Tool Gloats-Estate Sales Pay Off

I’ve always believed in the adage, “into each life some sun must shine.” And so it was recently as I visited two estate sales. As I was checking out Craig’s List on Thursday night, I came across two sales that had potential. One had actual pictures of tools (two of which I now own…plus a bunch more) while the other had a description that led me to believe it would be a worthy stop. And it was.

Here’s my haul from the first place:

There were three tables set up in the garage. I started among the auger bits, always on the prowl for ones in good shape (clean flutes and screws)…and picked one up, plus a couple of screwdrivers, I like wood handles and….whoa! What’s that?

The garage was crowded with people and fortunately, I had them boxed out like a pick on a basketball court. That let me collect the protractor head unencumbered. I was surprised to see it on the table because these things can be pricy. This Starrett version will set you back $120.00

I settled for the $6.00 one from the estate sale. Now I’ll be able to easily layout angles other than 90 and 45 degrees.

You probably can’t tell from the protractor picture, but the color of it is a very, very dark drab green. Which suggests to me that it might be a military surplus model. Though there are no markings (maker’s, owners, military) at all on it.

My heart racing, and clutching the protractor head like my wallet in front of a crowded Roman monument surrounded by vagrants, I moved down the aisle. There, I spied an item that I had seen in the online picture. Frankly, this is what motivated me to come by early on a Friday morning.

I’ve been on the hunt for a right-handed-handled hewing hatchet ever since I sent my left-handed one to a Lumberjocks buddy in merry old England. This one had tar all over it. As if its deceased owner’s last outing with the tool was to demolition a tarred roof during a heat wave. $8 bucks was a good deal even though I couldn’t find a maker’s mark on it and the handle looked as dry as a bighorn carcass from the 19th century.

Later, at home, I scraped off the tar and hosed the hatchet down with Goof Off like it was going through a car wash. And low and behold, a maker’s mark appeared.

Winchester, sweet!

And the handle cleaned up well too…with some CA to seal the cracks, a spokeshave to smooth out the bottom of the handle where a piece was broken off, a nail in the top of the handle to tightly seat it in the head socket, a bunch of sanding to shed its aged outer skin like a snake and several coats of BLO and poly. Add to that a lot of sanding to remove the rust that the Goof Off missed, and a hearty sharpening on the bench grinder. And here she is ready for service.

The wood-handled screwdrivers I’ll use to adjust my vintage tools. The one plastic-handled screwdriver (fourth from the left in the “family” photo above), I plan to use as a burnisher. It’s shown here after I cut the flathead off, sanded out the dings and polished the steel. Maybe the steel will be hard enough to work my LN scrapers. At $1.00 it’s worth a try.

Haul total: $23.00 in Yankee paper.


I arrived at the next estate sale in time to see a guy loading tool chests into his car. “Damn,” I muttered under my breath. I hoped he hadn’t already scored all the good stuff. Not to worry. There were still a few items.

You know, for 10:30 on a Friday morning, the place was crawling with people. I stepped in the door and immediately went to the garage. The sign on the tool-laden table read, Craftsman Tools $2.00; All other tools $1.00.

That’s where I saw the Disston saw. It was wrapped in newspaper dating to 1995. For a buck, how could I go wrong? As it turned out, there were so many curiosities about this saw that I’ll be posting a separate blog on it.

The shape of the weathered chisel caught my eye. Could that be a Stanley Everlast? The maker’s mark was indeed Stanley. But you’ll have to tell me the model number as I’m not that familiar with the Stanley chisels.

Boy, the steel is pretty rusted…and the handle has a sizable crack. Still, for $1.00 I wanted it. Though it won’t be a user, it will be a cool addition to my office space as a decoration.

Elsewhere in the garage I came across a staple gun. I’ve wanted one for a while but haven’t been willing to spring the bucks for a new one.

You see, I like to put rubbery shelf liner material on the bottom of my appliances (the ones without stops) to keep them from sliding around like a kid skating at Rockefeller Center at Christmastime. Since I didn’t have a staple gun, I used U-shaped nails to affix liners. Now they work, but they’re a pain to nail in. The $3.00 staple-gun was tailor-made for this task. Tack on a $1.00 for a box of staples. Get it? Tack on?

Check out that cool file below the saw and to the left. At first glance I thought I had finally scored an auger bit file. And I did…I think. It’s a user-modified file and is shaped suspiciously just like an auger bit file.

With the file in hand, and being careful not to poke some kid’s eye out, I worked my way over to the hardware area. From there I plucked a box of washers and a box of #10 wood screws for a fraction of their new-in-the-box prices.

Haul total: $13.00 in devalued U.S. currency, handed to the pretty blond granddaughter running the register. By the way, when I asked if the saw was $1.00, she said no, that she’d have to charge $2.00. The 100 percent markup hurt, but it was easier to take with a smile from the fair-haired, 20-something lassie and a Disston cradled under my arm.

On the whole, I was most pleased with the hewing hatchet, protractor head and the Disston saw.

I also learned that if you’re going to make the trek all over insert-the-name-of-your-city here, it’s best to go to an estate sale on the first day. And it’s better still to go early before some other, rise-with-the birds galoot like me gets his choice of the goodies before you show up to pick over what’s left.

Good hunting all. Do share your scores.


About The Write Biz

By day, I'm a mild-mannered copywriter who harnesses frontal-lobe creativity (right brain) to help B2B marketers generate leads and sales. By night I pick up hand tools to create wooden masterpieces...and give my black lab Bella the "red dot" laser to chase after.
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3 Responses to Tool Gloats-Estate Sales Pay Off

  1. Alfred Kraemer says:

    The protractor you have is – I’m sure – a Lufkin protractor. To me they are in the same category of Starrett and Brown&Sharpe. The color and the locking nut are also indicative of Lufkin. Look at Lufkin items in Ebay.
    All in all a very good price for a very good protractor in excellent condition.


  2. Adrian Lewis says:

    Nice pick up on the hatchet. Some advice though. Is often best to sharpen axes, hatchets, adze etc with a file and a stone rather than a bench grinder. The grinder may impart too much heat and cause the cutting edge to lose its temper. Doing it by hand also allows you to get a finer edge with a more consistent profile. Done properly and with patience you should be able to shave with it…..making it a very useful edge tool capable of rapid removal of material or for finer work like a draw knife.
    Enjoyed discovering your blog and will become a keen follower.
    Check out John Neeman – Birth of a tool on You tube for a great look at how an axe is hand forged and crafted.


    • I’m a total newbie to axes, hatchets and adzes so I appreciate the pointer Adrian. I like the feel of the hewing hatchet in the hand and while I’ve use my drawknife a lot for heavy stock removal, haven’t had occasion yet to put the hatchet to wood.

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