What is something worth? It’s a question I get asked a lot but it’s always difficult to value someone else’s service or knowledge. No two old tools are ever exactly the same and time is always needed with a skilled hand if it’s intended for use.
EBayers still regularly keep on ringing us and wasting our time, asking if I can identify, value, and help them if they can’t find what they are looking for on our website! It comes with the territory I guess but they Google it and they are your next used tool expert! At the same price of course!
There is never any consideration of how long we have done this or how hard we work on every tool, whether we do this for a living or the costs of running a business, building a professional website, what we do, or how well we do it. Reputation means nothing to these people and respect earned from our customers means little to them either. It’s one of those, Tooltique’s price is this and they want the same price if possible usually without the input of skill or labour!
I guess having done this for some time now, striving for constant improvement has taught me to become my own worst critic. For this reason, I guess that is why we go to such lengths to ensure things like planes, saws, and chisels for example are sold with minimal work required for the buyer. I know it was a service I would have gladly paid for when working on the tools but no such service ever existed.
Any professional that dedicates their full time to the pursuit of excellence in their profession will also know others within their field but not all have the same skills, knowledge, or dedication.
I know that 20 years ago when I worked on the tools my day rates per man were what people expect today, and working on a price I’d expect to earn that by lunchtime, but I wasn’t the same as others in my trade. No two tradesmen are equal in their worth and being amongst the best takes real commitment & endeavor.
I only came out of my trade when a respected fellow tradesman and friend in my trade lost his life at work, leaving a wife and three children. I had four kids and a wife myself and the thought I could be next didn’t sit well with me, especially when I was aware of the circumstances and why this had happened with the main contractor’s known practices. The money aspect suddenly lost its appeal, given what we were expected to do for it.
I’ve worked on price work all my life, it’s something I’ve come accustomed to but let me tell you this, sometimes these tools we refurbish can be a pig to get right! It’s not an exact science and problem-solving what has been through another person’s hands can be at times very frustrating.
Those lucky enough to avoid issues with restoring old tools that I talk about and say it’s easy haven’t done this as often as we have here. A plane will always take shaving for example if the blade is sharp, how well it works on those difficult grains & timbers is another thing entirely. A glass-like finish from your smoother which follows your other planes exactly can’t be done easily without a proper flat sole for example, unless the added work of a scraper is used. CA glue and wood dust for tearout can hide a multitude of sins we all know but to a connoisseur and woodworking expert, these are easily recognisable.
It’s like anything really, the more you know and the more you understand it’s up to the individual to what standards they set themselves. Experts tend to be the quietest of them all and rarely put their heads over the parapet whilst those suffering from the Dunning Kruger effect often shout the loudest. I really wish I knew about this many years ago especially when my father used this saying:
Son, when I was sixteen I knew the lot!
When I was twenty-one, I knew, I knew the lot!
Now I’m sixty-five, I now know, I know nothing!
So all I can say really is that there is an ever-growing crowd of ‘tool dealers’ screaming for craftspeople’s attention with their old tools but few have studied their subject without sitting on the shoulders of others. Knowing whether tools are complete with compatible parts, testing their usability, and following and understanding best practices.
There are old tools that simply require time and skill and very few tools that don’t, some have real issues and some are just about worthy of being spare parts. Some used tools may take you several hours or days to complete to a highly usable standard fit for fine woodworking etc.
Those with an astute eye for detail understand why we are different here, it’s those that have yet to learn this who are usually being taken advantage of. Beginners and the semi-skilled will battle not only learning craft techniques but also be hindered by their choice of tools.
I’ll just carry on and watch the merry-go-round that so many less scrupulous today think is a gravy train, it’s sad to see but some need to experience things the hard way before they see the light.
Selling old tools and knowing what they are isn’t the same as selling tools with a complete understanding of how they should be or indeed doing this to a high standard.