You know how the rest of the saying goes, and it applies to tools as much as it does to anything. Looking for old tools, especially if you can get them cheap or free, is a favorite pastime for many a woodworker.
Often called “Rust Hunting”, it’s even evolved into a sport of sorts and part of that is sharing what you find with your fellow hunters. The hunting can happen many places (junk yards, antique shops, friends sheds etc) but the two that are most favoured are the weekend garage sales and community markets.
One of my favourite threads on the local forums is called “Monday Night Show ‘n’ Tell“, where you can share the results of your weekend’s searching, and it’s amazing what people find.
I’ve done my fair share of rust hunting, and while I like the markets, I also like finding gold hidden in places you wouldn’t expect.
The below picture is of an old record #1 metalworking vice. Apart from a small amount of rust and a missing jaw, it works fine and it a solid little thing with years worth of service left in it. I picked it up at the start of the year for the grand sum of $2.50 from a scrap mechant when I went looking for a piece of railroad track to use as an anvil.
Sure, it needed a little love before it could be put back into service, but to get a new one of this quality could have cost me 20 times the price I paid, plus I get to save something that was going to be melted down otherwise.
The most common woodworking tools to be found seem to be old handsaws and claw hammers. Handsaws because they have for the most part been replaced by powered versions and are no longer needed, and claw hammers because they and the saw were staples of the handyman’s toolkit for the past century and more so there were more sold than just about any other tool. More sold = more to be thrown out.
I’m a big fan of restoring old saws as I’m sure any frequent reader of this blog will know and while some aren’t worth the effort, I have about 5 close to finished and all are looking like they will be great. For the normally minimal outlay it’s worth the risk. The one below cost me 50c and a few hours work, see the original post if you want to see it before I fixed it up.
Rust Hunting can be both enjoyable and rewarding, and once restored you often have a tool as good as one costing hundreds of dollars new so it can be a great way to set yourself up with quality gear without breaking the bank.
Another example for you. I picked up this Miller Falls handdrill for $10 at a local market a while back. Sure, it’s missing the side handle but just about all of them are, it’s easy to lose parts that unscrew. I don’t find I need it and if I ever want to I can easily make a replacement. Aside from the fact that almost nobody is selling new hand drills, this is a piece of art from another time. I like to look at it almost as much as I like using it, and use it I do.
There is a warning label to go with the above though – it’s addictive and if you aren’t careful you’ll end up with more tools than you can possibly ever use or restore, and a shed so cluttered it’s counterproductive to getting any woodwork done. It’s also quite a competitive business and old doesn’t always mean good, so do your homework on what is worth restoring and also make sure you know the going rate for an item before you go looking for it.