The Tool that Changed my Life

It was thirty years ago this summer. I was thirteen years old visiting my grand parent’s house on my Mom’s side in Detroit, Michigan when I walked into my Grandpa’s garage and spotted this little drill press on top of his cabinet.

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It’s was a little German-made drill press. It had no manufacturer’s name on it, so I have no idea who made it, but I thought it was the coolest tool I ever saw. I played with it for a few minutes, and my Grandpa seeing I took a liking to it, gave it to me. I was stoked.

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My Grandpa was never really a woodworker. He was a mechanic who restored old cars like Ford Model T’s and Maxwell’s, so he had no use for the press. I just started to work with wood in my parent’s basement, so I was glad to have it.

A few days later, my Mom, Grandparents, and I went to the flea market. While there, I started hunting for more cool tools. I found some old wrenches and a Ohio Tool Co wooden razee fore plane that I still use to this day. The only money I had was a few bucks I saved up from my allowance of cutting the grass, so I bought all my tools dirt cheap. Nevertheless, even though I didn’t realize it at the time, it was the start of my antique tool collecting.

As the months and years went by, I started buying more and more old tools. I’d buy planes, chisels, drills, saws and clean them up. As my tool collection grew, my woodworking skills developed right along with every tool I bought as I learned how to use it. I enjoyed the process of restoring old planes so much that I kept buying more of them and before I knew it, I had collected nearly 100 old tools by the time I was sixteen years old. I used to have white bookshelves in my parent’s basement filled with all my tools. My friends would come over, take a look, and asked what the hell was wrong with me.

At the height of my collecting I had over 600 tools. Then one day, I stared at all of it and decided that enough was enough. I took some of the tools I didn’t care much for and threw them on eBay. I watched the auctions end and realized that I enjoyed that process as well, so I threw more tools on eBay. Before I knew it, I was buying and selling tools on a regular basis.

Today, I’ve figured that I have bought, restored, and sold almost three thousand tools on eBay. It’s become a hobby within a hobby. Something that I would never have believed would have happened thirty years ago when my Grandpa gave me his little drill press.

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Brown Tool Auction Winnings

Every few months Clarence Blanchard from the Brown Tool Auction holds an antique tool auction in Pennsylvania. Even though some his auctions are within a day’s driving distance for me, I’ve never been to one. It’s just too easy for me to place a bid online and pay a $3.00 absentee bidder fee for every auction I win. Plus at $3.00, it’s a lot cheaper than spending the money on gas and a hotel room.

I never know what or if I win until about a week later when UPS drops of a box at my door. So you can imagine the excitement when I see a big box at my door. Typically the bigger the box, the more tools I have won.

As soon as I open it up I see molding planes neatly bubbled wrapped up. I love molding planes. To me they’re the router bits of hand tool woodworking. With a little bit of work, molding planes tune up nicely and create some of the nicest profiles that you can’t even produce with common router bits.

After unpacking the box, the results were in. Seventeen molding planes and two Stanley bench planes. All of the planes were in good shape and need only a little bit of tuning to bring them back to working condition.

Of the two Stanley planes I won, one was the Big Boss of Stanley planes, the No 8C Corrugated Jointer. This plane is in excellent condition and with a little bit of work, it will clean up to be a top shelf tool. The other bench plane was a nice Stanley 5 1/2C corrugated plane. Collectors go crazy for the corrugated soles as they tend to bring in higher prices, but for me, the corrugations just act as a place for dried glue to hang out. The theory behind corrugated soles was that they tend to be easier to push because of the less mass on the workpiece, and they were easier to fettle the bed because you didn’t have to remove as much metal. I haven’t found either one of those benefits to be true.

The molding planes were nice with a wide variety of profiles in the mix. Over the next few weeks I’ll tune them up and list them for sale on eBay.

As you can see, I have a soft spot for molding planes. The day I figured out how to tune one up and make it sing, I was hooked. I intend to sell some of my duplicate profiles on eBay in the coming weeks.

World’s Longest Yard Sale: US127 Corridor

My wife and I just returned from a five-day excursion on the The World’s Longest Yard Sale down US 127. The yard sale runs every year during the first weekend of August from Michigan down to Alabama. Last Wednesday, my wife Anita rented a Ford F-250 cargo van and we headed down to Chattanooga TN to spend the night. We picked up 127 around the Kentucky Tennessee border stopping at multiple yard sales running all the way to our hotel in Chattanooga. The next day we started heading up 127 back home.

Anita was looking for old furniture to fix up as well as things she could sell in her booth. I was looking for antique tools. We traveled over 1200 miles in five days traveling from Chattanooga, TN to Castine, OH and had an absolute blast. Nothing more fun than the thrill of the hunt. We ran into a little trouble at the top of Tennessee though. It was around 7:00 pm and we didn’t have a hotel booked. We drove all the way to Danville, KY hoping that a hotel on US 127 would have a room but they were all booked. We ended up driving all the way to Lexington, KY to find a room. The next day we got up and had a nice breakfast in neat little restaurant and headed back to Danville, KY to continue up US 127.

I picked up mostly a bunch of planes, some of them needing major cleaning, with a few miter boxes near the end of the trip. What’s amazing about my finds is that most of the planes I had bought had corrugated bottoms. I wasn’t specifically looking for corrugated planes but when I turned over a plane I was interested in, its bottom was corrugated. Twelve of the fifteen planes were that way. Amazing since corrugated planes are not as common as flat bottom planes in the market.

This is the shot of the bottoms of the planes with nearly all of them being corrugated. It’ll take a while but every one of these planes will be cleaned up and ready to be put back to use.

Near Danville, KY I ran into a guy selling a trailer full of cherry hardwood. I couldn’t buy the whole trailer but I did manage to pick up one of his slabs. This piece is 2″ x 16″ x 100″ and the offer was too good for me to pass up. Does anybody want to guess what I paid for this slab of cherry? Post a comment and I’ll let you know.