This morning I drove just outside of the Twin Cities to Medina, MN to attend my first MWTCA Tool Meeting. I was struck with how busy it was at 9 AM when I arrived. I have to get there earlier next time.

I had a small shopping list, hoping to find a couple of common items for good prices, and I had pretty good success. I was impressed with the quantity of tools available, many of them for prices competitive with eBay, with the advantage of actually being able to handle the tools and take the home immediately. Prices definitely varied for similar tools from booth to booth, but overall felt on the low end to me. Buying was slightly awkward, it wasn’t always clear who was manning each table. It would be nice if there was a name on each both, and maybe even colored name tags for sellers. Anyway, it worked out.

You definitely need to know how to evaluate tools. There were quite a few stinkers: saws with bent plates or missing teeth; wooden stock planes with checked bodies; auger bits with obliterated spurs; sticky hand drills. These were often priced the same as tools without the defects. But unlike on eBay, you can examine them and pass on the crummy stuff.

Here’s what I picked up. Including the fee to get into the event, my total came to just over $100.

I’ve always wanted to try wooden planes, especially with how Joshua at Mortise & Tenon goes on about them. I found a great-looking 15″ jack plane with a tapered double iron for $10. Ten dollars! One corner of the wedge is split, and the cap iron its missing its screw, but it still functions and those are easy repairs anyway.

My crosscut saw is in pretty bad shape, the plate is short and flexible, and one of the nuts is falling out so the handle is very loose. I was hoping to pick up a new one. I passed up on a lot of saws, many were pitted, or noticeably bent, or missing teeth, or priced higher than I wanted. I nearly gave up, but then I found a perfect, full-size Disston D-8 10 TPI crosscut tucked in a box of other saws for $27. Bingo.

While I have a bit brace, I don’t have a hand drill. I’ve kept my eye out at antique stores, but they’ve always had sticky gears. There were dozens of hand drills at this meet, but most of them were tiny, or only had one horizontal gear, or were sticky, or the chuck looked dodgy. Finally found one in great shape for $17, actually at the same place as I found the handsaw. It’ll be nice not to have to break out the power drill just to drill a few nail holes or whatever.

Finally some smaller, miscellaneous items. A large chisel for paring, flattening, etc ($18); a half-dozen auger bits to round out my set from numbers 3 through 16 (50¢ each); a set of number stamps to go with the letter stamps I already have ($12); a 1/4″ beading plane ($7!); a small hammer for adjusting planes and starting nails ($12); and a ratchet wrench because it was $3.

Overall a really great place to help round out the missing pieces in my toolchest. I think it’d be a good place to start gathering tools, too, though the selection is obviously a bit more limited than eBay.