What Kind of Hand Tools To Look For In Yard Sales

Yard sales are held by people and organizations for getting rid of excess items that are no longer serving them any purpose. These sales offer great products with even greater bargains, making it an amazing opportunity for shoppers.

Products that are sold at yard sales may be something as mundane as comics, as advanced as electronic gadgets, and everything in between including hand tools.

Despite the fact that it might be a yard sale, look for things that will be useful, rather than obsolete junk that will clutter up your shop. In the following paragraphs, you will get to know more about the kind of hand tools that you can expect, as well how you can pick out the best tools when you come across them at a yard sale.

How to Check for Quality


Rusty Old Steel G-clamp Woodworking Tool

  1. Corrosion

One of the biggest problems of almost every tool is corrosion. This is because most tools are prone to rust. Although hand tools can be coated to protect them from corrosion to a certain extent, expect some rough red stuff.

Rust shouldn’t stop you from buying a good tool, however. If it would, good luck ever finding a ‘usable’ tool at a yard sale. Mostly you want to check base functionality and that the rust is only surface deep. If the corrosion has permeated and pitted the working surfaces it may not be serviceable. Make sure the tool will function when you get it home and clean it up.

  1. The Quality of The Wood

Hand tools, even metal ones, usually have some wooden attachment. It is important to ensure that the wooden components are still usable. If they are not then it should be possible to remove/replace them without destroying the tool. If that is not possible, that tool should be a hard pass.

Two important things to check are:

  • Splintering and flaking edges – Wood tends to split at the edges and just about anywhere in between. Impacts such as dropping or exposure to the elements may have caused fibers to split. As long as the tool hasn’t been structurally compromised, it is usually a simple matter to refinish these areas.
  • Rot – Since wood is a biodegradable material, it will begin to decay and rot with time, especially if exposed to moisture. This can make the tool unstable and perhaps even dangerous to handle. If the wood is rotten, make sure you can replace the piece. Signs of rot would be the wood becoming soft or has signs of fungi, such as mold growth.

While these are not deal breakers it may make a tool more than its worth. Make sure to err on the side of caution. If it looks like its going to take a lot to get it up and serviceable then move on.

  1. The Quality of the Working Edge

By Simon A. Eugster - Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7764162The working edge of a hand tool is the edge which comes in direct contact with the wood. This refers to the edge of axes, chisels, and any tool edge that touches the surface of the wood.

It is important to ensure that the working edges are in good condition. Make sure that the blades are not chipped, cracked, or damaged.

The striking edges may be a little worn but can be easily sharpened. A good example of this is the chisel which can become worn with time. Even if its edges are dull, you can always get it sharpened. This is not always easy with a saw, however, due to its serrated edges with hundreds of small grooves.

  1. The Quality of Additional Components

Some hand tools come with added implements such as levels, chuck keys, sharpening stones, etc. If these are included it’s definitely a bonus. But don’t expect tools to come with all parts. Try to lookup any tool you are interested in that should have added accessories. If you can find the missing parts for cheap or if they are mostly superficial then its no big deal. Buying a tool that will require an expensive part to repair will defeat the purpose of buying the cheap tool in the first place. If you are going to save money then consider the purchase. If it’s going to cost you more

Also, ensure that these components are in good working condition.

How to Get a Good Price for Hand Tools

Quite often, you are going to be getting a much better deal for hand tools at a yard sale as compared to what is offered at retail outlets. Quality will vary wildly but at least you should be able to haggle.

It may be difficult to negotiate beyond a certain price point due to the fact that it is a general clearance sale. However, you should be able to agree on a reasonable price that is satisfactory to both you and the seller. The below section will explain how to successfully negotiate so you can get the best bang for your buck.

  1. Understanding the Nature of Used Tools

Tools that are at a yard sale have already been used before you got your hands on them. This means that the quality of the tools, as well as their general market value, would have depreciated.

Given that this is the case, be reasonable – but do not lowball. Offer an asking price that is 10 percent lower than the seller’s offer. You are more likely to get the seller to comply versus offering half off on the original price. If you are able to agree with the seller on a lesser price that will up your bargain value.

  1. Figure out Your Budget

Figure out what the budget is going to be in advance before setting foot at a yard sale. Keeping a budget will help you out when you are negotiating the final selling price. Stick to what you set. Getting to wild will likely result in lots of tools you weren’t looking for.

  1. Know the Market Value

The market value of tools is not always clear when you are at a yard sale. This is because sellers will have their prices set before making the sale. Check the market prices online and call a few retailers before you head out. If you have a smartphone, have Ebay up. Do a quick search for each tool as you come across them. This is to ensure that you get the best price possible.

  1. Purchase in Bulk

Bulk purchases can put you at an advantage when negotiating the final selling price. Tell them you are willing to take everything here but only if you get a break. Then ask for the final amount to be reduced by a certain percentage.

More often than not, the seller will oblige.

  1. Pay Upfront in Cash

This is one of the best strategies for negotiating.

If you have cash on hand, you are far more likely to get a bargain than if you were to pay using other means. Cash is a liquid asset and is ready for use. Other means of payment like checks and credit cards are subject to clearance and other legal hassles. Bring smaller bills with you so that sellers would not have to search for small change when you just bargained a $20 dollar shovel down to $5.

  1. Human Courtesy

This is a rather general approach which is very effective. You are far more likely to get a bargain when you are courteous, as opposed to when you are argumentative. The whole more flies with honey thing.

  1. Point Out Flaws Tactfully

This will potentially work out in your favor. Depending on your approach, you do not wish to insult the seller. For example, you can point out that the utility knife is missing a blade, there are broken or missing bits, a hammers haft is splintering etc. You can ask if the seller will give you a discount.

  1. Evaluate the Seller

Some sellers won’t negotiable. They stand firm on their pricing no matter how you try to haggle. They are in a retail mindset and it will become apparent that they are not open to lower offers.

On the flip side, if you hear a seller who is willing to negotiate a price with another buyer, you don’t need to worry about making your own offer.

  1. Go Late In the Day

Showing up to a yard sale late in the day will be a double-edged sword. More items will have been sold, however, sellers are more likely to bargain with you so that they do not have to pack up unsold items to put back into storage.

  1. Appearance

Do not show up at a yard sale in your Sunday best. I’ve seen it many times that a seller will not negotiate(or will even raise the price) what they are offering. It is best to leave the fancy clothes and jewelry at home. Go in your shop clothes.

  1. Know When to Give Up

If the seller is non-negotiable on a price despite how reasonable your offer is, be willing to walk away. Your willingness to do this may cause the seller to reconsider.

How Much is too Much?

You want to be certain that you are getting a fair price for your hand tools.

Compare pricing online by looking on eBay, Craigslist, and other classified services to see prices that similar items are going for.

Check retail prices so that you can have an idea on the original value of the item so that you can negotiate on a reasonable offer if needed.

As a rule of thumb, yard sale pricing should range between 10 to 20 percent of the current retail price. Factors that will affect pricing include the condition and the demand for the item.

The Best Tools to Look For

Hand tools are a lot easier to inspect than power tools. What you see is what you get and as long as they are in good condition, you will end up with a valuable acquisition. Having mentioned the above tips for effective negotiating, the following list will detail various hand tools to keep an eye out for at a yard sale.

  1. Hand Saws

These are one of the most common tools you will see. Used for cutting pieces of wood, saws are an essential hand tool in almost any carpentry kit. Check for durability, sharpness, and any missing teeth. Depending on their condition, most saws can start at $5 and up, sometimes lower.

  1. Hammers

The hammer is an essential hand tool and one you will likely find at every yard sale.

Before purchasing, always check to see if the head is secured to the handle. If it is unsecured, the head will slide from the handle and cause injury. You can purchase one separately or check to see if the seller is offering tool items sold in a group. Sellers are willing to offer a better bargain for bulk items.

  1. Wood Chisels

Chisels are hand tools with long blades and a beveled cutting edge for carving or cutting wood. A mallet is used for striking the chisel. They can be sold individually or may come as a kit with several sizes. These are a good find because they are simple tools that will usually only require sharpening.

  1. Screwdrivers

As much as screwdrivers are considered as an electrician’s tool by many, the reality is that they are also a carpenter’s hand tool.

Screwdrivers come in a variety of different sizes depending on the size of the screw they were designed to handle. These are among the less costly tools in which sellers may bulk them with other tools. Screwdrivers can range from .50 cents to $2 each, depending on the size and brand.

  1. Hand Planes

Planes are a valuable hand tool used by many carpenters and are unlikely to be found at yard sales. They are used for removing excess wood from the surface of any lumber or wood structure. If you are lucky enough to find one give it a critical once over. Make sure all the parts are there and look for any abuse such as marred screws or cracks in the metal. Chipped blades can easily be replaced so don’t worry about its condition. For most planes, anything under $20 will likely be a deal.

  1. Hand Drills

Drills are essential tools for woodworkers. I have three hand drills, one egg beater, and two powered screwdrivers. You will need them for everything.

Most drills you find today will be power drills(relying on electricity to run). However, there are people who feel that manual drills can give a better result. It removes the hassle of looking for chuck keys or spanners. It is less time-consuming due to not having to wait hours for the drill to recharge.

Check the castings for cracks. Make sure the chuck jaws and springs are attached. Give it a turn to see if the drill wobbles. If it does, move on.

For power, drills try and get a chance to plug it in and make sure it runs. Same with battery operated tools.

  1. Awl Hand Tool

Awls are very similar to chisels, albeit with a smaller striking head. While chisels have a flat surface, awls are pointed and are used for making holes in wood or scribing on metal.

Since they are so simple you should be able to tell with just a glance if they are still in good repair.

  1. Sliding Bevel

A sliding bevel is a T­-shaped adjustable measuring tool used for creating a variety of angles. These are very useful but do tend to rust. Make sure that the slide moves freely and the tightening screw can loosen and tighten.

  1. Wood Rasp

Sometimes called files, rasps are used for the purpose of smoothing out wooden edges after it has been cut. Larger rasps have coarser teeth than smaller ones and are mainly used for removing large amounts of material. These will dull over time so they may or may not be a good buy. If you can try one out on a piece of scrap wood you should be able to see how dull it is.

  1. End Nippers

Like pliers, end nippers are used for the purpose of pulling out nails and screws from wooden pieces. They are rather rare since most people use the other end of a hammer for this purpose. These can be a nice to have but wont be common find. If you come across a nice pair and find yourself pulling nails often then snatch them up. Otherwise these can be safely skipped.

  1. Utility Knives

Although these hand tools are multipurpose in nature, they are rather common in carpentry kits. They range in price depending on brand and maintenance but should still be one of the cheaper items. I wouldn’t go much over $1.

  1. Backsaw

By Simon A. Eugster - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7817665A backsaw is used for precise cutting, unlike a panel saw. They have a spine that is clamped to the back of the blade which stiffens the blade during the cut. There are larger (tenon) and smaller (dovetail) backsaws. A mitre box is used in combination with a backsaw to produce accurate, angled cuts.

Always check for durability and possible defects such as a dull blade or missing teeth.

  1. Folding Ruler

You will likely to come across a vintage 24-inch folding ruler which is extremely handy. It easily slips into your pocket and will provide you with quick measurements. You can grab a couple of these and scatter them around as needed.

  1. Mallet

This is a style of hammer that has a large, wooden or rubber head which is used for hitting a chisel. These types of mallets are used to prevent splintering the wooden handles of your chisels. Make sure to have a few of these in your shop for general striking work.

  1. Wrenches

Due to their quality construction, they will probably outlast the user. Wrenches are one of the most common hand tools you will find at most yard sales. If you find some with a little rust, just soak them in rust remover and they will be good as new.


All in all, when you purchase hand tools from yard sales, you can get a better bargain and more variety than you ever thought possible! In addition, you are likely to receive better deals in comparison to many retail stores. So make sure that you look into the quality aspect as well when making a purchase.

It should be added that the above hand tools are not the only items you can expect when you go to your local yard sale. Sometimes you can find people who had a specialized profession, giving them access to unique and fascinating tools. Ask questions! Not only will you learn, you may make a friend in the process.

In conclusion, if you can keep these things in mind the next time you go to a yard sale, you should do fine.

Happy shopping!



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