Tom Silva Uses SawGear Automatic Measuring - TigerStop

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Tom Silva Uses SawGear Automatic Measuring

In the mid-1970s, a young contractor named Tom Silva was building a set alongside his father for a PBS show, The Victory Garden. Tom caught the eye of the show’s producer and was later asked to be the general contractor for a home renovation and improvement show called This Old House. The rest is history.

Tom Silva has, without a doubt, made his mark on the construction industry. For more than 30 years, his unparalleled knowledge of the trade and impeccable reputation has made him a foremost authority in every aspect of home improvement and repair.

Incredible craftsmanship and construction know-how run through Tom’s veins. His father was a proficient contractor who taught little Tommy the trade on the weekends when the two would make repairs to the family home, a 1787 colonial in Lexington, MA, in constant need of work.

Today, Tom and his nephew, Charlie, co-own a renowned construction business, Silva Brothers Construction. Tom still makes appearances on This Old House and Ask This Old House and teaches viewers about quality construction techniques and tools.


Tom Silva Demos SawGear

In season 32, episode 4 of This Old House, “Fixes, Framing, and Floods,” part of the Auburndale House series Tom, master carpenter Norm Abram, and host Kevin O’Connor have to cut a large amount of lumber to exact measurements in order to frame a house. The guys use one of Tom’s new tools to tackle the job: SawGear, an automated fence made by TigerStop.

Some might argue that this job could be tackled with a $5 tape measure. So what’s all the fuss about? Why doesn’t Tom just buy a simple tape measure, measure his lumber, make his cuts, and call it a day? Why did he invest in an automated system?

In the episode, Kevin and Norm instruct Tom that for the floor-to-ceiling height of the house, they need to frame is 89 7/8 inches. Tom calculates that taking into account the top and bottom plates, he needs to cut pieces that are 86 7/8 inches long. Tom takes his tape measure and marks 86 7/8 inches on all of the studs. He ticks them with a pencil and then takes his square and marks over his first measurements to ensure that the marks are perfectly straight lines. Then he makes the cut. This method takes a lot of time, and as the guys say, “Tape measures and pencils are so old-fashioned!”

Enter SawGear Automatic Measuring

Tom then demonstrates the process with his new SawGear by TigerStop. He shows Kevin and Norm that all he has to do is type in the measurement of the studs in fractions or in decimals and press start. The stop moves into place, Tom places his studs up to the measuring bar and makes a cut. He has even programmed the stop to take off three inches for the top and bottom plates. Tom can cut a thousand just like that—fast and accurate every time.

Tom Silva understands the costs that go into running a big-time construction business and the value certain tools offer. He crunched the numbers and determined SawGear automatic measuring was a valuable asset to his team, saving precious time, labor, scrap, and rework.

Crunching the Numbers

Determining whether SawGear automatic measuring could improve your numbers starts with asking a few key questions. Keep track of your answers so you can plug them into TigerStop’s ROI calculator.


Let’s say you spend $5 on a tape measure. Well, how long does it take you to learn how to read that tape measure? We all know from experience that not everyone reads a tape measure the same way. Maybe you’re already a pro like Tom, but what about that new employee of yours? How long did it take you to train him to use a tape correctly?

Tape measurer on board

Now, what about the time spent using your tape to measure each board? How long does it take you to measure, mark, re-measure, and cut each individual board? Don’t they say that it’s best to “measure twice and cut once”?


Now, about those labor costs. What’s your labor cost average per hour? Did you multiply that by the number of employees you have? And how many hours a day are your employees working? Are you paying your employees to measure and mark material, or are you paying them to cut material? Is your $5 tape measure helping you reduce labor costs in any way?


Well, what happens when you use that $5 tape measure and accidentally mark your material incorrectly? Is it too long? Or maybe it’s too short? How long does it take you to rework that miscut piece? Does this happen more than once a day? About how many pieces a day are you reworking? What about overtime costs to fix miscut and incorrectly measured boards? What’s the cost of each part reworked when you take into account the costs of disruption to production flow and labor to track and remake the part? How about additional material costs?

When you miscut a piece of material, sometimes you can rework it and sometimes you can’t. How much material or scrap are you throwing away that could have been valuable product? What are your material costs, on average, per board foot? How about the total linear board feet you cut per day? How much money is going into that scrap bin per week? Per year? Is it more than the $5 you invested in that tape measure?

How Does It Add Up?Calculate your Return on Investment

Now that you have considered some of our questions (and hopefully written down your answers!), you should think about how many cuts you’re making a day. You have to be making a lot of cuts for a tool like SawGear to be valuable. It’s the same for any tool or machinery you buy. For example, why invest $45,000 into a nice work truck when you can bicycle to work instead?

But if you’re making a lot of cuts, you can save a lot of labor and reduce rework and scrap, and that can add up to a good investment for your business. Tom Silva crunched these exact same numbers when he purchased his SawGear. And maybe you should consider them too. To see Tom and the rest of the This Old House crew putting their SawGear to work, tune in for more episodes!

If you want to get a better idea of how the numbers pencil out try plugging them into the TigerStop return on investment calculator to give you an idea:

Calculate your Return on Investment