For many collectors of antiques, hand tools offer fascinating insights into the craftsmanship of years gone by. From planes to saws, they are reminders of life before automation and mass production. Collectors who are new to the scene may have some questions about the best approach to take when shopping for these antiques on eBay. By getting to know the various categories of tools and marks of authenticity, collectors can seek out and find prime examples in the vast inventory on eBay.
Popular categories of antique hand tools
Before looking through the listings on eBay, collectors should familiarise themselves with the general categories that antique hand tools fall into, along with the features that add value to collectible pieces. With this information in hand, collectors can more effectively discern the most valuable items among the large selection available.
Striking tools include hammers, axes, hatchets, and anything else meant to apply blunt force. Any of these typically features a wooden handle with no grip and a metal head. A hammer or axe that features a rare metal, such as copper or lead, can fetch a higher price than those made with base metals. Items with unique designs are also more desirable, such as a hammer with an attached secondary tool opposite the striking face of the head. Axes with specialised designs for esoteric purposes are also valuable items to watch out for.
The category of cutting tools includes antique chisels, knives, and saws. Saws are some of the most widely collected antique hand tools. Disston saws produced between the founding of the company in 1840 and the mid-20th century are the most ubiquitous saws, and they range from classic crosscut saws to specialised models.
Carpentry tools, including planes and hand drills, are also widely collected in the world of antique hand tools. Rare drills include those made entirely from wood and those accented with ivory pieces. Collectors can also watch for antique drills with hollow handles that hold extra bits.
Collectors covet antique planes not only for display but also for incorporation into a workshop. The majority of planes created before the 1850s have iron blades, while later planes incorporate steel and alloys. A common trope was for manufacturers to imprint the company name and location on the side, which makes planes some of the easiest antiques for collectors to identify and verify.
How to identify quality antique hand tools
Collectors who are browsing the listings on eBay can use a number of techniques to identify the best collectibles from the vast inventory. Each of these tips can provide insight into the quality of a tool and its provenance.
Look for prominent brand names
Certain manufacturers are automatically associated with quality in specific categories. Names to look for include Stanley when it comes to buying planes and Keen Kutter for cutting tools. Disston, Simmonds, and Atkins are known for making quality saws.
Watch for wood patina
Years of use causes a natural patina to develop on wooden elements, and this is actually a good sign when it comes to antique hand tools. A tool that has a refinished wood surface loses its value, so collectors should keep an eye out for a healthy patina on wood surfaces.
Verify with photos
Antique sellers on eBay often supplement listing information with a wide range of photos. Shoppers should examine these photos carefully to observe the condition of an item. Potential buyers should request close-up photos of brand names, logos, and other identifying marks.
eBay facilitates quick and easy communication between buyers and sellers using secure messaging services. Collectors who are having trouble assessing an item should feel free to ask the seller about its condition and provenance to confirm its worth as a collectible.
How to buy antique hand tools on eBay
With all of this information in mind, collectors can locate specific antique hand tools on eBay by performing a keyword search for the items they desire. Typing a general keyword phrase, such as "antique saw", pulls up a long list of matching products for sale. Using a more specific phrase, such as "antique Stanley plane", retrieves items specifically tagged with that brand name. Filter the results by price, seller location, and other criteria to find great deals and save money on shipping. Equipped with a few shopping tips, you can easily start to build a collection of these well-crafted items.