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My bargain mortiser has a fatal flaw. The main casting had a crack, resulting in a big chunk of aluminum falling off when I tried to mount the motor on the base.
When I spotted a new looking bandsaw at a Saturday yard sale at 3:30 pm, I knew I had to stop. I figured I’d get an especially good deal so late in the day. Unfortunately, the bandsaw was already sold, but then I spotted the hollow-chisel mortiser on the ground. “Does it work?” I asked the guy. “Oh Yeah,” he said. Spotting the $100 price tag, I asked if he’d take $70. “No problem, I’ll even help you get it in the car.”
Feeling smug the whole way home, I loaded my new purchase into my garage shop. After clearing a spot on my bench, I noticed a hairline crack in the casting that connects the business end to the motor. Not sure if it was just a mark in the casting, I attempted to assemble the rig. That’s when huge chunk of aluminum fell off. It seems like my new-to-me mortiser was a turkey and I felt like an even bigger turkey for buying it.
My first impulse was to launch the thing into the guy’s yard who sold it to me, but then I decided to look for a repair part. Luckily, I found the part on the Sears parts direct website. Now, a few days later, my part is here. As it turns out, my $70 mortiser has turned into a $110 project. I’ll let you know how it turns out.
$40 later, I have a new main casting. Unfortunately, swapping all the pieces looks like a big job. I'm expecting at least two hours to get everything disassembled and put back together again.
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Very seldom do I buy used power tools. I don't even look at yard sales. But, a few months ago, I bought an old Craftsman
belt driven air compressor. I have no idea of its CFM capacity, but it does fine with my brad nailer and stapler. The guy was asking $40 for it, all I had was $32. He took it and I haven't looked back since.
I have been buying second hand tools for 20 years. Yes, mostly from pawn shops and the only bad experience I had was because I wasn’t paying attention to the condition of the tool. I normally do not by tools like compressors second hand, just too much can be hidden and not show during a quick demonstration in a pawn shop.
I just recently purchased a used Shopsmith off Craigslist.com. They guy said it had been his father’s before he passed away. I purchased the system (main unit built in 1988) for $1,000. When I picked it up he kept loading more and more stuff into the truck. After four weekends of sorting, cleaning, setting up, and tuning I added everything up as if I had purchased it new and it came to $6,000. Everything worked great.
This brings up something else about used tools especially if you have their history. I have many of my father’s had tools and I visualize him every time I use them. While loading the above mentioned Shopsmith I learned a good bit about the original owner, who had made models for the Smithsonian. I hope I make both proud when using “their” tools.
Oh, and I turned my wife on to “pawn shopping”. We once bought a citrine ring that I later discovered was a 12 carat flawless yellow sapphire.
I hope your refurb works out OK, Patrick.
One possible lesson in the experience is to take a magnifier along on yard-sale adventures, allowing closer scrutiny of higher-priced items. ;-)
Second hand works for a lot of tools, but not all.
I wouldn't get a second hand sliding mitre saw or cordless tools, but I am very happy with my second hand unisaw, heavy duty planer, powermatic joiner, shaper.
They all needed some tuning but they are worth it. I've had good luck with pawn shop worm drives for rough work, but I'd stick to new with Festool.
I also have many old hand planes.They are fun to tune up and use
I'm feeling bad about you getting a semi-raw deal on the morticer. But a part of me is saying: "See? You're not the only one."
I buy used tools mostly- all of them hand tools (I own almost no power tools) and I go in knowing that something needs to be replaced, tweaked, cleaned, repaired, etc. I always assume that something is wrong with it to begin with. That way, I'm not suprised or sandbagged when something hidden pops up while I'm cleaning my new prize.
Other than that, I think the others have said what needs to be said re: buying used power tools.
Oh! I do remember one thing: I carry a small 10X loupe with me just about everywhere I go (getting old stinks. At 42, I now need glasses- and sometimes the loupe- to read really small print). It comes in handy when examining a new find for cracks and other flaws.
I wish you better luck in the future and I hope you enjoy that morticer for a long, long time...
I am sorry to hear of your misadventure. That is one reason why I prefer hand tools over power tools.
I have say that "Pawn shopping" is usually a pretty good bet on buying tools. They at least plug them in and make sure they will power up before taking in tools. That does not mean that the tool has been properly tested. I've gotten in good enough with a couple of Pawnshops that sometimes they take something in and when they go to sell it, the tool doesn't power up or sounds rough when it does power up. They know I like to fix things and because of that, I get a great price on the non-working tool. Like my little 8" Makita portable table saw. $20 to start, add a new HD cord and a miter and it is almost as good as the same model Makita another shop was selling for $120, also used.
If you are planing to go "Pawn shopping" make sure you take the time to check the tool out the best of your ability under the circumstances. And don't be afraid to offer them less then what they are asking. It is a wheel and deal environment and you should take advantage of it. Best of luck and fun "Pawn shopping!"
With few exceptions, my entire shop is stocked by second-hand tools. So far, I've not been burned. I insist on plugging them in and running them before handing over the cash.
I'll tell you where the deals are: Pawn shops! This economy had caused lots of people to hock their tools. I picked up a practically new Ridgid Double bevel sliding compound miter saw, 12", for under $300! It is one that got a solid review in Taunton's 2009 tool guide.
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