Acquiring traditional hand tools

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Forum topic by woodgu posted 10-21-2010 08:23 PM 1435 views 0 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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63 posts in 2768 days

10-21-2010 08:23 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question traditional plane sharpening

I have always used power tools wherever I was able. I used to gnash my teeth at the thought of having to drive a screw or nail by hand. I even got pretty handy at using a belt sander when, possibly, a block plane was the better way to go. I used power tools and when I wanted to use hand tools, I turned to cordless.

I have done some commission work; however, I am technically a hobbyist. A hobbyist that properly tuned and sharpened his block plane for the first time. The sound…the feel…the excitement of actual cutting the wood versus gouging it was exhilarating! I have since been given a transitional plane (Stanley 32) by a neighbor. After sharpening the blade, it cuts like a charm. I hit the road and headed up to Colonial Williamsburg to visit the Cabinet Maker. After spending 4 hours there, my wife made me leave…but I have the bug!!

Now, my question: where can I find reasonably priced hand tools? I will even take old rusty ones that need to be refurbished. On eBay, the price is typically driven up by a collector, I assume. I am not made of money, but really want to re-equip my shop with age-old/human-powered tools.

Outside of patience and diligent hunting, can anyone give me some insight on how to approach this challenge?

I will await your responses with bated breath…

-- Phil G

12 replies so far

View 8iowa's profile


1580 posts in 3755 days

#1 posted 10-21-2010 08:34 PM

Hand tool work absolutely requires a workbench, ie: one with a shoulder and tail vice and bench dogs. If you don’t already have this necessary “accessory” it should go to the top of your list.

-- "Heaven is North of the Bridge"

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17377 posts in 3000 days

#2 posted 10-21-2010 08:47 PM

I have had good luck at tag sales recently picking up a Bailey #4 and #5 for about $12 total.

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

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17377 posts in 3000 days

#3 posted 10-21-2010 08:48 PM

ohh and btw .. welcome to LJ’s … and do yourself a favor and cross off everything on your calender for the next week, you’ll be stuck on this site.

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

View Dan's profile


3630 posts in 2874 days

#4 posted 10-21-2010 08:50 PM

For me, part of the fun is searching for these hand tools. There is nothing better then going to some hole in the wall flea market or 2nd hand shop and finding that old rusty plane or hand tool with a price tag of a few bucks. I think if your wanting to just buy them online your going to be spending a lot more.

When Ebay first started it was not uncommon to get great deals on collectible items. Once Ebay took off and became known to pretty much everyone the whole thing changed. Same thing is kind of happening with Craigslist. These sites start off small but once they start getting tons of traffic it becomes just as hard and expensive to buy online as it does from the store. Thats why I have gone back to the roots of garage sales, flea markets and 2nd hand shops. Thats where a lot of the guys on ebay get that stuff anyway, then they just re-list it for more.

So patience and diligent hunting is the best way in my opinion.

-- Dan - "Collector of Hand Planes"

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Anthony Finelli

52 posts in 2774 days

#5 posted 10-21-2010 08:59 PM

If you know any older farmers or farms that have been handed down to a son/daughter you may find a gold mine. My wife’s family owns a dairy farm and I have aquired many tools from the barn that my father and brother in laws had no use for anymore and/or simply thought was junk. I found a full set of draw knives that are about 80 years old or so and i use them every time im in the shop !!! Garage sales and estate sales have also been a great resource for me…best of luck in your search!!!!

-- Salem, New York "Find something you love to do and you will never have to work another day of your life"

View swirt's profile (online now)


2729 posts in 2965 days

#6 posted 10-21-2010 09:37 PM

estate sales, garage sales, craigs list, antique / junk shops (the closer they are to antique the more expensive they usually are), ebay. I use them all. Ebay is the best choice to get what you want if you want something specific within a week or two. The others are catch as catch can.

Murphy’s law of old tool users is that you will see great tools turn up repeatedly but then as soon as you decide you NEED that tool, it will become unfindable.

-- Galootish log blog,

View ShannonRogers's profile


540 posts in 3781 days

#7 posted 10-21-2010 10:26 PM

Basically ditto to everything said here. My caveat is for the online sources. I really like to be able to pick up and examine the tool before buying. Some really enjoy restoring tools, but I want to get them into working order as fast as I can so I’m picky on what I buy. Depending on where you are, the Brown Tool Auction is tomorrow and Saturday up in Harrisburg, PA, this is an amazing show with high quality vintage tools. I’m heading there tomorrow and actually just posted something on my web site about it here. Garage sales and flea markets can be great don’t get me wrong, but the dedicated tool shows will save you time in the long run and you don’t have to spend a fortune. You will find very expensive and rare tools, but unless you are a collector don’t bother. If you can drive to Williamsburg (I got hooked that way too) then there will be a show like this around you if you look.

-- The Hand Tool School is Open for Business! Check out my blog and podcast "The Renaissance Woodworker" at

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31019 posts in 2860 days

#8 posted 10-21-2010 10:36 PM

I have gotten most of mine on Ebay. Out of over 400 transactions on Ebay I only had one purchase that I felt like I was cheated by the description and it wasn’t a woodworking tool. I will say that I haven’t purchased on Ebay in a good many months so I may be out of touch but I have looked quite a lot. My problem is that I just don’t have time to go to yard sales and to go to peoples houses to see stuff that is advertised on Craig’s list. If I’m looking for an older woodworking tool that would make a good user I’m pretty confident that with a little patience I can find it on Ebay at a fair price.

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3068 days

#9 posted 10-21-2010 10:50 PM

I’ve had good luck on e-bay but you have to be patient and you have to know what a fair price is.

One of my theories is that e-bay buyers avoid tools that don’t appear fresh and clean in the pictures. Often, those are the e-bay treasures because they are functionally sound and it usually does not take much effort to clean them up.

I just bought a Starrett Combination square on e-bay for about $50. It works great but it needs a little cleaning. Cleaner used ones on e-bay sell for way over $100 and a new one is about $250.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View woodgu's profile


63 posts in 2768 days

#10 posted 10-22-2010 01:14 AM

I was hoping someone would sprinkle moon dust on my hunt and I would instantly tap into the main vein of vintage tools out there, but it seems patience and hunting is the way to go. I have not pursued tag sales and such. I will indeed add these to the list of hunting grounds. Thank you for your quick responses and kind greetings.

I have also taken the liberty of perusing many of your galleries. I find myself humbled in the presence of your creativity and skill. I look forward to learning from each and everyone of you!

-- Phil G

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5032 posts in 3887 days

#11 posted 10-22-2010 01:44 AM

there is nothing quite like using a hand plane to cut/shave nice perfect crisp fragrant pieces of wood off a board.

the smell, the feel, the look of the shaving

is addictive

I love the backwood country auctions

-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

View Moron's profile


5032 posts in 3887 days

#12 posted 10-22-2010 04:14 AM

send me a pm

I might have a collection for sale at a decent price

-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

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