Still Good Finds Around Thanks to eBay

Back in the 1980s we were paying higher prices for secondhand and especially collectable woodworking hand tools than we might be today hence no sympathy with those looking to buy nowadays. In fact collectable tools were usually obtained primarily from specialist dealers who bought and sold as any antique dealer might. They advertised in magazines mostly, but in the classified columns of local and regional newspapers you regularly saw adverts saying, “Old Woodworking Tools Bought and Sold–Carpenters, Wheelwrights, Coopers, Joiners and Cabinet makers. Good prices paid.”

Such tools were harder to find because, well, there was no eBay around and there was really not such thing as internet selling and buying. The only knowledge I had of old tools was what I saw in tools chests at my working at the bench. The selection of specific tools back in the 1980’s for instance would be very small when compared to looking on eBay and seeing perhaps a hundred wooden spokeshaves at any given time. It wasn’t that the tools were not there, it was that they were buried as junk in cellars and attics, sheds and garages. No one could really access a market to buy or sell without a great deal of effort. Then of course you had to deal with, well, dealers, who wanted what you had for very little money or even nothing. These three spokeshaves are eBay finds. I love the small version as a round-bottomed version.

It’s a funny thing that I pay less for a rosewood or ebony and brass mortise gauge now than I did back 30 years ago. Those gems made in the 1800s might have cost me £20 and more depending on the maker, material and type. As I said, I was paying that and more back in the 1980s. I recently picked up a few decent eBay finds and I thought you might find my rationale in purchases interesting. I bought a #4 Stanley for £15 knowing it had a broken handle I could fix. Of all the handles I have glued for repair, that’s the more awkwardly shaped rear tote, I’ve never had one I couldn’t glue and I’ve never had one break either. So I bought without hesitation as I often use them as an example for repair demonstrations in my workshops anyway. And this is my point. I sometimes buy because something is going for a song. Then there are things I buy because of rarity. This set of bits was not inexpensive and cost a little over £100. It was the condition, the plating and the maker that made the set rare. The bit roll, canvass, was felt lined and in excellent condition too. Mawhood was a reputable make or brand. Only one of these bits looked as though it had ever been used. It had a buy-it-now tag and I didn’t want to lose it. I will use them, of course I will, but I will also be very careful how and when and on what I do. Yes, I do have three very good sets, and then some an assortment of odd bits that I keep around too, but I use these in my classes as well. My new ones will be personal and for family. You understand, I am sure–none-loaners!

Here you can see the quality of the bit roll. Usually joiners used the bit rolls because they would travel well from the shop to the job; usually the work would be in homes, shops and offices.

You can see the condition of the bits here. Always check for how much they have been sharpened. If the spurs on the outside are filed too much the rim of the hole will be ragged.

And what about a pair of wooden T&G planes, boxed, named and still wrapped in their wax paper. Unused too, these planes are beechwood one were “war issue” , which means they were sent out without any kind of finish being applied by the manufacturer. T&G stands for tongue and groove. They were created to make tongue and groove boarding. These plane types are surprisingly useful and I use them a lot for creating paneling, inlay work, even sections of say floor boarding for the bottoms of a chest or a drawer bottom. Such like that they are instant. No fence setting, no depth setting–both one built into the planes. These planes come in various sizes depending mostly on the thickness of boards. Usually they go up to ⅞’’ and start at 3/16”. That means the thickness of wood for the latter is actually 3/16” with a 1/16” tongue and groove. This is very rare but I have such a pair. Common sizes are suited to material thickness from ⅜”, ½”, ⅝”, ¾” and ⅞”, by thatI mean the stock to be worked nit the stock of the planes. I have known other sizes but these are common. I also bought a used pair for £20 because I saw them and use them fairly regularly. They worked on arrival but were not a matched pair made by the same maker but two different makers. That said, they did match.


  1. Wonderful article Paul.

    We are fortunate to have a link to our past heritage and at such reasonable prices as you say.

    I have recently come into possession of my grandad’s old tools, he has a furniture maker who moved down to London.

    It is a pleasure using them, with care, and knowing I was making the same strokes. It brings me joy and yet also sadness to see such things no longer made, it is staggering how much skill has been lost overseas and from the world altogether.

    1. hi paul,
      thanks for your post.
      i also have bought some very good names in good condition and the price,so,so cheap, sometimes i wonder if the person knows what they are selling.
      i have marpbles chisels,spirit level with a beautiful brass top,english made stanley brace,with auges of which the stanley looks almost brand new,rob sorbey chisels quite a few,taylor chisels,a few saws, no names to the saw,s though, but the list could go on my last buy was for a mixture of wood working tools,all of which cost me £9.85.
      i love your videos and have subscribed keep up the great, fantastic work up ive learned quite a good few tips ideas etc up from thank you for that,
      kind regards

  2. Indeed a lovely article.

    I would love to show you the collection I obtained from local garage sales. You would amazed. For example I have acquired a dozen or so Stanley 4s paying between $10 and $15. I traded some for a 5 1/2 (which I love to use) in order to complete a collection of Stanley bench planes 3 through 8 plus the fractions . It took only 2 years and only $250 USD. More exotic planes from eBay. Then good saws, spoke shaves, bits, braces and marking gauges through eBay, friendly contacts, antique stores an travels. Good chisels were more difficult to find and were bought new.

    My best score was finding your online lectures and lessons.

  3. We are indeed fortunate to have the ability to purchase tools at the current prices. I wonder if the demand for old tools has changed with the availability of quality, new tools. Veritas, Lie-Neilson, and Clifton offer quality without scouring garage and boot sales for user tools.

    I love finding old tools and giving them new life by cleaning and using them again.

    1. It does all depend on your perspective. I have never really seen the named makers you mention to be superior planes to Stanley’s and Records of the 1900s through the 1960’s in terms of versatility and functionality. Of course the Stanley and Record planes are readily available for little money, less than 10% even, and with a little sweat equity you have a lifetime plane that matches the best and all the rest. I doubt whether most people would spend upwards £240 if they truly understood that the planes I mention will do everything the others will do and sometimes more even. Also, my article said nothing of “scouring garages and boot sales” even though I have picked up some fine planes there too.

  4. Hi Paul, did the T+Gs come with the blades? How were they?

    This looks like a good project to make. How would you go about making one of these?

    1. They did come with blades in too. Not sure how popular a video would be though.

      1. Making T&G and moulding planes gets my vote but maybe I’m in the minority?

        1. I’m with you as well. Would be really neat to see how moulding planes were made. I’ve done the rebate plane from Paul’s video, which works amazing, and thought about moulding planes wondering if it was at all similar.

      2. I would also find the video useful and desirable. Or perhaps you could do a short video discussing how to go about taking your Rebate plane design into Molding/T&G plane design. A video of the finer points, not necessarily an actual fabrication video. Similar to your Q&A videos..

  5. Love buying older tools on ebay occasionally as well as finding local gems on craigslist. I just nabbed a well adjusted bandsaw on cl for $200 and it was just 5 miles up the road.
    I bought my first plane from a box store and it was junk and I paid too much. After reading yours and others posts about what to look for in planes and other tools it became a breeze to find high quality tools for much less than anything sold at the box stores.

  6. I have better luck at wilsons clearance auctions in Dalry, also the car boot sales on the odd Sundays at Ayr racetrack than I’ve ever had on ebay, both are still hit and miss of course.

    I mean if I go on ebay, I’m up bidding against this Paul Sellers bloke for starters and he seems to have a real eye for this stuff.

  7. Have you done a note on how to sharpen the wooden spokeshaves? It looks as though you would have to remove the blade but that would be difficult.

    1. I believe he did – sat the iron on a block of wood and sharpened with a diamond paddle. Search for it it’ll most likely come up.

      1. With regards to those T&G planes that Paul found. You’ll notice that they are stamped with an arrow and the number 1942. The arrow indicates they were made for the military and the number is the date. The point is that the military only ever bought the best quality so these planes are top quality tools. I have a theory about this having been a soldier way back in the 50’s and 60’s. It was easier and quicker to get a new vehicle than it was to get replacement tools to repair those vehicles. Certainly REME tools were the best quality possibly only bettered by aircraft standard tools. The only time I ever saw one fail was by deliberate intention for the following reason. If someone lost a spanner, lets say in the body of a tank. The NCO in charge of the stores would need to order a new one. OK so far! Before we could get the new one we would have to indent for it and then there was a discussion as to the action to be taken against the person who “lost” the tool. The indent was then passed and a new tool could be issued when there was one available. That might take two or three months. However, if the tool was broken all the rigamarole was bypassed. A correctly sized spanner was broken and one half was presented for exchange, the next month the other half was presented. One was presented to the tradesman and the other was put back in the G1093 store. This method was always much quicker than indenting through normal channels. Sorry to be long winded, I get carried away. You must appreciate that everything I say is of great interest and importance.:-)

  8. Well Tony,

    I actually found your story interesting and not “long winded”.

    Thanks for that.


  9. Definitely still finding gems on ebay. I just picked up 1910-18 #4 for less than $40 US that is in very good shape: no pitting, original blade, wood is still nice.

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