Chris Schwarz's Blog

Where to Buy Vintage Tools

In my book, there is one rule for buying vintage tools: Buy them from someone who will take them them back if the tool stinks.

That rule keeps me on my toes on eBay, at auctions, flea markets and at garage sales. If I can’t completely inspect, disassemble and use a tool before I buy it, I really want a money-back guarantee.

How can you tell in the store if a chisel is too soft to hold a good edge? How can you tell if all the moving parts of a plane and its sole will work together to do good work?

There are lots of really good sellers on the Internet who will take your money back, so don’t be afraid to ask about it. Here are my three favorites in the United States:

Brass City Records and Tools: Walt Quadrato runs a Connecticut storefront that sells records and tools. He manages to find tremendous tools as he haunts the markets of New England in the wee hours of the morning. And because he’s a woodworker, he knows what makes a tool a user and what makes a tool a plane-shaped doorstop.

Walt also is a prince of a guy and isn’t out to make a fast buck. I bought a Stanley Everlasting chisel from him years ago and have become a regular customer. If I ever need a tool, I just call Walt and ask if he’s got it. He usually does.

And if you have a scraper plane problem, then you already know Walt. He’s in the support group you attend every week.

SYDNAS SLOOT (aka Sanford Moss): Don’t let the unusual name fool you (it’s actually “Sandys Tools” spelled backward). Sanford sells tools part time, but he always digs up good users at fair prices, and he turns up some occasional collectible gems.

His site is also the single-best source of information on braces on the Internet. Sanford always ships things fast and is just great to deal with.

Olde River Hard Goods: If you like the really old stuff, you need to get to know Tony Seo. He digs up cool stuff (his passion seems to be the 18th-century stuff). And unless it’s a real collectible, Tony will restore the tools he finds back to usable condition (removing surface rust, tightening hammer handles and the like). Most of the stuff he sells is on eBay as a “Buy It Now” option.

Let’s just say that Tony was very happy to help me out with my hammer problem. And when I needed a real old-school holdfast to examine and use, Tony was the man.

As I said, there are lots of other great sellers on the Internet. This is by no means a comprehensive list , but these are the three guys who get most of my vintage tool dollars.

6 thoughts on “Where to Buy Vintage Tools

  1. G Wilson

    I was just asked if I wanted about three large workshops full of tools, most of them are hammers, wrenches and saws and some woodworking stuff, but there are tons of them. The owner said he just does not want the hassle of going through all the stuff and is selling me the lot cheap.

    I know nothing about old tools, but these seem nice and are in good condition.

    The wrenches, hammers, screwdrivers are all heavy and I would guess mostly from the late 40s or so, a few earlier, through maybe late 60s. The place is packed with tools, most look dark and oiled, I didn’t see any rust.

    The big stuff, maybe two dozen two-man saws, for example, I have no clue how to get rid of at all.

    I have been given a week to clear the stuff out before they sell the property.

    It is isolated property with no one living in the old house so I am very reluctant to get an appraiser out there, just to be on the safe side.

    Any half way decent way to figure out what this stuff is worth? I will keep as much as I can, but have no place for a lot of this stuff. I am still going through this stuff, and need some guidance.

    Is there a site with wrenches, hammers, etc from this era I could look at to get a ballpark figure? I have some pictures.

    Do some of the thrift shops, say Hospice or Habitat accept donations like this, was thinking of giving a fair amount of the stuff to a charity.

    thanks,

    G

  2. Anthony

    Chris,
    I read your Handplanes book cover to cover. I’ve looked at ebay and some of these other sites that you mention above to get a sense of which vintage handplanes are out there, and what the relative costs are. My question is, do you recommend one type of Stanley (Type 11, bedrock, sweetheart, etc.) over another? I guess I’m wondering if you’ve had better luck avoiding lemons (and bananas) over the years by sticking with one group or another.

    Basically, I’m a beginner who’s trying to buy a few planes and start trying them out, while hoping to avoid too much metal(re)working. Thanks for your help.

    Anthony

    PS, Yes, I really did read it cover to cover. I resisted the urge to skip forward or past the parts I had read elsewhere, and just went straight through. Thanks for putting together a great book.

  3. Bill T.

    Well cool! Glad to see Sandy and Tony getting props from Da Schwarz.

    I’ve known Tony for years now and actually stopped by his little storefront in Nesquehoning, PA. He’s apparently attempting to test the floor load capacity of the place – I keep expecting to hear that his shop fell into the basement. It’s the old "10 pounds of [stuff] in a 5 pound bag."

    And many moons ago, I was at Crane’s auction in New Hampshire and Sandy Moss made some great cherry ice cream in an old hand-cranked ice cream churn, while we all sat around the camp fire, drinking beer, eating smoked meat and swapping tool-buying tales.

    You’d have to try pretty hard to go wrong dealing with either one.

  4. Garage sales

    Buying a tool at a garage sale is often a toss up because there are no batterieis or plugs outside to test but you could always bring your own batteries if your that anal, but the way I see it is your getting an amazing deal already so take the tossup to save 60-95% thanks to a flea market or yard sale.

  5. Mitchell

    I spend half my life looking for old tools on the web. I spend the other half looking for a life, but that is a confession for another blog.

    While every avid collector has their preferences, the one thing that should be noted about site recommendations is that they are based on the individuals’ collection focus. While one site may be a gold mine for one collector, it could be a huge waste of time for another. It all boils down to what the individual is interested in finding.

    After a couple of years searching the web for vintage tools, I have been able to catalogue almost all of the sites out there and have organized them all under four different bookmarks headed; Daily, Weekly, Monthly and When Bored. The number of listings under each grows in that same order, I might add, but again, they are also based on the type of tools I am looking for.

    In truth, there is only one site under the "Daily" category, and that is Jim Bode Tools, at jimbodetools.com. If there is a site out there with a better selection, operated by a more knowledgeable and honest individual, I haven’t seen it.

    Peace,

    Mitchell

  6. Sean

    Chris,

    I’m sure you’re ready for a lot of, "You should also try…" from people in other regions. Well, you should also try Lynn Dowd, in the Dallas area. He’s a great guy, woodworker, seller, and source of knowledge, who braves the spider-filled shacks of Texas for remarkable finds. His site: http://www.dowdstools.com/

    Sean

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