A few years ago I asked my father, who
lived in West Virginia (Jeff, a providence deep in the interior of
the U.S. of A. characterized by hills and lots of scrap metal laying
around, mostly cars and appliances) if he knew anyone who had any
old woodworking tools.
He said that there was a fellow who
hung out at McDonalds who was always talking about old tools. I
asked if we could go and see him next time that I was in town.
He said that he would set it up.
Later, I went to see my folks for
Thanksgiving. The day after the holiday my father and I went
to see Bob the tool hunter. No, we didn't call first.
That might be one way to do things but
not the hillbilly way. It turns out Bob lives in a little
house about 50 yards from the railroad tracks a few miles from my
parents. We knocked on the door and he invites us into his
basement/workshop. I took a look around and every available
flat spot was covered with tools. Some were on shelves some in
cabinets with glass doors.
To this day the only time I've seen
more tools in one place was at Bill Spicer's Tool auction in Road
Island. He had hundreds of planes, saws, chisels, etc.
After I could breath I asked where he got all the tools. He
said that he had been a tool hunter for 30 years. He would go
to auctions, antique stores, yard sales, anywhere that might have
tools. His tools were in very good shape.
Turns out that
he would soak rusty tools in vinegar over night to remove rust.
He reminded me of some of my relatives who seemed to think that
there are two ways to be rich, to have lots of money or to have lots
of stuff. He fell into the later category.
I asked him if he would sell me a
couple of planes. He acted offended, like I wanted to take his
favorite dog home. Then he said if I sell you any of my tools
I'll only be left with your money but you'll have my tools. He
would rather trade tools. I told him that I didn't have anything to
He thinks for a minute and goes over to
a corner of the basement and pulls out his toolbox reserved for
non-Stanley tools and reluctantly pulls out 2 block planes that he
would part with. One was a Craftsman and the other a low angle
Sargent. He asked $35 for each plane. I had no idea what
they were worth since I was new to tool collecting. So I paid
him, we said our goodbyes and left.
Later when I had more experience with
tool collecting I realized that Bob was not only a tool hunter but
quite a horse trader as well.
January 14, 2006