Buying a Used Tool (Part 2 of 2)


Cisco the HSS blogging cat here…

Last time we posted, we were looking at used tools… Let’s finish that up. (Before we really get started, as always, be safe. Read and understand all safety instructions for any tool, and always wear eye protection.)

  • When you consider a used (or new) tool, be sure to check for structural anomalies.  Is the work surface flat? Are relevant components plumb and square? Do the mechanisms work through their full range of functionality?
  • Do you need variable speed or fixed. I have a variable speed scroll saw, and after using that, I will never use a fixed speed model. (On the other hand, someone who simply needs a bit of fancy wood butchery for a plate rack would probably be better suited with a cheaper, single speed saw.)
  • Speaking of speed, be sure that you match the blade to the RPM of the tool.
  • With the machine unplugged, see how much slop is in the motor shaft and moving parts… Beware the loosey goosey.
  • Can you buy/make sharpening equipment?
  • Years ago, I learned to cut dovetails quite quickly and accurately by hand. When the price of  so called ‘dovetail machines’ dropped to apx. $100, I jumped — huge mistake. By the time I set up the machine, got it dialed in, got the router chucked, ran a couple of test cuts, I could have been done just doing the job by hand.If you only need to replace a dovetailed drawer, I’d say study the online dovetail lessons, buy some second-hand chisels, and practice. Here’s a series of dovetails I cut in short order with nothing more than a mallet, a sharpened old chisel, and a coping saw:

Moral of the story? Sometimes, it simply doesn’t make sense to blow $150 -$250 on a used tool system when $5 and some practice will do. (Now, if you have a production shop, that’s a horse of a different wheelbase.)

  • Don’t shy away from industrial-grade stuff… Usually it’s longer lasting, and more readily maintainable.
  • Dust control: If nothing else, pick up a used 5 HP Sears for $50. Buy a replacement filter, and at least then you have a start.
  • Worry about tolerances. How accurate is the machine. For example, if you’re buying a used table saw, how accurate is the blade to the base? Take a quality square, make a test cut and test it.
  • (Scratch the tip above. Take a Wixey and really put the machine to the test.)
  • Every so often, you’ll see a 1950s drill or saber saw. It will be a beauty — all shiny… Worry. If you’re holding a metal case and there’s an electrical short… Look out. Only buy safe, double-insulated tools. And if a seller has cut off the third prong on a three-prong plug, run.
  • Ah, so you’ve finally found that perfect 220V machine. Can your shop handle it? Is it a single phase or three phases? Phase converters aren’t cheap.
  • What’s the history of the tool? It doesn’t take long to see a battered tool.
  • Never lose sight of safety. Do you really want a used safety harness, air compressor, or a chain fall?
  • If you buy a heavy machine and don’t take into consideration the thought of moving it around the shop, you’ll be sorry…
  • Consider a used back-up tool. Your job may demand that you spend $150 plus on a quality circular saw. Fine. But do yourself a favor — pick up a decent $25 used temporary replacement. Sooner or later…
  • Know your steels. I like high-speed steel for drill bits, RC-rated planer blades, and a softer steel for chisels. Do your homework.
  • Used chisels are almost a dime a dozen. If the edge hasn’t turned purple (overheating during sharpening), you recognize the name, and it only costs a buck, go for it.
  • Don’t dismiss homemade stuff. I make all my own mobile bases for the heavier equipment — not bad.
  • Does the tool use direct drive or belt drive. I tend to like direct drive because it offers a ‘cushion’ when the going gets tough. Direct drive tends to kick more. (IMHO anyway…)

Finally, be honest with yourself. What do you really need? Ask around. Use the comments on Amazon as a source of tool info.Think and re-think…

In the sawdust by the 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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