and www.TidewaterSensors.com.
When I am not working, I enjoy my time with my three children and my wife. Once everyone is asleep, or at least down for the count, I head to the water for an evening of fly fishing for Rockfish and whatever else will bite. Eventually, I sleep for a few hours and fill in what is left with running the injection machine. I think I sleep. I grew up in Bethesda, MD, and graduated from Bradley University in Peoria, IL with a B. S. in Public Affairs and a Minor in Photography. I have lived in WV and GA before coming to Newport News to settle down. If you made it this far and like to fish, you have an open invitation to come out anytime with me on the water.
Darren Shackelford - I have been in the automotive industry since 1986. I have held many positions from parts delivery driver to parts manager and also service manager for a large European independent repair shop in the Tidewater area. I enjoy spending time with my daughter and Australian Shepherd (Ladybug) on different outings on the weekends. During the weekdays I fill my time with filling orders, answering emails, working on our two websites, and building sensors for our second company. I also travel around the country with different automotive seminars to show technicians and clients how easy it is to actually perform the replacement of the parts that we manufacture and sell. I meet a lot of interesting and very knowledgeable people throughout the country, which I thoroughly enjoy.
Jeff has been making plastic parts since August 2001 and between this job and photography has been able to meet many wonderful people. As many of you know, I can be reached almost anytime, anywhere. Thank you for all your support over the years and if you have a part you would like to make or would just like to say hello or go fishing, call anytime.
If you have a part that you would like to have made we have several options available depending on the number of parts you require. For both options, we need a good part with no defects (missing teeth, gouges, or missing pieces). If the part is broken into pieces we would need all of the pieces and preferable the shaft that the part goes onto as well as the mating parts that the part meshes with. If you only need a few parts we can produce them in a vacuum chamber system using a two-part epoxy material, which greatly depends on the use of the part. If you need larger quantities we would recommend having a mold manufactured that we can use in our injection machine. We will send the parts to our tooling company in North Carolina to have them estimate the cost of the mold. The mold would be purchased by the client and we would run the mold to produce the parts exclusively for that client. Tooling costs vary from several thousand dollars on up. If you have a need please email us several pictures of the part along with a description of use and vehicle the part is for we will get back to you promptly.