More collecting, rare or not

Although I joked last time about rare collectibles, I don’t consider myself a collector. I have an affinity for certain things, though, and grab them when I see them.

Brass miner’s lamps, Civil War memorabilia, small glass bottles, old tools. These are just some of the things I find cool enough that whenever I see one that looks interesting, if the price is right and I’ve got some extra cash in my pocket, I’ll buy it. In most cases, I clean it up and put it to use.

Any serious collectors reading this probably gasped when I said that last, but like I said I’m not a collector in that sense. I like old things, and for me the enjoyment is not putting them on a shelf in whatever rotten shape they came in, but rather restoring them to working condition and making them a part of my life. That restoration may lower the antique value, but I don’t really care. We’re not talking about rare, historically important items here – that’s a whole different kind of value; I don’t buy museum pieces – but old and very common items. For those, what I care about is using them. A perfect example would be the two hammers I bought this weekend.

As you can see, the small one had already been cleaned up (I suspect the head had been given a muriatic-acid bath), so antique value wasn’t even an issue with that one. The head on the larger one is rusty and loose, but I think the handle is salvageable.

I have no idea how old these are or who made them. Yeah, I’m a bit curious but it doesn’t really matter. I’m more interested in the fact that they’ve obviously lived a long and useful life in the hands of other woodworkers or carpenters – both heads show a lot of wear – which tells me that they’re experienced and have most likely helped create a lot of things.

With a legacy like that, I’d much rather they continue working in my hands than gather rust and dust on a display shelf.



  • Chuck Riccardo says:

    Very well said. You expressed it perfectly. I think many of us feel that way but few of us could frame it so well..

    Another good find would be a set of four nearly new Estwing hammers at a tag sale for ten dollars. I think her husband was out on one too many deer hunts that month…

  • Tom Conlin says:

    I’m with you 100%, A.J. I have been lucky enough lately to make a few good garage and barn sale finds, and I am using these new/old tools daily. I have been having good luck using an electrolysis tank I made out of a plastic tote bin and some rebar electrodes to clean the rust off of some old handplanes, and have got them tuned up pretty well for everyday use. I like them better, and think they are made better, than most new tools you can buy nowadays.
    Reminds me of how the old Japanese sword and tool makers talk about every one of their creations having a “soul.” Since they believe everything in nature has a spirit, they treat their tools with great respect; the older the object, the greater the reverence for where it has been and what it has done. Kinda like my new favorite philosophy, “Old Guys Rule.” Old guys and old tools are nothing if they can’t be of use.

  • Dan Walters says:

    I agree with your concept completely. Leave the museum pieces but restore the others. All the tools in my shop work for a living.

  • Dezri Dean says:

    After having been forced to “downsize” I have no use for things that won’t fit in a shared garage AND have no use on a regular basis! I have kept all my fathers old tools but not in the garage because there is no room for them!

  • Samantha says:

    “In most cases, I clean it up and put it to use.

    Any serious collectors reading this probably gasped when I said that last”

    I gasped only because your wording made me picture you cleaning up and putting to use civil war memorabilia!

    Otherwise I’m on the same page- heck in my house we use the good silver to eat with every day.

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