One of my fondest memories from childhood was building a small car for the local Pinewood Derby race with my grandfather. Though I had helped him with a few small projects around the house, this was my first chance to use some of those mysterious tools I saw hanging in his garage.
My grandfather was the type that seemingly had a tool to solve every problem, no matter how exotic or obscure. As a kid, I wondered how in the world anyone could build such a collection, but as he explained, it took a lifetime to assemble such a collection.
The Best Birthday Present Ever
For my 10th birthday, my grandfather gave me what I still consider one of the greatest birthday presents I’ve ever received. The afternoon of my birthday I found a doubled-bagged brown paper sack rolled down and stapled closed (my grandfather didn’t believe in gift wrap) with a little “Happy Birthday” note written in pen on the side of the bag.
The message read something like, “Consider this a jump-start on your very own collection.” The bag was heavy, so I carefully removed it from the table and on to the floor where I excitedly tore open the top of the bag. Inside I found one of the most beautiful gifts I’ve ever received:
These are the things I remember from the contents of that bag:
- Wrench set
- Socket set
- Screwdrivers in various lengths
- Tape measure
- Yankee Drill
- Assortment of nails and screws
Sometime later he also gave me a small toolbox to hold my new collection. That box of tools became my most prized possession.
I used it to help my mom hang pictures when we moved to a new house.
I used the pliers to remove the aerator on our kitchen faucet when it became clogged after some dirt made it’s way into the plumbing line. Talk about feeling handy!
When I was a little older, I even changed the blades on our lawnmower one spring (with a little supervision from my grandfather).
Now that I am older, and have a son, I want to pass along a love of well-built tools and help start him off with his own collection. I also continually look to fill in gaps in my own collection.
However, being a “frugal dad,” I also recognize that tools are expensive. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to find them for less than full retail.
The other day I stopped by a local pawn shop, attracted by a large tool chest in front of the store. You’ve probably seen the ones with the ball-bearing lined drawers that stack over six feet tall for well over $1,000. The shop was asking $600, and it wasn’t a bad deal, but I wasn’t ready to invest that much into organizing my collection (though it sure was tempting)!
Inside the shop they also had a number of mechanic’s sets with a variety of tools for sale. They were used, but all appeared in good condition, and a number of sets I recognized carried a lifetime warranty (such as the Sears Craftsman brand).
Yard Sales/Estate Sales
Another great way to find used tools is yard sales and estate sales. I know of a recent estate sale in my area where an older gentleman passed away and left a large tool collection for his wife to contend with.
The couple had no children, and the wife had given away a few items to friends. The rest was being sold, along with their home, as she planned to downsize into an apartment community. I like to think that man would be happy to know his tools will continue their useful life as they are passed on to future generations.
Of course there is a lot competition from other buyers looking to add to their own tool collections. Just ask anyone who has recently held a yard sale; lots of folks come by only looking for tools.
I continue to keep an eye out for new tools, and will even pick up some in the stores or online at places like Amazon.com when they appear on sale. And I think now I’ve solved the problem of what to get my son for his next birthday.