Buying a Used Tool (Part 1 of 2)

Hey! Cisco the HSS blogging cat here…

As the economy constricts, more and more people are going to want to follow Da Gizz’s lead, and start doing their own handiwork and home maintenance. And in order to that, you’ve got to have tools… In a sec, I’ll share a few tips on buying used tools  gleaned from 30 years of woodworking… But first, consider the $100 radial arm saw below…

Very nice, and to replace it, it would cost over $600. But, (once again) in this economy, $600 is a ton of money… So how to buy a quality, used tool on something like ‘Craig’s List’ or ‘eBay’? Well, here are those tips… Before we really get started, as always, be safe. Read and understand all safety instructions for any tool, and always wear eye protection.

  • First, objectively decide how much tool do you need? There’s no sense in buying a $1,500 Unisaw when a $75 Sears 10″ would do.
  • Be skeptical about the ‘NIB’ (New In Box…) Maybe it’s me, but I tend to worry about ‘refurbished’ or ‘hot’ product…
  • When you inspect the tool, consider the wear of things like bearings, seals, and brushes. (Does the machine leak oil or fluid?  Do parts rattle when they shouldn’t? Does the electric motor spark excessively? Do your homework and test a newish, quality machine and use that as a gauge for your potential purchase.)
  • Are rascals like those just mentioned easily accessed within the tool itself?
  • Do you get the essentials? Manuals? Guards? Blades? Motor?
  • Is the seller offering neat accessories? A stand may not be a requirement, but sure can make life easier…
  • I won’t buy a used battery-driven tool… It’s too easy to foul up the charging process and destroy the battery. And new batteries aren’t cheap.
  • Consider vintage tools, but carefully! Some of the 1950’s table saw are fantastic in quality, but…
  • Old or new, can you get replacement parts? Check this out before buying!
  • Carefully consider things like weight, and footprint. Moving the saw in the photo above was an adventure involving dollies, friends, and a block and tackle.
  • Should you buy name brand? I like to stick with Rockwell/Delta, Craftsman, Rigid, etc., but there are times when no-name is just fine. If I had to buy a small anvil, I’d definitely go to Harbor Freight, a Chinese tool distributor.
  • Consider where and when the tool was made. Japan makes good hand saws. Germany makes good steel. Americans make (or at least used to) good machines.
  • Danger Will Robinson! Danger! Beware the power tool that uses ‘white’ or ‘pot’ metal!!! Pot metal is a silver-ish mottle of a metal, and crumbles faster than a New Year’s resolution. It’s common in Chinese power tools, but is making its way into American brands as well.
  • Finally, (for today at least) Does the tool have any cracks, chips, missing parts, rust? And how does that cord look?

Continued next time by those thrifty racks…

Two cats blogging…

Wine Glossaries

* Nat Decants: A thorough glossary from Natalie MacLean, noted wine writer, speaker, and judge.
* “The Independent Consumer’s Guide to Fine Wines”
* GLOSSARY of Wine-Tasting Terminology (Version 1.4 – Jan. 1995): A thorough collection of definitions from Anthony Hawkins.

Beer Glossaries

* ratebeer: Now that’s a straightforward name!
* beer-pages: Roger Protz and Tom Cannavan say that “it’s all about beer”.
* A fine collection of Beer dictionaries.


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