Saw Shop Tech: What’s my old/vintage/antique tool worth?

Vern Burke, SwiftWater Edge Tool Works

Skowhegan, ME

I get this question all the time via the blog, the website, and in person on my sharpening stops. What’s an old crosscut saw worth? What’s a Bailey #3 plane worth? For you folks expecting to make a mint from your “barn fresh” tools, I’m going to let you in on a few secrets.

1. The prices on my finished hand saws, planes, and other vintage tools are NOT what your dirty, rusty, cruddy tool is worth. The cost of the raw unrestored tool itself is only a tiny fraction of the value of the restored tool. You may not get anyone to pay even $2-$3 for a rusty Disston hand saw but clean it properly, spiff the handle up, and sharpen it well and then you have something that’s worth something.

2. Your tool probably isn’t as collectible as you think. Unless your Stanley Bailey plane is a Type 1 or Type 2 in any size or a #1 size or you have an original Leonard Bailey (pre-Stanley) plane, you’re probably not going to be dining at a ritzy restaurant on the take from it. I know it has sentimental value and you think it looks good but I have yet to get any vintage tool in that didn’t require significant attention to bring it up to the level I expect it to be to put it on table.

3. I can’t even give you a ballpark number without seeing the tool. I don’t know how many crosscut saws (I’m always buying crosscut saws) have come to me described as great condition only to find the teeth sharpened down to nubs. I had a customer drive all the way down here from Bangor to sell me a 2 man crosscut saw only to find out that it had a nasty end to end twist in the blade. I can work that out of a 24″ saw blade, it’s near impossible on a 5′ saw blade.

4. It doesn’t matter how nice the blade looks, if a wooden saw handle is missing pieces, it’s kaput. I expect to replace axe handles, no handsaw I’ve seen yet was worth the time and effort to replace a seriously damaged or missing handle.

5. Since the restored tools I produce are intended to be used again, whatever your old/vintage/antique tool is has to be actually useful. The shelves loaded with different profiles of the old wooden molding planes are undeniably cool but they were such a pain in the backside to use that there’s pretty close to zero demand for them.

I’m not trying to get anyone to sell me a $1600 Stanley #1 plane for $10. I know what I can do for an end result from almost any tool, what that end result will sell for, and how much effort and expertise it takes on my part to get it to that point. What’s left over is the value of the raw tool itself. If you want me to give you an offer on an old tool, that’s the formula it has to meet to work.

That said, I’m almost always looking to purchase vintage tools in “raw” condition. A few hand saws out of a shop to a pile of crosscut saws and axes out of a barn, it doesn’t matter what kind of a tool it is, one or one hundred, let me know what you’ve got!

Visit me at any of the following locations:

Elm Plaza, Waterville, ME (Mondays)
Tractor Supply, Skowhegan, ME (Tuesday and Wednesday)
Arundel Flea Market, Rt 1 & Log Cabin Rd, Arundel, ME (Fridays)
298 W Front St, Skowhegan, ME (all other days)

If you’re looking for a special tool, please drop me an
email and let me know and I’ll restore one just for you!

SwiftWater Edge Tool Works provides mobile sharpening services across Maine and mail in services around the world for handsaws, carbide blades, planer knives, hand planes, chain saws, knives, scissors, hair clippers, router bits, and almost any blade!


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