How To Find Quality Tools For Cheap On Craigslist

How To Find Quality Tools For Cheap On Craigslist

A lot of folks want to get into woodworking but lack the funds to buy high end tools. Or so they think. The truth is, I outfitted my shop by buying used tools on Craigslist and LeoList. My base cost for my stationary power tools was well under $1,000 USD.

Here are a list with many of my finds. Some I still have and some have been sold at a profit

  • 1950 Delta 10″ Unisaw – $50 (needed motor work)
  • BenchDog Router Wing –$250 ($450 Retail)
  • 1960 17″ Band Saw – $250
  • 4″ Delta Jointer – $25
  • 12″ Craftsman Band Saw – $35
  • 6″ x 48″ Belt Sander – $75
  • 5 Speed Drill Press – $50
  • 1970 Craftsman Radial Arm Saw – Free
  • 6″ Rockwell Jointer – $75
  • 13″ Ryobi Planer – $40
  • 1940 Craftsman Lathe – Free
  • 9″ Ryobi Band Saw – $10
  • 16″ Scroll Saw – $75

The deals are out there if you look for them, and I’m going to show you a few tips to get started!

Know What You Want

I was looking for vintage American tools. Delta, Craftsman, Powermatic, Atlas, etc. Most of these sold between 1940 and 1970 are still available on the used market and many folks undervalue them. Some times they need parts replaced and sometimes they just need rust removed. There are also some that should be avoided. You need to know your market before you buy.

Know What It’s Worth

This basically means what it is worth to you. Many of my tool purchases have been less than $100. The band saw and router wing were among the exceptions, but they were both screaming good deals! If I find a 1950 gap bed Delta lathe in my area, I’d be willing to spend more on it as well because I’ve been looking for one for ages, especially after reading these great CNC lathe projects here. There are so many good ideas that I can’t wait to get stuck into. A lot of time, you can get better deals if you’re willing to put in time and cost to fix them up. There are many resources out there for vintage tool parts and repairs. You just have to decide what your time is worth.

One of my better buys was a 6″ vintage jointer. It was in pieces, in a wheelbarrow, covered in rust when I bought it.


But as soon as I saw it I knew I had a bargain. It took me less than 2 hours to get the unit assembled and the rust removed. Laser rust removal is a cost-effective, and eco-friendly alternative to methods that use abrasive chemicals and elements to eliminate any surface contaminants such as rust, oxide, and paint. I painted the guard, added a spring and that was it. Even the knives were already sharp. From wheelbarrow to workhorse in under a day.


So how do you do it Peter? Is it just luck? Nope. I’ve got a system.

My Craigslist System

Now the odds that you’re going to find the perfect tool at the exact day and time you are looking for it, are very low. I’ve had it happen, but it’s not something you can bank on. Remember, you can also check other sites like for these materials.

Begin your search on the main page. The fact is, not everyone posts their for sale item in the correct place. I know what you’re thinking, “What people make mistakes!?!” It’s true.


I try to be “reasonably generic.” If I’m searching for a wood lathe, I would simply type “lathe.”


Now I’ll get more false positive hits that way, “brake lathe” “metal Lathe” but I also don’t miss out on poorly labeled items. Not everyone knows what they have. Better to keep your search broad rather than miss a gem. Even better if it is mislabeled or in the wrong category because there will be less competition for it!


This one popped up under Garage Sale. I would never have seen it had I limited my search to just the “tools” postings.

Filtering Your Results

My generic search returned 27 items. But the truth is, there are some places I’m not willing to drive to. Having a 4 hour round trip for a $75 tool doesn’t work for me. I’d rather just wait for something better to pop up in my area. You can decide for yourself how far you’re willing to go.

Also consider that you might need help getting the tool into your car or truck. Asking a friend to come along for a 30 minute trip is much more reasonable than asking them to give up an afternoon.


Click on neighborhoods and select your locations. Then simply click the search button.


11 results is what my filtered search yielded. And no surprise, my dream lathe wasn’t on the list. Now what?

Make The System Do The Work

Craigslist has an RSS stream at the bottom of every search page. Now that you have a search term, location and whatever other filters you want to set, you can let Craigslist work for you.


If you already have an RSS reader that you like, use that, otherwise I have an option for you.

I use a program called “RSS Live Links” It’s a chrome add-on. I like it because it sits in my web browser, and honestly, I have my browser open almost all the time I’m at my desk! I rarely miss an alert.


All I do is click the RSS live icon in my browser and select the Craiglists feed from the list, and it will add it to the reader.


The name is a very long and not easily recognizable. So, I change it to something simple, “lathe” in this case. To do that simply right click on the icon and select options. You can modify your subscriptions and then click on the “save options” button.


Now I’ll know instantly if a tool pops up in my area, that meets my filtered search. I can see the title and price at a glance, and quickly assess if it worth looking at. Being the first person to respond to an ad will give you a major advantage over your fellow scroungers!


Sometime it takes a while to find the right tool, but if you leverage the search engine and the RSS options, you’re going to be way out in front when it comes to finding what you want!

You’ll have your shop outfitted faster and for less than you thought possible!

If this article was of interest to you. Please share it. That helps me out a lot!

Also, let me know if you want more of this. I would be happy to write up an accompanying article on my strategy for negotiating with sellers and or maybe some tips for used tool buyers.

8 thoughts on “How To Find Quality Tools For Cheap On Craigslist

  1. Peter i really enjoyed this and definitely learned something new,thank you very much for sharing,all the best

  2. Great article! Been checking everyday for a cabinet table saw. The RSS trick will def help.

    1. Great point! I’ve never bid on tools at auction but it seems like a great place to find bargains!

  3. I have a question for you my wife and I watch all the time she has a old set of glass door knobs and wants something done to make them into a keepsake any ideas or could you do something on your channel

  4. I have always loved working with my hands, but never thought I would be able to do high-end woodworking due to a lack of funds. This strategy has shown me that in a few years, it might be possible for me to look at breaking into woodworking as a hobby. Thanks so much for the great info.

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