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Free to a good home

There comes a time when you have to get rid of perfectly good tools for whatever reason – you never use them, you already own one (or more) that you prefer to use, you don’t need backups, or you somehow acquired too many. Who really needs five nearly identical circular saws?

So, what to do? Clearly, you don’t just throw away perfectly good tools. The tool gods would smite you with lighting and thunder for such an offense. But selling used tools is a chore I only rarely attempt, and then only when the return is large enough to make the hassle worthwhile.


Unless you live in a populous area, the buyer pool is limited. A big metro area? Sure, plenty of buyers, but not in small cities or rural areas. There’s the eBay option, but tools are heavy, meaning packing and shipping is both tedious and expensive. Newspaper ad? Forget that. Craigslist? Too scary.

The best option is when you know another woodworker who’s looking for the very tool you want to get rid of. You know each other, trust each other, can answer questions about a tool and even offer to show how it works. Offer a bargain price, and everybody wins. But lacking that, it’s back to square one.

For me, a lot of the surplus tools I own I never paid for in the first place. Being a woodworking journalist, manufacturers gift me with free stuff for testing and evaluation, which I’m happy to do – that’s my job, after all. But once that evaluation is done, if they don’t want the tool back and I don’t add it to my regular arsenal I’ll never sell it. That just wouldn’t be right.

So, I like to pass on my good fortune, and “dispose” of these perfectly good, extra tools the same way I got them: Give them to someone who can make use of them. Even better if they’re tools they couldn’t afford.

My favorite for this is schools with technical or woodworking tracks in their curricula. Family members, neighbors and friends have all been happy recipients over the years. And the best part is that you’re helping to spread the gift of woodworking. If your gift of a tool helps someone advance in the hobby, or even if it only helps them get a job done that would have been difficult without it, then you’ve accomplished something good. Even more so by giving an idle tool a better “life” than just gathering dust in your shop storeroom.

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