Finding Used Timber Framing Hand Tools

by ziggy on November 3, 2011 -- 1 comment -- Follow


1 1/2" framing chisel & corner chisel found at flea market

I’ll admit, I do like shopping once in a while, although I dislike going to most stores. The kind of shopping that I don’t complain about, though, is the kind that happens once a month at our local flea markets.

These flea markets are brimming with tools, if you can manage picking through piles and piles of rust and assorted junk, but every once in a while you will walk away happy. I’ve spent the last year specifically looking for timber framing tools, and have had some success with procuring things on my want list.Timber framing tools are pretty damn expensive, and I mostly feel as though I have no right spending large sums of cash on single tools. (Part of that is because I feel like I need to “earn it”, or something, and definitely because I’m very thrifty. Not only that, I’d rather buy used (in any category of life’s material items) if I can.

There seems to exist a spectrum of what can easily be procured, and what is more difficult to find. On the easy side are: draw knives, axes, hatchets, squares, planes, levels, adzes, t-augers, press drills, saws (mostly all crap, though), etc. Even broad axes are pretty common.

The most difficult things to find seem to include chisels and related carving tools. Gouges make an uncommon appearance, and good chisels are equally rare. For some reason, they almost never show up on the flea market tables. I’ve actually seen (or heard of) more boring machines than framing chisels at our flea market!

I did get lucky last month when a fellow at the Colony Flea Market, who has a large collection of hand tools, brought in a few new items. Among the mix was the 1.5″ framing chisel, and Keen Kutter corner chisel pictured at the top of this post. He let both go for $40 total. A great deal.


Used broad axe found at flea market

The broad axe above was had for $50 (with a decrepit handle that I sawed off). It needs some work, but it’s a bargain compared to any new broad axe head.

I’m curious to know what folks are able to find easily at their own local flea markets, and what is considered rare. Chime in if you have experience in this regard.

It’s been fun to have a good excuse to look for new tools at the flea market (I mean, we are building a roundwood timber frame kitchen, and a new timber frame house, after all), and with our natural building workshops coming up next year, I’ve been ever watchful of those prized hand tools.

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  • Scott

    It’s fairly easy to find hand tools-even antiques-though you will have to look through a lot of junk first. I’ve found all sorts of hand tools-some very high quality industrial ones. Antique tools are often in the same shape of that axe you found. If you’re willing to clean’em up and maybe put a new handle on it, you shouldn’t have a lot of problems. The bigger the flea market,the better.
    I’ve gotten a coffee can of used,but good condition,tools for two dollars. I’ve had much better luck with the “short term” stalls, where someone is there just to get rid of some junk. That’s where the jewels hide.
    Industrial closeouts usually have Good Stuff-don’t forget surplus stores! In addition to military items,they often have industrial surplus. Finding what you want just requires persistence.

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