The first rule of buying old tools: If you think you might buy it, grab it. You can always put it back.
So today I did a dumb thing. I spent a couple hours at the Hulls Cove Tool Barn in Maine with Joshua Klein, a woodworker and furniture restorer. That, however, wasn’t the dumb thing. That was smart – the Tool Barn is a Mecca for woodworkers.
What was dumb was this: I want to replace my trammel points. I own my grandfather’s set, which was given to him by his Japanese hosts when his visited Japan. They are beautiful. But (sorry grandad) they functionally suck eggs. They will not lock on the wooden beam.
So today I saw a nice set of trammels that were locked to a brass bar that was stamped with homemade numerals. It was sweet. I picked up the trammels and pondered the idea of setting my grandfather’s tool aside. It’s a tough decision, so I put the tool back.
Moments later, a blonde in a blue tank top picked them up and showed them to her very cologned man-friend. She made the universal sign for “What the heck is this?” He suggested the tool was something like a compass. She walked off with the trammels.
All that was OK. Really. Maybe she had some large arcs to scribe.
But then I heard her talking to someone else. She and the man-friend were pickers from an interior decoration company in Massachusetts. Suddenly I saw (in my mind) the trammels screwed to the wall of a Cracker Barrel.
So I followed her around the store, waiting for her to put the trammels down for a moment. She got a little nervous, I think, then paid for their stuff and left.
Aside from losing the trammels, I had a fantastic time at the Hulls Cove Tool Barn. If you want to buy every saw, plane and chisel you need to get started in woodworking, a visit to the Tool Barn will get you set up. The prices are much lower than eBay. And there are about 150 saws to choose from, 200 planes, 1,000 auger bits, 20 braces, a dozen eggbeater drills and thousands of other bits of metal in tool shapes.
Bring a friend who knows tools.
What did I buy? Not much:
1. A Hargrave clamp from the Cincinnati Tool Co. Awesome. ($15)
2. A Millers Falls baby miter box with a cracked casting for $6. (Its parts will upgrade mine.)
3. Two gross of slotted steel screws, Nos. 8 and 10. New in the very old box. ($3)
So even though I didn’t get the trammels, I did walk away happy.
— Christopher Schwarz