I went to a woodworking garage sale last weekend and came across a drum sander. It looked so lonely and in need of a new home, how could I say no? I really like my spiral cutter-head planer, but it can only take material down so thin. I’ve always heard good things about conveyor fed drum sanders and thought that this would be an interesting addition to the shop. Its potential for assisting with re-sawing veneers or for ensuring the uniform thickness for parts of a bent lamination seem, to me at least, to make it worth buying if the price was right.
The previous owner had built a very nice mobile base that used good quality casters. The guy also had about 20 rolls of sandpaper in various grits 60, 80, 100, 120, 150, 180, and 220 which were included with the machine.
I purchased the machine for $400, which seems to be a reasonably good deal. I was a little shocked to find out how much the sandpaper for the machine costs once I got home and started looking things up. Considering the paper that was included, the deal seems better still.
I am in the process of designing and installing a dust collection ducting system for my shop and thought that I had finalized my floor plan. This new tool has thrown a wrench to two into the mix and I’ll have to give some thought to where I am going to locate it and how I am going to add it in to the system.
I have had quite a lot of luck in piecing my wood-shop together through Craigslist adds or garage sales. The only big tool/machine that I have purchased brand new is my dust collector. Buying this way has enabled me to buy much better tools that I would have been able to if I was only buying new. The biggest additional cost to buying used tools is time. You have to be prepared to check Craigslist every day or two and also to go to many garage sales. I have had plenty of days when I came back empty-handed, but that’s how it goes.
You also can’t be in a hurry buying in this method. If you decide you must buy a table saw first, then you may find a good deal, but are limiting yourself. I have spent over four years slowly improving my shop and have acquired the tools as I came across them, not searching for a specific item or thing in a specific order (I still haven’t found a full-sized lathe at the right price). The best instance of this is when I responded to an ad for a Grizzly 10-inch wet grinder. I ended up buying a huge Grizzly table saw and an 8-inch spiral cutter-head jointer from the guy that day. This remains my largest tool purchase ever.
I save up some cash and wait until I “stumble” across the right tool at a good price. That brings me to the other main part of my buying strategy. I never pay more than half of the new retail price. Period. Most of the deals that I have come across have been in the 1/3 of new price range. Some a little more, some perhaps as low as 1/4. But 1/2 is my limit. If I can’t get it at that, I’m prepared to walk away. Most of the big tools I have bought have been between five and ten years old. Things depreciate (except for Lie-Nielsen planes, but that’s another story). As with any purchase, if you get attached and just have to have the item, you’re going to pay more.
Also, I enjoy cleaning up older tools. I’m quite happy to download the manual and go through a tool from top to bottom cleaning, lubing, and resetting or calibrating it to factory specs. Some might argue that this is not time spent woodworking, but I’m in my shop and enjoying myself, and after all that’s what this hobby is about, no?
Well, I have rambled on long enough. What do you think? How do you buy your big shop tools? New, used, auctions, estate sales? Or, do you have any experience or thoughts on the Jet drum sander? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
– Jonathan White