Here are some things I’ve learnt along the way over the past three years attending Tools of the Trades.
- Don’t haggle too much – if an item is marked at $40, don’t offer $20. With something tagged as $42, a $40 offer might be accepted, but low-ball offers are distasteful. Don’t forget, the tool sellers have spent time scouring flea-markets and the like looking for tools so you don’t have to – you have to take this into account.
- Use Frank’s method from “American Pickers” and bundle. You’re often likely to get a couple of bucks off if you bundle 2-3 items together.
- Check plane bodies (and all tools) for cracks, welds, and missing pieces. Some parts can be replaced from parts resellers such as “New Hampshire Plane Parts” on eBay – cracks and welded parts detract from the usefulness of a plane, and are hard to repair. Fixing cracks in cast iron requires brazing, and is not for the faint-hearted – you basically need a welder and machinist.
- Don’t spend too long waiting to make a decision on an item – next time to the stall it may be gone.
- Don’t be surprised if the plane you buy isn’t “ready out of the box” with a perfectly sharpened blade. Even Lee Valley plane blades need to be sharpened. Sharpening a blade is something you have to learn to do yourself. The same with restoring tools. I’ve listened to the stories from sellers about people that have run their fingers across the blade and almost severed them- yeah it’s stupid but apparently it happens. Best to sell planes with blunt blades than razor sharp ones.
- Do a little homework on what you want to buy. There are sometimes so many tools it can become somewhat overwhelming. Looking for a basic set of hand planes – block plane, smoothing, jack? You don’t have to limit yourself to Stanley – Millers Falls are good too, and even a brand like Craftsman are okay – they were often made by the likes of Sargent and just branded Craftsman.
- If you’re looking for a particular tool and you don’t see it – ask. Sometimes not all the tools are on display, or the seller may not have brought their entire inventory with them.
- Oh, and bring a bag, or something to carry the tools you buy in. I’ve forgotten it before, and schlepping an armful of tools can become tiresome quickly.