I’m always coming up with crazy ideas for businesses related to woodworking. One of them was renting out woodworking tools. Now, I like the idea of being able to rent a high dollar tool if I only need to use it once, but I saw may flaws with this type of a business. If anyone thinks they can pull it off, let me know. I’d like to see it work. In the meantime I’m going to give you some ideas of how you can rent high quality woodworking tools.
There are some places where you can rent tools on an hourly, daily, or weekly basis. That’s not what this article is about at all. In fact what I’m talking about is not technically renting at all. The idea is this: any tool you buy can be re-sold, and the purchase price minus the price you sell it for is the cost of renting the tool (along with selling fees if there are any). Sometimes, if you’re lucky you can strike a good deal on a used tool and even make money on it. This article applies mostly to hand tools and some hand-held power tools.
Where should you go to find tools that can later be sold for near the same price or more than you bought them for? There are many places, some more obvious than others. First place to go is anywhere that sells fine woodworking tools. What am I talking about? There are certain brands of tools that maintain their value even if used. This shouldn’t be a surprise since we see this with used cars. Brands like Toyota and Lexus tend to hold their values better than others. The brands that tend to hold their value are also the brands that are very high quality and rarely or never go on sale. Lie-Nielsen and Veritas are prime examples of tools that hold their value. Ever tried to buy a #4 Lie-Nielsen or Veritas on eBay? It’s funny to see that they almost go for full retail price and they probably do go for what the person bought them for years ago. This goes for Festool tools as well. I personally would probably rather buy something with so many moving parts brand new if I’m going to shell out that kind of coin, but people buy them used on eBay all the time for close to full retail price.
That being said, I have seen all of these tools for sale on local classifieds sites. One time I just missed out on buying a Kapex saw for $400. At that price I take a chance on it. I bought a Lie-Nielsen #4 ½, edge trimming plane, chisel plane, small scraper plane and a scrub plane all for $400. I ended up selling them all on eBay and this is what I learned. Only the essential tools (the #4 ½) command the premium used price. Other tools can be picked up at about $30 to $50 less than retail.
I have yet to find anything really worth buying at a yard sale although I don’t doubt that you can find some really good deals. Many people swear by estate sales or flea markets for picking up old Stanleys or other vintage hand tools that are still in good condition and just need a thorough cleaning. These tools can be put to use and sold usually for more than what they cost.
I will only consider buying a large piece of equipment locally. The price you pay for freight typically outweighs any cost savings you get from buying used. I have bought three table saws, a jointer, two band saws, an edge bander, and a dust collector either from classifieds or from friends. I was able to sell all of them for near the same price or more than what I bought them for, but your best chance at selling them is locally. Buying larger equipment new is preferred if you’re going to keep the tool forever, but this whole “renting” idea is not as good for larger tools as they tend to lose value like a car driven off of a dealership lot. I typically don’t buy larger tools unless it’s 50% less than retail.
Have I ever bought something that didn’t live up to my expectations. Yes, but it was really my fault. It was back when I was getting started and I bought an old Millers Falls plane and didn’t inspect it well enough. When I went to use it I found out that the adjustment screw was welded shut with rust and rendered the tool completely useless (unless I can get replacement parts. Anybody?).
Could this have been prevented. Most definitely. You can see the condition of the tool when you go to buy it by looking it over and if it’s a power tool turning it on. Sometimes you can even do a test cut to make sure it’s working properly. The worst experiences are usually deals I walk away from when I get there because the tools are not quite as described. The best advice is if it is badly rusted and/or it just looks like it wasn’t taken care of very well, it probably isn’t the best deal and you can find a better one.
How do you know if you’re getting a good deal. The best way to know is to see what they are going for online. eBay is a great way to see what anything is worth. If you have time you can just watch an item that is listed and see what it sells for when the auction ends. If you don’t have time or the item is fairly rare and there are none on sale at the moment there is a tool on ebay that lets you see what the same item has sold for historically.
The moral of the story is that the purchase price is not the true cost of the tool. The true cost of the tool is how much you paid minus what you can sell it for. Now don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy owning and using tools. But when I don’t use them anymore or I need some money, I just sell them. I try to forget about them just as soon as their gone and some are harder to part with than others. But the price you pay for quality tools is far less than you think.
Is it a pain in the rear to sell tools on classifieds sites or eBay? Usually. But at the same time you can have fun with it. Just be careful and don’t be offended if you get some spam or low-ball offers.
Does anyone have any stories about experiences they’ve had, good or bad?