Tool Gloats-Estate Sales Pay Off

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Blog entry by Brad posted 03-12-2012 02:07 AM 8106 reads 0 times favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I’ve always believed in the adage, “into each life some sun must shine.” And so it was recently as I visited two estate sales. As I was checking out Craig’s List on Thursday night, I came across two sales that had potential. One had actual pictures of tools (two of which I now own…plus a bunch more) while the other had a description that led me to believe it would be a worthy stop. And it was.

Here’s my haul from the first place:

There were three tables set up in the garage. I started among the auger bits, always on the prowl for ones in good shape (clean flutes and screws)…and picked one up, plus a couple of screwdrivers, I like wood handles and….whoa! What’s that?

The garage was crowded with people and fortunately, I had them boxed out like a pick on a basketball court so. That let me collect the protractor head unencumbered. I was surprised to see it on the table because these things can be pricy. This Starrett version will set you back $120.00

I settled for the $6.00 dollar one from the estate sale. Now I’ll be able to easily layout angles other than 90 and 45 degrees.

You probably can’t tell from the protractor picture, but the color of it is a very, very dark drab green. Which suggests to me that it might be a military surplus model. Though there are no markings (maker’s, owners, military) at all on it.

My heart racing, and clutching the protractor head like my wallet in front of a crowded Roman monument surrounded by vagrants, I moved down the aisle. There, I spied an item that I had seen in the online picture. Frankly, this is what motivated me to come by early on a Friday morning.

I’ve been on the hunt for a right-handed-handled hewing hatchet ever since I sent my left-handed one to a Lumberjocks buddy in merry old England. This one had tar all over it. As if its deceased owner’s last outing with the tool was to demolition a tarred roof during a heat wave. $8 bucks was a good deal even though I couldn’t find a maker’s mark on it and the handle looked as dry as a bighorn carcass from the 19th century.

Later, at home, I scraped off the tar and hosed the hatchet down with Goof Off like it was going through a car wash. And low and behold, a maker’s mark appeared.

Winchester, sweet!

And the handle cleaned up well too…with some CA to seal the cracks, a spokeshave to smooth out the bottom of the handle where a piece was broken off, a nail in the top of the handle to tightly seat it in the head socket, a bunch of sanding to shed its aged outer skin like a snake and several coats of BLO and poly. Add to that a lot of sanding to remove the rust that the Goof Off missed, and a hearty sharpening on the bench grinder. And here she is ready for service.

The wood-handled screwdrivers I’ll use to adjust my vintage tools. The one plastic-handled screwdriver (fourth from the left in the “family” photo above), I plan to use as a burnisher. It’s shown here after I cut the flathead off, sanded out the dings and polished the steel. Maybe the steel will be hard enough to work my LN scrapers. At $1.00 it’s worth a try.

Haul total: $23.00 in Yankee paper.


I arrived at the next estate sale in time to see a guy loading tool chests into his car. “Damn,” I muttered under my breath. I hoped he hadn’t already scored all the good stuff. Not to worry. There were still a few items.

You know, for 10:30 on a Friday morning, the place was crawling with people. I stepped in the door and immediately went to the garage. The sign on the tool-laden table read, Craftsman Tools $2.00; All other tools $1.00.

That’s where I saw the Disston saw. It was wrapped in newspaper dating to 1995. For a buck, how could I go wrong? As it turned out, there were so many curiosities about this saw that I’ll be posting a separate blog on it.

The shape of the weathered chisel caught my eye. Could that be a Stanley Everlast? The maker’s mark was indeed Stanley. But you’ll have to tell me the model number as I’m not that familiar with the Stanley chisels.

Boy, the steel is pretty rusted…and the handle has a sizable crack. Still, for $1.00 I wanted it. Though it won’t be a user, it will be a cool addition to my office space as a decoration.

Elsewhere in the garage I came across a staple gun. I’ve wanted one for a while but haven’t been willing to spring the bucks for a new one. You see, I like to put rubbery shelf liner material on the bottom of my appliances (the ones without stops) to keep them from sliding around like a kid skating at Rockefeller Center at Christmastime. Since I didn’t have a staple gun, I used U-shaped nails to affix liners. Now they work, but they’re a pain to nail in. The $3.00 staple-gun was tailor-made for this task. Tack on a $1.00 for a box of staples. Get it? Tack on?

Check out that cool file below the saw and to the left. At first glance I thought I had finally scored an auger bit file. And I did…I think. It’s a user-modified file and is shaped suspiciously just like an auger bit file.

With the file in hand, I worked my way over to the hardware area. From there I plucked a box of washers and a box of #10 wood screws for a fraction of their new-in-the-box prices.

Haul total: $13.00 cash, handed to the pretty blond granddaughter running the register. By the way, when I asked if the saw was $1.00, she said no, that she’d have to charge $2.00. The 100 percent markup hurt, but it was easier to take with a smile from the fair-haired lassie and a Disston cradled under my arm.

On the whole, I was most pleased with the hewing hatchet, protractor head and the Disston saw.

I also learned that if you’re going to make the trek all over insert-the-name-of-your-city here, it’s best to go to an estate sale on the first day. And it’s better still to go early before some other, rise-with-the birds galoot like me gets his choice of the goodies before you show up to pick over what’s left.

Good hunting all. Do share your scores.

-- "People's lives are their own rewards or punishments."

11 comments so far

View DIYaholic's profile


19623 posts in 2698 days

#1 posted 03-12-2012 03:44 AM

Nice haul!!! Great job.

Personally, my fave is the Starrett Protractor, I can relate to it. Hand tolls on the other hand, I’m virtually clueless. But for those prices, how could you go wrong!

Thanks for sharing. I seem to forget about estate sales as a tooling source. Thanks for the reminder.

-- Randy-- I may not be good...but I am slow! If good things come to those who wait.... Why is procrastination a bad thing?

View patron's profile


13606 posts in 3364 days

#2 posted 03-12-2012 04:31 AM

nice score there

i bet the guys that beat you
were some of al’s (bertha) friends

i hear they take off their LJ t-shirts
and dress down in their week-end warrior outfits
and shop undercover
at these events

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View KMT's profile


603 posts in 2685 days

#3 posted 03-12-2012 05:07 AM

Great haul and a well written blog. Thank you for sharing.

-- - Martin

View gavinzagreb's profile


210 posts in 2342 days

#4 posted 03-12-2012 09:34 AM

Good haul. I think I’m going to have to make a video of Zagrebs regular sunday flea market some time and make you all jealous. Heaps of old tools and machine parts.

View Don W's profile

Don W

18754 posts in 2590 days

#5 posted 03-12-2012 10:11 AM

Nice haul. You’ve got a few things there I’ve been looking for myself.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View Brit's profile


7385 posts in 2865 days

#6 posted 03-12-2012 10:25 AM

Thanks Brad. What a great read, I felt I was right there next to you. You grabbed some nice tools and I’m really pleased you found another hewing axe. The protractor head will come in handy too. When you need one, you need one. I also love that little awl. I look forward to the Disston refurb.

-- - Andy - Old Chinese proverb says: "If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it."

View chrisstef's profile


17423 posts in 3029 days

#7 posted 03-12-2012 12:29 PM

i cant wait for tag sale season … all the hoarders have been building up their indoor flea market finds while i stash my cash waiting for them to liquidate the old and rusty. Youve have won a good battle with the findd of those tools Brad.

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

View canadianchips's profile


2602 posts in 3020 days

#8 posted 03-12-2012 01:25 PM

Great find. I buy a lot of “gems in the rough”from auction sales.
Just a note: The “Broad AXE ” hatchet you have can be Either “Left or Right handed”.The head is designed so the handles can be changed one way or other !

-- "My mission in life - make everyone smile !"

View jusfine's profile


2422 posts in 2949 days

#9 posted 03-12-2012 03:18 PM

Great scores!

Remember, the early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese!

-- Randy "You are judged as much by the questions you ask as the answers you give..."

View Brit's profile


7385 posts in 2865 days

#10 posted 03-12-2012 03:44 PM

LOL Randy. Mmmm cheese!

-- - Andy - Old Chinese proverb says: "If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it."

View Brad's profile


1139 posts in 2763 days

#11 posted 03-13-2012 01:56 AM

Gavinzagreb, you have to post pics of your local fleamarket tables loaded with tools. You can’t just come here and say, gee, maybe I should….no sir. Go there, take some great pics of the tools and share. And if you want to throw in some pics of the lovely ladies, there are no rules against that. Slavic women are b e a u t i f u l !

I’ve been manifesting hewing hatchets into my life. We both have hatchets sourced in Colorado. I think yours probably came from a farm near Fort Collins. I took a liking to the awl too. The shaft was in such good shape and it’s thinner than my Stanley awl…I think this one is a scratch awl. Anyway, it’s already been put to work striking holes to start screws in. And the Disston saw is coming along very nicely. I applied your sawplate sharpening methods and am very pleased with what I’m seeing so far. Even lined up a new vintage nut and bolt to replace the missing one from Mark over at badaxe.

You’re right, the hatchet head can go either way…or so I learned from a forum post. But the “left-handed” one I sent to a friend had such a nice handle and it was seated so firmly that I couldn’t bring myself to drill it out.

Yep, the slow mouse gets the cheese, but the problem with cool tools is that the cheese is already gone by the time the second mice get to the estate sales :)

-- "People's lives are their own rewards or punishments."

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