Two of the most often repeated questions from my readers are:
1. “Where can I find great deals on woodworking hand tools?”
2. “How can I meet other hand tool woodworkers in my area?”
I always have two answers:
1. Read my woodworking hand tool buying guide (click here)
2. Join a local tool collector’s group & go to their tool swaps / sales
Joining a local antique tool collector’s group will instantly plug you in with new friends who are eager to teach you traditional woodworking and how to find great deals on tools.
A few weeks ago I was invited to attend a huge tool swap in North Carolina, run by the largest tool collector’s society in America: the Mid-West Tool Collectors Association. Most smaller tool collector groups have moved under the Mid-West umbrella, but have kept their local identity.
I was introduced to Ed Hobbs, the president of the North Carolina chapter (there are groups all over the U.S. & Canada) who gave me a summary of why joining a tool group is so beneficial to people who are passionate about traditional woodworking with hand tools. This is the video that I posted a few days ago.
I have been to hand tool swaps before, but this one was the largest I had ever attended. And I found some hot deals on some great hand tools, like this solid boxwood plow plane (my wife actually likes it):
I handled some gorgeous hand tools that were put out by paying vendors (the booths under the white tent):
I found some great deals on non-collectible tools under the tent, but I spent most of my time browsing the truck beds & tables of guys who were just trying to rid their house of excess tools. Most of the tool sellers & swappers fall into this category…just nice guys looking to downsize and make some friends along the way.
This guy (Tom) is passionate about transitional hand planes, but his collection got out of hand, so he was liquidating many of them at a surprisingly low price of $20 each!
If you’re not aware of transitional handplanes, and how cool & affordable they are, check out my handplane buying guide here.
The tool meeting had some rare tool displays, a tool auction, and even a pig roast barbecue lunch…
…but I was there to find some certain antique hand tools. Here’s where I get to the best part of this article…photos of the woodworking hand tools!
At the swap I ran into Rick Long, the president of the Richmond Antique Tool Society (RATS) who I had met at a local Richmond tool meeting, and he was selling some great “user tools” (non-collector tools) at affordable prices.
My friend Bill was unloading 3 complete sets of hollows and rounds (molding planes) for a pretty decent price of $500! They came from this wall of molding planes in his workshop:
See his workshop tour here. (I think he still has some sets, so contact me if you’re interested in buying a set).
And a sight like this chisel truck will get any true man excited!
Ed Lebetkin escaped his store above Roy Underhill’s The Woodwright’s School to see what he could sell to the tool hounds of North Carolina.
These tool swaps are mostly filled with woodworking tools, but you’ll also find other types of collectible tools, like blacksmith tools, wrenches, etc:
I don’t know why, but I always get extremely happy when I see an old chest full of wooden handplanes:
Here are some beautiful and rare combination planes on display:
Who has $8,200 for this rare Millers combination plane??? Here are pretty Millers Patent combination planes that are a bit more affordable.
And here are the beloved Scottish Infill Planes (click here to see prices on eBay)…definitely on my wish list. If you’ve got some cash, then these are the Cadillacs of metal handplanes:
Norris (London) and Spiers (Scotland) are the biggest names in antique infill panel planes like these. You can see Norris planes here and see Spiers planes here.
This was one of the plow planes that I was considering buying. These old style of plow planes (with screw fences) are the best & most stable for plowing grooves. You can find prices on these style of plow planes here. Look how nice the wood screws are…not broken like a lot of these wooden plow planes:
I hope you’ve enjoyed this tour of a antique tool swap. Please tell me what you thought in the comment box below!