Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Vagaries Of The Hunt (for old tools)

Rule #1 in the hunt for old tools is: “Things are not always predictable.” This rule is often expressed as “You just never know.”

A corollary rule (let’s call it 1A), is “Be persistent.” This rule is often expressed as “Let’s stop here. They look like they might have old tools.”

Let me illustrate these two rules by way of example.

Last year, I was down in Southern Oregon over spring break. I saw that the annual Antique Show was being held on the weekend. It cost $4 to get in the door, and catered towards the collectors. This should NOT have been a good place to look for old tools – but, being a big believer in rule #1, I went. And I scored big. I found a Stanley #62 low angle jack in great shape for under $100 dollars. Not cheap, but a very good price on this plane in this condition. And it's also where I found the infamous cigarette "nib" card. Sweet! Totally worth my time and $4 door fee!

Here’s the #62:

Flash forward to this year. Again I am in Oregon for spring break (family). Again the Antique Show is being held. Again I go, pay my $4 to get in and – strike out. There is nothing, NOTHING, there worth buying. In fact, one of the only hand tools I can find is a battered Stanley 120 with a tag attached explaining the page number in a book that set the price of this junker at $85. Wow! I’m out the door in 20 minutes.

That’s Rule #1 – you just never know…

Now, on the way home Rule 1A came into play. After the disappointment suffered at the show, all I wanted was to go have a burger and a milkshake. However, as I cruised down the road I came across a mini-storage complex with a “flea market” sign at the side of the road. Hmm. I slowed down for a closer look - mostly clothes, videos and car tires. Not a chance. But maybe…

I turned around, went back and parked. I started walking the rows of the complex and it was not looking good. Lots, and lots of junk. And, it was incredibly random. There would be a table set up in front of an open unit – and on the table would be a shoebox full of used plastic cigarette lighters, a bag of sand, a pile of plastic picture frames with no glass, empty perfume bottles, some jugs of anti-freeze and a flat of fresh limes.

But I kept walking, and eventually it paid off. I found “the tool guy”, and although I didn’t get anything amazing, I did get some nice old tools at a great price.

I scored: four old wood handled screwdrivers, a nice pair of 6” Sargent & Co. dividers, a pencil sharpener, and a Stanley #42X saw set in pretty good shape. And the total price was $9. Awesome!

Rule #1A rocks!


  1. I think your "The Vagaries Of The Hunt (for old tools)" title has a couple of typos in it.

    It should read, "The Viagra Of The Hunt (finding old tools)"

  2. Good find! What about tool hunting in the far north? since Ilive in the Yukon, we are almost neighbor and I was wondering if even had luck in your area for good old tools? out of topic, where do you mainly get your wood? Is there hard wood suplyer in Ak? Are the price Ok?
    BTW, I realy anjoy your blog, and all the litte details you take the to share!
    Thank you

  3. Mitchell - Umm...nice.

    David - I have had very little luck up here. Overall, I don't think many tools made it up here - just not enough population - and those that did got used up.

    As for wood, I mostly work in pine, spruce, fir etc. I do have easy access to local birch. If I want other woods, there are a few dealers in Anchorage, but the prices are pretty high.

    Thanks for reading and I'm glad you like it.

  4. Dan,

    Nice find my friend. I bought a Hand crank Pencil Sharpener at walmart as I couldn't find one elsewhere.

    And them Screwdrivers, I have one myself that belonged to my dad along with a few older things. I'll take a Picture of some of them when I get the time and send them your way or post them on my Blog.

    I have some Very OLD Scroll Saw Blades or Coping/Fret Saw blades. These has an eye on either end instead of flat or pinned.

    And an Auger bit I can't use, I'd like to get a Hand Drill that can use it and maybe some more bits as well.

    Anyway, Great collection you got there.


  5. Handi - Thanks. I agree, good hand crank pencil sharpeners are getting harder and harder to find - but I like them so much better than the electric ones.

  6. Dan, I agree completely with this posting, you just never what and when you will find something that will catch your eye. I'm currently "parked" (I'm a full-time traveler) in Selma, NC and was visiting an exotic animal show when I happened upon a woodwork in the fairgrounds with a tupperware bin full of planes. I chatted him up for a couple of hours and walked away with; a stanley 5 1/2 jack plane, a stanley 5 1/4 scrub plane, a stanley 4 smoothing plane, a craftsman smooting plane about the same size as the stanley, and a stanley low angle block plane. All for $25 each. I've been having a great time getting them cleaned up and in working order.

    I've still got much of the US to explore :)


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