In Chris Schwarz Blog, Handplane Techniques, Handplanes

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These days investing in premium tools might have less financial risk than the stock market.

Just about every week I get an e-mail or phone call from a reader asking me if they think that premium handplanes from Veritas, Lie-Nielsen and Clifton are worth the extra expense. I think they are worth the money, and I always tell the person the following:

“If you don’t like them, you can always sell them on eBay and get most of your money back.”

This morning I decided to run some numbers to determine if I’m full of poo. So I checked the price of 36 recent eBay transactions for Lie-Nielsen tools. It was mostly planes, but the list included a couple sets of chisels, a saw and a screwdriver.

Here are some typical prices:

– The Lie-Nielsen No. 164 low-angle smoothing plane. Retail: $265. eBay: $235.
– Large Shoulder Plane. Retail: $250. eBay: $220.02.
– Lie-Nielsen No. 4-1/2 Bench Plane. Retail: $325. eBay: $250.

There were a few surprises on my list.

A couple sellers actually made money. A rabbeting block plane and a chisel set sold for more than the retail price. That can be caused by bidders fueled by testosterone or by other factors (including the fact the buyer could be in another country).

On the whole, the Lie-Nielsen tools sold for an average of 16 percent less than the full retail price. If you averaged out all the transactions, the average Lie-Nielsen tool sold for $38 less than the retail price.

So there you have it. My collection of Lie-Nielsens is doing better than my 401(k).

– Christopher Schwarz

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Showing 13 comments
  • LizPf

    I find this a flawed argument.

    If I buy a L-N plane, I will buy it to use. Once purchased, *unless I plan to sell it*, it no longer has a monetary value to me, just a use value. It does not cost me $0, or $38, because I have no plans to sell it.

    If I can no longer do woodworking, it will be nice to know I can sell ff my tools with little loss (if they don’t have too many wear marks) … but a tool sold is one I can’t enjoy using.

    Let’s face it, good tools are expensive. As a newbie woodworker, with lots of plywood butchering in my near future (house remodeling, built-ins), I don’t have any premium planes yet, and will have to put my tool dollars into other tools. (track saw, router … sigh. Plywood just isn’t made for galoots.) I would love a line of reasonably priced Veritas bench planes. But when I can afford my planes, I will pay what I need to, and not pay attention to resale value.

  • Robert Crouse

    Hay Chris:

    The reaal value of LN or any other hand tool is there useability. Like some I have quite a collection of LN tools. I began with the #4 because it looked good. When it took a fall from the work bench with no damage I knew it w a good invetment.

    Now I know when I am dead and gone someone will either continue using them or ebay them for a reasonable return. Thomas has signed many of mine so I hope this will add to value. Some are in the firt 100 made with insert saying so. I hope that will add to the value. I kept all the boxes and LN sales invoices – thank you Antique Road Show.

    In the future this investmentment will prove to be a good invetment.


  • Don M

    If you can find Lie-Neilsen planes for $38, send me a couple of dozen,sight unseel.

  • John Griffin-Wiesner


    Chris. This post could, in the long run, have the opposite effect of most of your blog posts – if it increases supply of LN tools on ebay and thus drives down the prices.

    Regardless, it makes a fine case to present to Wives Against Schwarz.


  • Chris C

    Although you can certainly get old or used tools that work well for less money,
    I find that the premium tools from both Veritas and Lie-Neisen are hard
    to beat.

    They are so beautifully made, I sometimes find myself just marveling at
    them. I have a couple that were given to me as gifts by my wife and they
    are very cherished tools. I must use the Veritas low angle block plane on
    just about every project I do and it never lets me down.

    Then there is also the companies themselves. I have nothing but positive
    things to say on this front. I have been shocked at how good their customer
    service is, and they have generous warranties and satisfaction guarantees.
    I doubt they get too many returns. Yes, their products are that good, and
    I am the biggest cynic of them all, so that is high praise!


  • Charles Davis

    Chris is right on. I do a lot of tool buying and selling on eBay and fine tools that are well taken care of retain most, if not all value. Some increase in value with limited production, i.e. Bridge City Tools Commemorative stuff. I’ve bought all my Lie-Neilsens off ebay (most of which during Microsoft Live promo period with 20% to %30 off… watch for that again!). I’m confident that I’ll be able to sell at the same price if and when I were to sell them. So buy your Lie-Neilsen’s off ebay and they’re essentially free! The equation is further tipped in your favor as some toolmakers have a propensity to increase pricing of products with regularity.

    Even if you lose the $38 with buying a new tool… say you hold it for 4 years isn’t it worth it to rent a premium tool for $10/year? If you buy a new tool just don’t get it engraved or personalized as that will reduce selling value.

  • Richard Dawson

    I did a similar study, off and on, for an extended period of time (idle hands are the devil’s workshop) and came to a similar conclusion. Virtually everything sold for at least 80% of the original purchase price, and I didn’t include shipping costs. Most sold for 90% or more. The ones that didn’t tended to be the less popular tools. For example, the No. 5 1/4 Jack and No. 10 1/4 Bench Rabbet selling at at 79%, No. 2 at 69% were relative losers.

    With the recent price increases, I think that tools purchased under the old schedule will do much better, even make money. That’s assuming that you can stand to part with those treasures

  • Doug Fulkerson

    Then it has changed in the past few months. I did a similar unscientific polling myself in July or August and it seemed like most people were getting almost what they paid for them back. Some, like you said, actually profited a bit. It can be very discouraging/encouraging trying to pick up used Lie-Nielsen tools; depending on your point of view.

  • Bill

    "Full of poo"? Have we been watching Mike Rowe on "Dirty Jobs"? "Poo" is one of his favorite words.

    And it’s not hard to beat the "performance" of most 401(k)s these days.

    Oh yeah, and why would one want to sell a Lie-Nielsen tool once one actually tried it?

    Just say you can have my Lie-Nielsens when you pry them from my yadda yadda…

  • Kevin

    Those sales that went for more than US retail are most likely foreign sales. I used to get people all the time from Canada and Europe asking to buy my stuff on eBay, fill out customs indicating it was a gift and thereby avoiding a bunch of taxes. They can pay more that US retail, add in international shipping and the customs and tax savings by it labeled a gift still save them a ton in many cases.

  • The Village Carpenter

    At this point, I think the BOXES in which the L-N planes are packaged are worth more than my investments…

  • Christopher Schwarz


    You can look at it either way. If you sold the plane on eBay then the experience only cost you $38….


  • Justin Tyson

    Shouldn’t that be "Lie-Nielsen Planes for $38 Off"? I though this was going to be a post about Lie-Nielsen knockoffs when I saw the title!


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