The Tools of Craftsmanship

Craftsman and artisans alike have an affinity for certain tools–tools that are frequently difficult to find because of their rarity. Not because versions of these tools are no longer made, but because they feature characteristics no longer found in modern tools. Often these tools reflect the trades of their collectors or the history of their trades, and eras gone by. Others collect tools simply for their aesthetics and nostalgia.

Some brands no longer exist, making surviving examples extremely collectible. Some, like Stanley, are still in business and thriving, but have inspired a sub culture of collectors who prize the older tool models. ‘Toolies’ organise their collections in different ways: some collect brands, others collect by patents, and many specialise in sub categories like leather working tools, or woodworking tools, metal working tools, etc. Some folks seek out tools specific to certain geographical regions.

Collecting Tools as an Investment

Like many popular collection categories, tool collecting can be rather lucrative. The rarity of a tool, combined with its condition, will determine its worth to other collectors. The better condition a tool is in, even if it is not that uncommon, will command a higher value. There is also the history of a tool’s previous whereabouts; the history of a tool’s ownership, sometimes called provenance, can add value to the tool.

Where to Find Old Tools?

Established collectors will know where to find all the best antique tools. But many have gone to the internet to share their collections and knowledge. Some say the days of finding rare tools at garage sales or at flea markets are gone, but that’s not necessarily true–one never knows what he’s going to find until he looks. However, the likelihood of finding truly rare items is slim these days, though the hunting is still fun and inspiring. One may never find the exact tool he is seeking, but there are plenty out there, and many are for sale.

Highly Collectible Tools

  • Wood Planes
  • Levels
  • Anvils
  • Saws
  • Hand Drills
  • Rules
  • Axes
  • Chisels
  • Plumb Bobs

These are just a few of the most popular. There are, of course, so many more. Socket sets, bit sets, and even miniature irons and scrapers are collectible.

Tool Shops in Brisbane

Potential future collectors curious about what others find collectible may peruse listings on the internet. One of the best sites available for toolies and fellow collectors in Australia (and the rest of the world via the internet) is The Tool Exchange. Originally established in 1988, the Tool Exchange began as an exhibit touring shows and swaps. Today it is the largest website for antique tools in the world.

There is something very novel about old tools. The craftsmanship employed to fashion them is testament of the craftsmanship of the artisans who depended upon them. Many feature unique wooden handles, worn and discolored by years of the sweat and blood of the men that made a living using them. Even the metal tools bear scars, scratches, and marks of the past–each of which has a story behind it. Some tools are engraved, and many of the very early tools are home made. Each one is a treasure, and almost anything vintage or antique is collectable. Even books about collecting are collectable, as well as tool catalogs, advertisements, and some paraphernalia. Collectors overwhelmed by the choices might start by examining what tool shops in Brisbane have to offer. Have the fun is just in the looking–one never knows what he might discover. Happy hunting!