So, the Grizzly Tent Sale along with the recent article in issue 179, “The Best Tool I Ever Bought,” got me thinking about this question. What is the best tool deal I ever got? I think this is a question that has some real discussion potential. It’s the woodworking equivalent of old war stories. So, I’ll start.
I’m an auction junkie. I’ll spend all day at an auction waiting for one particular tool to sell. Then it’s a fifty-fifty proposition on whether I’ll even bid on it. The chances go way down from there on whether I’ll see it through to the last bid and buy the tool – I only want the best of deals when I’m frequenting auctions. But even if I come home empty-handed, I’ll still consider an auction time well spent if there were some good tools for sale. Of course, my wife doesn’t understand any of this and refuses to go to auctions with me.
So, when I was looking for my first tablesaw, I waited until the right auction came up. I wasn’t looking for anything fancy; it was my first tablesaw, but was not intended to be my last. So, when an auction finally listed an old Craftsman contractor saw along with several other tools, I thought I might hop in my pickup and spend a Saturday in a small town in middle-of-nowhere Oklahoma. First I called the auctioneer to see if he could offer any more information on the condition of the saw.
His voice was nearly shaking when he described the items up for bid. “You have got to come to this auction. I have never seen anything like it in my 25 years of calling auctions,” he told me. “There are far more tools than we could list. You simply won’t believe it.”
I thought that he might just be selling me a line, but he did say that the tools were all in new to nearly new condition, so I decided to go, anyway.
It turned out that the auctioneer had actually been underselling the situation. The first thing you saw when you walked onto the old farmstead was a flat-bed semi trailer parked in the middle of the circular, gravel driveway. Piled high on the trailer were tools of all kinds, most new in their boxes. In most cases, there were multiple copies of each tool. There were a half dozen cordless screwdrivers, a wide assortment of circular saws, sanders, reciprocating saws – everything you could think of was there. Almost none of it had ever been used. Everything was Craftsman.
Surrounding the property like a ring of soldiers were double-stacked rolling mechanics’ chests. I counted 24. Each drawer was packed with tools. One drawer would be filled with hammers. One would be filled with screwdrivers. One with wrenches. One with socket sets. One with pliers. All brand new. It was Christmas.
Oh yeah. My tablesaw was there, with very little wear and only a few signs of neglect – easily repaired.
The auctioneer – wisely – started with the household items. I immediately got on the cell phone with my dad.
“You’ve got to get out here. I don’t care how long of a drive it is.”
While I tried to make my dad understand, I looked around at the crowd. There were only about 50 or 60 people at the auction, but nearly all of them were, like me, on their cell phones talking frantically and gesturing wildly.
By the time the auctioneer got to the flatbed of power tools, there were probably 300 plus people there, including my dad. There were enough tools to go around. Everyone got a good deal. I got my tablesaw. Dad spent more than I did buying small power tools.
We were certainly happy with our deals, but we couldn’t help being curious about the story behind the sale. So we tracked down some of the locals that were hanging around the auction and asked some questions. It turned out that the owner had died. He had been preceded in death by his parents who left him the farm along with all of their oil money, rights and residuals. The man had no other close family, but had a crush on the Sears salesgirl in a nearby city. In order to get to talk with her, he would drive into town and buy tools. These, he would take and tuck away in the rickety old out-buildings that surrounded his farm. Until he passed away and the auctioneers came in to make an accounting of his estate, no one in the little farming community had any idea of the extent of the treasure hoarded right next door.
The salesgirl must have had tremendous sales numbers and commissions, quickly cut short by the man’s death.
My wife thought that it was sweet that the man would go to such length just to talk to the object of his affection. I assured her that I would happily buy piles of tools to express my love. For some reason she wasn’t as impressed by my gesture.
It was a wild story. I have no idea how much of the locals’ was true. But that’s my best tool deal story. What’s yours?
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