The DT Swiss spoke tension gauge is a thing of beauty for anyone with a serious bike tool fetish. (That would include me.) It feels good in the hand. It does a cool thing. It looks good doing it.
It's also over $500. Oops.
So I have lusted after a DT Swiss spoke tension gauge in vain. But no more. No, I haven't decided to pay more than most people pay for a bicycle on a tool I use for maybe ten hours per year. No indeed. I have done much better.
Bryan found a spoke tension tool from Park that cost only $60. Is it as accurate as the DT Swiss gauge? I'd guess not. But how accurate a spoke tension number can one actually make use of anyway? Plus, the Park tool seems very repeatable, and repeatability is actually much more important than absolute accuracy.
How accurate it is depends on how well it's calibrated and how well it holds calibration. The design looks like it will hold calibration tolerably well, so I think this gauge will serve well.
So far, I find the Park tool positively lovely. I'll compare it to the DT Swiss unit at Wright Brothers' bike co-op and report back.
So what does a spoke tension gauge do? It measures the tension of bicycle wheel spokes. This is useful when building wheels, particularly back wheels, to make sure you have the spoke tension right. Guys who build wheels all day long don't need a tool like this because they can do it by feel. Except there aren't any guys who build wheels all day long anymore. And back in the day, those guys were probably not nearly as good at feeling spoke tension as they thought they were. I'm never going to build 100 wheels a year, or probably even 10 wheels a year, so I do much better with a tool.