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Tool Stories


Reminiscing.. and the Future by Todd Hughes


Well no doubt about it things ain't like they used to be that is for sure.

10 -15 years ago it seemed like tools were everywhere and cheaper too.  I know when I used to set up at shows, [pre eBay] I used to take a wooden box with about 20 - 30 chisels in it all priced at $10 each... no matter if an Everlasting, Witherby, swan or what ... $10 ea.  I sold buckets of them and bought buckets of them too, cheap enough that I was thinking I was doing something.  Some things, like Blacksmith swage blocks and cone mandrills, I used to see every now and then but today I never come across anymore.  I do still see lots of anvils though.  Bought 3 last month.

I think it is a combination of things, first we are talking about a limited resource here... they ain't making this stuff no more you know.  The day will come when like that guy that hit the last Great Auk on the head with a stick, a fellow will pull the last old cone mandrill out of some barn and that will be it.  The only place you will see such things for sale will be at tool shows and tool auctions and the day of hunting in the wild will be over...

Besides a drying up resource today I think there is much more competition for what there is.  Used to be I only had a couple guys to worry about at the flea markets and auctions that bought tools... now it seems like there are dozens out there all trying to beat you to something good.  Used to be, the competition was just some old guys collectors who were pretty picky as to what they bought, now I have to worry about all kinds of "dealers" who just "know" tools are valuable, even have middle age women bidding against me on tools at auctions and digging in tool chests next to me at flea markets!  

Lots more users out there to give you trouble too, and these guys often have the money to spend.  Thank god many of these people don't know much but still I bet I loose out a good bit to them.  Had a guy tell me today about the 6 Stanley almost new "Perfect Handle" (he's talking Everlasting) chisels he bought for $2 each... and now he's not selling them till he finds out what they are worth on the eBay.

Of course the EBay is responsible for a good bit of this too, dealers who used to sell me that tool at the flea market or auction now might put it on the eBay, ...if they hit it big you might as well forget about ever getting much from them again.  Lots of my buying competition too are probably going to put what they buy on the eBay... just like me.  It is a double edge sword since I get much more for what I sell [no more $10 Everlasting] but because of this I am not able to buy as much as I used to either.  Oh well... For me the more money I get now more then makes up for this though so that's OK.

After saying all this I will tell you straight... still lots of stuff out there!  I went to my Tuesday Flea market today with the Miss Jazz and we bought very well I think and got there a little late even [about 6:45].  Seams that markets are starting later then they used to too.  Right off the bat picked up a Sargent 708C [no. 3 size auto set plane] for $35.  This plane books for $2-$400 but we will see.  From the same seller got a nice plumb boy scout axe for $15 which I thought was plenty high but nice.  Walked around and picked up a Stanley 750 and Witherby chisel for $2 ea. [Hey I can still sell them for $10 and make money!], unusual anvil and a nice Fulton draw knife for $7 ea...  Came back to this seller later and picked up a cigar box of engraving tools for $10 and a mint Yankee push drill for $2... Big Smile here.

Another dealer had a hoop setting hammer and actually knew what it was , about the first in my experience, but still sold it to me for $5. Picked up a pretty nice Hudson bay type axe for $12.  Seller wouldn't budge off the $12 either.  Walking back to the car saw this woman put out this beautiful woman's Raccoon coat... asked the price "$20".  It is in excellent condition and I scooped it up of course.  Jazz thinks it is a $500 coat... I don't know about that but it is a nice coat.  Of course I got lots of comments while carrying it back to my car... didn't help either that I picked up a great carved leather purse on the way.  Did manage to put some of the tools in the purse though to make things easier to carry.  Don't think I am going to retire my homespun tote bag I often carry though.

Now this one dealer was set up that while we always talk I sort of classify him as what I call a " Borderline A** Hole".  Never quite made the cut to a full fledge example but boy you know he's right there.  He had a Stanley no. 4 of about 1900 vintage with both sides busted clean out.  Looked like somebody shot it with a 12 ga. slug.  Did have beautiful wood and a nice blade whose 1892 patent got the seller so excited he actually told me with a straight face he wanted $20 for the plane.  To me this was pretty amazing.

Now this guy did have a simply wonderful old cabinet card photograph of an old natty dressed guy holding two huge snapper turtles by the tails.  Was even taken in a studio and probably from late 1800s.  Was put in a ornate frame though I don't know how long it had been in it [I suspect at least since yesterday].  Seller wanted $100 for the snapper man.  Now this is probably not a bad price and if this seller didn't rub me the wrong way I might have bought it.  I offered him $75 and he said no - $90.  I told him to throw in the busted plane and then OK on the $90.  He said $110 and he throw in the plane.  He's moving up the A.H. scale now, eh?

I went next door to a friend of mine that sets up and he said - look in the back of the truck he has something for me.  Look in it and what do you know... a Disston DD17.  This is the saw with those strange teeth that is supposed to cross cut or rip... as a Double Duty saw. 

Looks like it will clean up really nice and as it is I can see most of the etch.  To make it even better and more unusual has the thumb hole type handle which looks to be made out of Oak!  Nice handle.  Fellow said he bought it just for me and wanted $40...  Now that is a lot of money to pay for a saw no matter what it is, in a flea market, I think.  Long story short he ended up selling me the saw and two WWII shovels for $50.  Now 10 years ago if somebody had told me I would have paid this, I would have thought they were from the Moon.

...Go back to the Snapper photo guy and see it is gone... told me he sold it for $100... DANG!  ...now I am kicking myself.  I'm not 100% sure he really sold it and suspect he might have pulled it to have somebody sell it on the EBay for him... don't know.  Still had the busted up no. 4 though.

Well, overall think I had a pretty good day, I'm sure I left out some other etc.  I bought maybe not like in the old days, but imagine it will look even better when I look back on it 10 years down the road , eh? ...

August, 2006

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