Woodworking can get expensive.
It’s a passion, but it comes with a hefty price tag sometimes.
Buying used woodworking tools is its own devil in disguise.
You have to know what you’re doing well before you look over any tools or agree to purchase anything.
This brief guide will prepare you for that, and help you spot good deals from poorly kept tools.
What to Pay Attention to When Buying Woodworking Tools
Nobody wants to get ripped off, but there are a small margin of people out there who want to sell junk and pass it off as good quality, working items.
You shouldn’t go into a purchase agreement with the “I’m gonna getcha” mentality, but just be wary of the potential issues that the seller might not be talking about.
Age of the Tool
The older the tool, the less durable it is.
Even when you find tools that normally last for decades, you have to think about all the use that the seller has already gotten out of it before deciding to sell.
Don’t be afraid to ask them about the history of the tool. It gives you an opportunity to listen to how they treated it, and if it seems like it’s a worthy investment for you to make.
Just because a tool isn’t fresh out of the box doesn’t mean it isn’t viable.
It’s a lot easier to tell if manual, non-electric tools are in good standing though, since there’s no concealed functions.
If you were to buy a wood chisel, you could feel if the metal chisel was secured in the handle. You could check for rot, feel the finish, and see if there’s any rust. It gets a bit dodgy when it comes to power tools.
That’s because they’ve continually churned out excellent quality tools that stand the test of time.
They’re more focused on having an excellent product that will last their customers for twenty years than they are with making a ton of money.
They know what the tools are worth, and charge accordingly.
When you’re buying used tools, pay attention to the brand.
Before you even head into the sale, understand what brands are good, what models they have that are still in production (otherwise repairs will be ridiculously costly), and anything else pertinent to the specific tool you’re buying.
The model will tell you how old the tool is without you having to ask, but it will also reveal a great deal about the tool in question.
For instance, some Dewalt biscuit joiners are still on the market, and have been since 1999 and prior.
They just keep making the same model over and over again, because it works well and it’s a reliable tool. If you’re shopping for tools, figure out the brand, and then search that specific model.
Just like with certain years of cars, you might find that a 2004 Makita miter saw isn’t as good as a 2008 version, and so on.
This is when you start getting into the intricacies of tool making and buying.
It’s simple enough to look up on your phone while you’re haggling with the seller. It won’t take long to find reviews on a specific model.
This one seems subjective, but there are some clear and distinct markers of quality.
When you hold the tool in your hand, is there a good weight to it? Does the handle contour to your hand, or is it at least comfortable to use?
This trait isn’t questioning the morality of the seller, it’s just testing to see if the quality of the tool is going to work for you.
The bigger the tool, the harder it will be to judge quality.
Quality is a measurement of fulfilling the agreed upon requirements of the item in question, so if it can cut through 1 ½” plywood with ease, then the quality rating of that saw is pretty good.
If it can be knocked around a bit without sustaining damage, it’s built sturdily with good materials, and that’s quality.
It’s hard to judge with your eyes, but you need to see and hear the motor in action.
If the blade looks like it’s not spinning very fast on a table saw, or if the motor of a biscuit joiner sounds like it’s buzzing or humming instead of simply spinning, there could be a problem.
Repairing power tools isn’t exactly cheap, and it could be an indicator that the seller is trying to take you for a ride.
Provided that the seller is okay with it, let the motor run for one to two minutes and make sure no problems spring up.
If it’s a circular saw or something you can see in action, ask if they wouldn’t mind pushing it through a piece of spare wood (there’s bound to be some around).
You’ll see how smoothly the blade goes through the wood, which is attributed to the sharpness of the blade, and the wellness of the motor.
Dirt and Grime
Tools can be cleaned; it’s not going to impede upon their function.
However, noting how dirty or unkempt a sellers tools are is a solid indicator as to how they treated them during use.
If they’re filthy and they didn’t even think to clean them up before listing them for sale, there’s a good chance that they haven’t been adequately taking care of them over the last few years.
You shouldn’t walk away from a deal just because there’s a bit of dirt. Nobody is going to clean them up to the point of looking brand new.
If they’re used, they’re going to look used, but it’s when there’s oil, dirt covering the entire brand name, and chipping paint/plastic that sends up some red flags.
Once again, don’t be afraid to ask about the history of the tool. The older it is, the more haggling power you have.
Useful Tips for Shopping for Used Woodworking Machinery
Machinery is different from tools; it’s stationary, it’s a lathe, it’s a permanent saw table, things like that.
When you get into the big leagues of woodworking machinery, you want to know that every dollar spent was worth it.
Abide by these simple tips to make sure you don’t get taken for a fool.
1. Buy Local
There are plenty of shops who sell online, and allow you to come in to their location and physically test out the unit.
Some even go so far as to offer “Lemon Law” terms, where you have a few days to bring it back if anything happens.
Buy from a local seller so you aren’t being fed false information online.
While companies have a higher morality and law they have to abide by, a random guy who lives downtown doesn’t.
2. Ask Why They’re Selling
Big machinery isn’t exactly something you get for no reason.
They’re woodworkers, too. Ask them why they stopped, why they want to sell the machines, and give them an honest chance.
It’s a tough world out there, so if they’re selling because they need money, it means they were probably taking care of the unit and using it and just can’t afford it anymore.
Don’t pry or act like an interrogator, but strike up thoughtful and meaningful conversation. You’re much more likely to get a reaction that way.
3. Don’t Buy What You Don’t Know
Do you know the product specs front and back? Are you aware of what year it was built, what it takes to fix it, and how to use it?
If not, then you shouldn’t be buying it. There’s plenty of helpful online information (like us) that disclose everything you need to know before hopping into a sale.
Learn the machines, understand how to check for inconsistencies, and roll right into the next tip.
4. Ask Them for a Live Demonstration
You’ve come in to see the machine in person, and now you want to see it put to good use.
Ask them to give it a spin so you can make sure it’s functioning properly… then ask if you can use it as well.
This will cut out the possibility that they were using it in a specific way that handicapped any structural or mechanical problems that the unit has.
Once you actually use it, you’ll get a feel for how well it operates.
Walk In With Knowledge
Enter the sale with a whole archive of knowledge in your arsenal, and don’t get taken for a ride.
You want functioning equipment that isn’t as expensive as the new stuff, but be wary of deals that seem too good to be true at the same time.