My wife and I have done a fair amount of business on craigslist, both buying and selling. Our play room is bursting at the seams with quality, used toys we acquired for our boys and when the toys are outgrown, off to craigslist (and most recently freecycle) they go. I've sold my unused electronics, a small table saw and even a car and all have been decent experiences. So it was a no brainer for me to turn to craigslist to hunt for used tools.
Finding used anything on CL is easy. Finding quality used tools is another thing all together. My best advise is to stay away from contractors selling their old or spare tools. These tools are typically beaten to within an inch of their lives and the seller may be trying to get something for them while they are still running.
I have been lucky with my bandsaw and drill press. Technically the bandsaw was bought from someone I work with, but that story starts on CL. I had seen an ad for a "new old stock" 14" bandsaw. The asking price was $100 with the caveat that it needed some TLC. I emailed the seller about the TLC part and he replied that he actually had two of these band saws, one with a good motor and banged up table and one with a good everything else but bad motor. He used to work for a woodworking retail store that went out of business years ago and when they finally closed their doors he took these two saws with the intention of making one good saw, but never got around to doing it. After a couple of emails he offered to swap the motor for me and drop the price to $75. I figured that deal was pretty good so we scheduled a time for me to visit him and check it out.
In the mean time I was talking to one of the guys at work about my potential purchase and how I might be getting a good deal. He stopped me mid story. He had a bandsaw that he hasn't used a long time and was just taking up space. He used to do a lot more woodworking, but that hasn't been an active hobby for a few years now. It's an older Jet 14" from 2001 but it runs great, or at least it did the last time he used it. He'd gladly sell it to me for $75 delivered. Deal.
I made this purchase a couple of months ago knowing that I would want it for the kids' table and chairs project, but haven't needed to use it until recently. I replaced blade and guide blocks but I hadn't noticed that the tires had dried out as much as they did. I found that out when the burning rubber smell nearly knocked me out after running the saw with the new blade (that didn't happen when I first tested it out a couple months ago). So last night I put new tires on (a true test in finger strength) and finished tuning using the instructions from Michael Fortune's video on finewoodworking.com (you may need a subscription to view). A few test cuts later and I'm good to go.
For the drill press I answered an ad from someone in the town I live in. He was selling off his tools before he moved to Florida and was asking $50 for his 2001 Reliant drill press. I met him at his house during lunch and and we chatted in his driveway before he brought me down to his basement. Prior to meeting him we spoke on the phone and I didn't get any bad vibes from him, but I texted the address to my wife in case there was any reason to know my last known location.
In his basement we talked about woodworking and he showed me the pinewood derby cars he made with his sons. I knew from his passion that he took good care of his tools and a quick test showed that the drill press seemed to be in good working order. I asked him to come down on his price, which he didn't. Instead he gave me a drill press vise and sanding spindles. I still made out pretty well in my estimation.
I used the drill press to make square holes (? round holes that are square to the surface), in the table legs to accept the dowels that attach the aprons on the kid's table. Future uses will be to hog out mortises. Can't wait!
You can see there is some rust on the post. I'm going to try cleaning that up with Evaporust. I have not used it before but I like the idea of a non toxic solution. Other than that this tool really doesn't need any work. What it does need is a base that I can wheel around. It's fine sitting on my work bench when in use, but when not in use it lives in my basement during the winter and I move it with a dolly. A cabinet with storage for bits and hand drills would be better.
My next craigslist purchase might be lumber. I've seen a number of sawyers within an hour's drive advertising rough cut oak, maple, cherry and walnut at prices below what I can get them for at the lumber yard. I'd be pretty psyched if I could find a local guy with quality, air dried wood that I could go back to again and again.
Buying tools and building my shop has been an exercise in frugality. Compromising by buying used has saved my a ton of money. The trade off is that none of these tools are shiny, have modern bells and whistles or a warranty and they often take a bit of rehab to be usable. I'm not complaining. I spent under $200 for the drill press, table saw and parts. You can't touch that price for a new 14" bandsaw alone. Maybe with these tools I'll be able to hone my skills well enough to build furniture people would actually pay for. If so, shiny new bells and whistles will become affordable.
Thanks for reading!
PS: Now that I have the bandsaw tuned and ready I can finish the kids' table by rounding the table top corners and then rounding over the top edge with a router. From there its on to finish sanding and finishing. I could be done in a week or so.