One of the joys of being a hand tool woodworker is the anticipation of visiting local estate and yard sales in the hopes of turning up some vintage tools, lumber stashes, hardware, and other items to add to the workshop.
When I look over the tool inventory in the handsawgeek workshop, I find that a surprising number of the items came from such sales.
Each Spring, I start to scan CL for estate and yard sales coming up in my area.
On my way home from work on Friday evenings, while passing through my neighborhood, I take note of any tell-tale home-made signs hanging on posts and attached to cardboard boxes, that might denote the presence of promising tool finds. I have found that, as a general rule, homes in older areas of town are the best likely sources for finding vintage tools, but this isn’t always the case.
I begin planning my Saturday morning itinerary.
Since I am highly focused on a fairly narrow list of things to look out for, I follow a particular MO when visiting yard sales.
First is the ‘Drive-By-Scan’. A quick assessment of the sale is made from inside the car as I cruise slowly past. If I see little more than piles of clothing, kids’ toys, or tables loaded with decorative knick-knacks, I move on. I’ve become pretty adept at identifying those yard sales that have no potential for the presence of vintage tools. Saves a lot of time.
If I spy any power tools or displays of ‘garage-type’ stuff I will park and go have a look-see.
At this point, I usual make an immediate inquiry of the home-owner.
“Any vintage tools?”
If the answer is ‘no’, I will still make a quick survey to make certain, or to look for other items of interest, but I don’t usually linger too long. I always remember to thank the homeowner and wish them success with their sale before I leave.
It is usually the sales that have a lot of tables loaded up with all kinds of different things that have yielded the most interesting finds. It often takes thorough searches through piles and boxes of random stuff to finally hit on the ‘rusty gold’ (as the American Pickers call it). I have also learned to search through everything, no matter how unlikely it looks. I once found a HD Buck Bros. chisel and a couple of old wood-handled screwdrivers at the bottom of a box containing mostly plastic kitchen food containers!
Once I find an object or two of interest, the price haggling begins. But only if I think asking price is a little high on a particular item. If a tool looks as if it will take a lot of work to get it into shape, then I will see if I can bring the price down a bit to something a little more reasonable. Usually, the owner is accommodating. I’ve actually even used the ‘bundling’ technique as demonstrated on ‘Pickers’.
When I first began doing the yard sale circuit, I thought it was improper or rude to haggle prices, but when I think about all of my own garage sales I’ve conducted over the years, I recall rarely selling anything for the price I had originally tagged. In most instances, just like me, these homeowners are simply trying to get rid of stuff they don’t need, so they are willing to go down a little in price if it means one less item to haul off to the donation box afterwards.
The only time that I maintain a strict ‘no haggling’ policy is at those large fund raiser sales conducted by churches or other non-profits.
The photo above shows this weekend’s haul….
Stanley 1246 10” sweep brace
Pennsylvania Saw Corp. #78 back saw
Irwin #12 Auger
Fulton ¾” socket chisel
PEXTO ½” socket chisel
1” socket chisel, scratch awl, large ‘perfect handle’ screwdriver, and small carving gouge, all with no visible maker’s mark.
$14 for the lot!
Now it’s time for the handsawgeek to get busy in the shop doing some tool refurb to get these items in shape…