Garages and workshops are full of value, both sentimental and monetary. Faced with a huge heap of second-hand workshop tools, deciding what to keep and what to get rid of can feel overwhelming. Here, we walk you through the process of determining what to keep and what to let go.

Second-hand workshop tools: Keep if … 

  • It has specific memories.

     It’s hard to overestimate the value of driving a nail with Dad’s hammer, or seeing a jar of Grandpa’s screws resting on a workbench in your own garage. Or maybe it’s a toolbox you remember grabbing a screwdriver out of as a kid. Or a decorative masonry square that always hung on the shop wall. Whatever the item, if it isn’t too big, and evokes fond memories of the deceased, consider holding on to it.

  • You can use it.

    If you, your partner, a sibling, or one of your children is an enthusiastic hobbyist or tradesman in a similar field, keep high-quality, second-hand workshop tools that have immediate use. Also consider creating or beefing up a family member’s basic tool chest. Items like screwdrivers, pliers, a wrench and socket set, measuring tape, hammer, flashlight, utility knife, level, paintbrushes, and cordless drill will let you tackle most basic household needs. The key is to realistically assess your needs and select tools accordingly. Have a yard full of trees and no chainsaw? If there’s a newish Husqvarna in good working order, go ahead and keep it. However, the decades old skill-saw and the “as seen on TV” folding saw bench? Do yourself a favor and junk it.

  • Legacy.

    No matter what, keep something. We prefer smallish second-hand workshop tools of high sentimental value. (Think: hammer, handsaw, chisel, an axe.) First, they’re easy to store. Second, it’s tough to beat teaching your kid to split wood with the maul Grandpa taught you with. Tip: Be sure to grab one item apiece for yourself, siblings, and each of your children. Don’t have any kids? Select a handful for potential children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews. While it may sound crazy in the here-and-now, trust us--in a decade or two, you’ll be glad you did.

  • It has monetary value. 

    High-value vintage or specialty second-hand workshop tools that you can’t use outright should be kept for sale or donation. For instance, say Dad was a serious hobbyist with a passion for working on Italian cars. Or perhaps Grandpa was a tinkerer who did jewelry repair. Such activities require specialized tools that typically command high resale value. The older and rarer they are, the more they’re worth. Also, newer, brand-name tools like Craftsman wrenches or a Baileigh Industrial cabinet saw are worth money too. Even a seemingly throwaway item like a bucket of old nails can be sold for scrap metal and turned into cash.

Get the Auction Checklist: Know What Will Sell

Second-hand workshop tools: What not to keep…

  • It isn’t valuable. 

    Low-quality, mass-produced second-hand workshop tools you have no use for can be dumped. For example, off-brand electrical tools like drills, screwdrivers, skill-saws, and so on that are sold at big box stores are next to worthless. If you don’t know someone that can use them, donate or throw them away. (However, if you have a bunch, consider keeping them to sell through an independent auction house.)
  • Large tools that are old and/or cheaply made. 

    Newer, specialized tools like a mechanized engine hoist or a car lift can be worth hundreds or even thousands of dollars, but the off-brand table saw dad picked up from a mail order tool catalog 20 years ago is junk. Same for the cheap, industrial-sized air-compressor he bought last year from a discount store. If it’s old and mass-produced, or new and cheaply made, you’re better off giving it away.

  • Big bundles of raw materials.

    If you find a cache of miscellaneous lumber and think, “I oughta keep this and build something,” don’t. Remember, if you have no immediate use for a tool or item, you’re better off trashing, selling, or donating it.

  • Unfinished projects. 

    One heir we know decided to keep his dad’s run-down 1980 BMW 320i hoping to fulfill Dad’s dream of restoring it. After a decade of storage fees—and not one single hour of work on the project—he sold the car. Heed the example. If you take on an unfinished project, like as not, it most likely won’t get done.

The prospect of sifting through a workshop and deciding what to keep can be overwhelming. However, by following the guidelines above, you’ll be picking like a pro.

At Wayforth we work with families in transition. We can empty an entire house within days, sorting what items to keep, sell, donate, and discard. Our employees pack and move everything, then prepare the house for sale. Call us for a free consultation.

Our advice is based on our experience cleaning out and settling estates for our clients. Each project is different, and each state's laws are different. We always recommend that you consult personally with experts about your particular situation before making any important decisions.