Why I Buy Used Power Tools

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Blog entry by TheWoodenOyster posted 07-10-2014 05:52 AM 5409 reads 0 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Why I Buy Used Power Tools

Alright, below is my spiel on why I buy used tools. Just like the rest of my posts, I am not claiming this to be gospel truth, but this is my thought process when it comes to making large power tool purchases. Hopefully this won’t overlap with my craigslist blog too much, but I feel they are different topics and each deserve their own post.

When I acquired a real shop (a garage) for the first time about 18 months ago, I happily set out to look at purchasing my big tools – tablesaw, jointer, bandsaw, planer, router, drill press, you name it. As I stated in my second blog post a while back, I prefer to purchase the tool that I want forever when I make my first purchase (the reasoning for that is listed in the other blog). Much to my chagrin, I found that the new retail prices on those types of tools were astronomical. Below are some current prices on brand new machines without tax or shipping, the first two are enough to scare you away:

3 HP Unisaw w/ fence: $3,299.99
2 HP Powermatic 20” bandsaw: $4,650.99

I know what you’re thinking. “Well he’s quoting all of the expensive ones. He should be quoting a Grizzly or a Rikon or a Laguna”. Ok, let’s do that too. But, I will only quote them to the size that I ended up purchasing in the end.

3 HP Grizzly 1023RLX: $1,525.00
3 HP Grizzly 19” Bandsaw : $1,425.00

Ok, well that is better. Still a lot of cash, but much better. Well, as I started to look on craigslist, I would see tools from much more reputable brands, many of them made in the USA back when Detroit was still bustling, at cheaper prices than the “cheap” Grizzly prices listed above(Just an aside, I am in no way trying to attack Grizzly or Rikon or any of the other cheaper brands, but I think it is safe to say that the majority of us would consider a USA Made classic Delta or Powermatic better quality than Grizzly, Rikon, etc). Thus far I have made three large used power tool purchases for the following prices:

3 HP Unisaw w/ Excalibur fence, extension table and a 3 hp router to boot: $1,050
1.5 HP Powermatic 20” bandsaw: $1000
2 HP 13” RC-33 Delta planer: $200

Still a decent hunk of change, but in return, I got half of what I needed to satisfy myself and surely most woodworkers when it comes to setting up a VERY nice shop. I saved about $1000 to $1500, even when compared to buying the cheapest comparable power tools on the market. Buying used tools is not only cheaper but can also be a bit nostalgic. When you see the name of the guy who inspected your tool at the factory in Tennessee in 1965, it makes you feel pretty cool. They do take some calibration and can bring some additional headaches with them, but in the end I believe they are the best bang for your buck option when looking for power tools, and often times hand tools as well.

To summarize, I will list what I feel the major pros and cons of buying used are.

Pros: Cheaper, Easier to work on, Nostalgic and totally awesome
Cons: Lack of custom options, lack of safety widgets (dust collection and flesh detection come to mind)

For me and for many of you, what it really comes down to in the end is this: How can I get a lot of tool for the cheapest price? I believe used tools are the best answer. In general, this can and does apply to hand tools all the way up to stationary power tools. If you have never considered it as an option, I implore you to give it a shot.

-- The Wood Is Your Oyster

8 comments so far

View HillbillyShooter's profile


5811 posts in 3178 days

#1 posted 07-11-2014 01:18 AM

You make a strong case and appear to have really thought through your approach—it makes sense for you and I agree that the older floor tools were better made. The only heads up I’d suggest is that you carefully check the availability of parts for the brands you choose. I have heard and experienced either a great deal of difficulty or impossibility in trying to obtain Delta parts.

-- John C. -- "Firearms are second only to the Constitution in importance; they are the peoples' liberty's teeth." George Washington

View TheWoodenOyster's profile


1335 posts in 2821 days

#2 posted 07-11-2014 02:15 AM

Bummer. I hope that my stuff holds up. One thing I like about older machines is that some (not all) parts are generic nuts and bolts. Some new machines, though replacement parts are easy to get a hold of, have parts and pieces that are a mystery to mankind. Thanks for the comment

-- The Wood Is Your Oyster

View Dennis Reynolds's profile

Dennis Reynolds

39 posts in 2837 days

#3 posted 07-11-2014 02:14 PM

I also will but some used power tools. I have a Delta tablesaw, bandsaw and jointer. You just can’t beat them. Well made, solid and with the internet and it’s wonders I haven’t had any problems finding parts. I got 3 great used tools for the price of 1 new one even after I put new blades on them all.

-- Dennis Reynolds

View B0b's profile


105 posts in 3576 days

#4 posted 07-11-2014 03:05 PM

I got lucky enough to find a carpenter who was retiring, and bought a portable router table, 13” planer, and belt sander. All amazing deals for top notch equipment. I also found a scroll saw at a garage sale that turned out to be a terrible idea, and a drill press that I wish I researched more. I was offered a free table saw, but it would have taken to many hours to restore. In the end, I completely agree with you, but with the caveat that it really depends on the tool. Scroll saws are a great example where you really want some of the new features to make your work easier and better.

-- Time to get started

View MT_Stringer's profile


3183 posts in 4117 days

#5 posted 07-11-2014 03:18 PM

“3 HP Unisaw w/ Excalibur fence, extension table and a 3 hp router to boot: $1,050
1.5 HP Powermatic 20” bandsaw: $1000
2 HP 13” RC-33 Delta planer: $200”

Did those prices include delivery to the floor of your garage? :-)

I found a Delta Unisaw w/52 inch rails at a decent price, but had to pass. It looked great – all 450 pounds of it! The seller didn’t have 220 to test run it for me (it was in a storage facility), and no way to load it. Bummer.

So, I bought a “cheap” Grizzly and had it delivered to my garage floor in 4 days…a year and 1/2 ago. I did tip the SAIA truck driver. He has been back one more time and got another tip for delivering the 18-36 drum sander.

Note: I did buy the Jet 6 inch jointer from the guy selling the Unisaw. That, we managed to load in the back of my truck. It has been a good tool.

-- Handcrafted by Mike Henderson - Channelview, Texas

View TheWoodenOyster's profile


1335 posts in 2821 days

#6 posted 07-11-2014 03:37 PM

That is another downside of buying used. Delivery is one of those “additional headaches” I was talking about. I’ll gladly deal with a transportation headache to save hundreds, though. As a note, I just moved and I rented a liftgate truck from penske. Best idea ever. Moving my stationary equipment was a breeze. That rental would be a great option for anyone without a forklift or a bunch of friends, even for just a one machine move.

As far as the purchase prices go, I am not really one of those guys who will watch craigslist for 6 months. Typically, I buy my tools if I need them for a specific commission. That said, my purchase window is around 2 to 3 weeks. For me, I’d rather have an awesome saw now for $1000 than a good saw in 2045 that cost me $45. That’s an exaggeration, but I don’t really have the time to wait on those awesome deals. Time is money in my book.

-- The Wood Is Your Oyster

View HTown's profile


114 posts in 2072 days

#7 posted 02-26-2015 12:34 AM

I’m new to LJ. I’ve been enjoying what everyone’s been sharing… Thought it was time to pay back by posting.

Wood Oyster, I couldn’t agree with you more. I wish I had started my tool journey on the used route…

I’ve enjoyed some good finds on Craigslist in the last six months. Most of the things I’m after haven’t had significant changes in the last 10 years. Most of the “upgrades” are gadgets I didn’t know that I needed. The things I generally find are from other woodworkers who didn’t use things too hard and cared for them well. A lot of things I buy I don’t really need at the time, but pick them up when I see a good deal on something I expect to use in the future. A few recent additions from CL with some lessons learned:

1. Jet 22-44 Plus Drum Sander. This version had the smartsand technology without the fancy labeling. Ended up replacing the drive roller and conveyor belt. I’m guessing that Jet upgraded the drive roller from rubber to knurled steel. Even with the new parts, still a good deal and works like new.
2. Jessem Router Table Package (table, lift, miter slide, fence) along with a Dewalt router. The lift mechanism doesn’t have the functionality that they have now. But it absolutely works for what I need. It took a little time to tune it up, but the manuals and good instructions can be found online.
3. Tormek Grinder. I never would have bought this new. Having said that, I’ve never seen my tools so sharp. This is a real game changer. I love going to my hand plane.
4. Fuji Q4 sprayer. I didn’t think I’d buy a HVLP unit used, until I saw how well it was taken care of. Hint… I bought this in a “bundle” wit the Tormek. This is a good way to get a better price if you can swing more than one tool at a time.
5. General International Mortiser. Took it apart, cleaned off the surface rust (I love surface rust… a little elbow grease can yield big savings). I did wax the cast iron and painted surfaces…. looks like brand new. Believe it or not, only one chisel had ever been used and it was still sharp.
6. Wilton 12” Cabinet Vise. I bought this on a trip… Big lesson here is that you should consider how you’ll be getting things home.
7. Omnijig with all but one template (the old style heavy duty aluminum version). Another person’s junk was my treasure here. I paid 1/6 of the original new price. I cleaned it up and bought a new knob online. It took a little time to learn to use it, but that is part of why I love woodworking.

My advice, is to try for 1/3 to 1/2 of the current new price. Be familiar with what the new tools look like so you’ll recognize what the one your buying should look like. Find the manuals online before you go to look. Know what the tool should come with as a lot of people just don’t know. Remember to ask for the accessories. Have an idea what the major parts will cost. As long as you don’t buy a lemon, at these prices you should be able to sell if if you change your mind.

Hope this helps somebody. Please let me know if you have any questions.

View StevenWoodward's profile


16 posts in 75 days

#8 posted 08-23-2020 12:16 AM

I agree that a used machine, of good design quality is the way to go. When you restore a used machine, that is a great feeling, and gives a confident understanding of how the machine works and how to maintain it.

I restored a 1984 RC-33 planer (13inch 4-post) and installed a Byrd Shelix cutter head. I don’t think there is as good a 13 inch planer sold today and if there is it would cost a lot more.

For RC-33 restoration including: instruction manuals, parts list, YouTube video, cleaning, lubrication, adjustment, and optional upgrade to Byrd Shelix helical segment cutter head, check out my post: LumberJocks.

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