I’ve Got Crabs (Don’t Tell my Wife)

While in Maine earlier this month, I was looking forward to lobster and a trip to Liberty Tool in Liberty, Maine. I wasn’t interested in buying tools at Liberty – I’ve got enough of those. Mostly I wanted to raid the store’s mason jars.

The store is chock-a-block with bits of hardware – old screws, nails, pulls, locks and the like.

I was going to drive up to Liberty Tool last Sunday, but then I found out that furniture maker Freddy Roman had beat me to it and ransacked the place.

Sigh. While I’m not much of a wood hoarder (until tomorrow, perhaps), I do pick up bits of hardware whenever I stumble on them. Good blacksmith-made chest handles can cost less than $10. A crab lock, like the one shown above, runs about $80.

While I try to give blacksmith Peter Ross all the business I can (he’s actually making a crab lock for a tool chest for me), I cannot always afford custom work. So buying old stuff stretches my hardware budget without having to buy from Home Depot.

Your best bet is to shop for the stuff in person. While you can find cut nails, hinges and locks on eBay, the prices are high. One guy was asking $7 for a nail. A bent one. Other woodworkers I know have had good luck with Robinson Antiques, especially for chest lifts and locks.

Again, you pay for the convenience. The best prices are in the scrounge market. And scrounging takes time.

I you are wondering what the heck a crab lock is, check out the video below. It’s a surface-mount chest lock that can automatically lock the lid when you close it. Of course, this is a fantastic way to accidentally lock your key in your chest. So be wary of the crab’s claws. They bite.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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13 Responses to I’ve Got Crabs (Don’t Tell my Wife)

  1. Freddy Roman says:


    Do you not know that Liberty Tool gets a new batch of stuff every Saturday? Next time let me know what you need, and I’ll snag it for you. For I’m only 3 hours away, and can use any exuse I can find to go back up there.

  2. Nice lock, and a heckuva deal at $80.00. That would probably take a good smith 5 or 6 hours to produce. Our iron chest lifts are dead ringers for the ones you picked up and again, the antique ones are a pretty good price.

  3. Kevin costa says:

    Best place in the world for productive “dumpster diving”! Did you happen to see the saw stack on the side wall?

  4. Russ Morin says:

    Who’s playing in the background? I love the music you choose.

  5. I’m soooo envious of the shops you have available to you on the East coast. It’s been a real pain finding bits and pieces like this here in Sweden. And don’t even get me started on quality tools. You’d think in an old country with a rich history of craftsmanship I’d be swimming in the stuff. I guess Ikea screwed that up for everybody. As always, you educate and entertain. Thanks!

    P.S. While in the Marines I was taught a sure fire cure for crabs but it’s not exactly G rated. Let me know if I can share it anyway. It’s only fair since you started it!

    • lostartpress says:

      Of course you can share it. Must know!

      • ronald tibbs says:

        I’ve already given the standard “It’s a Marine thing” disclaimer so here goes.

        You shave off half of your pubic hair and set the other half on fire. When the little critters come running out you stab them all to death with a fork. Ba Dum Bum, Tcsssh!

      • Michael Rogen says:

        Must we know? Really?

        Okay …

      • John Cashman says:

        If you use a skewer instead of a fork, you’d end up with crab shish-kebab.

  6. John Vernier says:

    Variations of these self-locking locks were pretty common on old tool chests. I bought a well-used antique one for the chest I am building for my tools, but then I chickened out and ordered something less fierce but which came with duplicate keys. I suppose a crab lock made sense if you worked in a large shop (or on a job site). In my own shop I don’t want to have to use the key every time I need to grab a tool.

  7. I wish I could be mad at you for publicly talking about such a wonderful fishing hole like Liberty Tools, but I think that cat was already out of the bag. Nonetheless, I’ll be making my annual pilgrimage up there in a few weeks. May well be the first time I intentionally went looking to get crabs!

    • John Cashman says:

      If you go that far, you should drive up to Hull’s Cove Tool Barn. It’s owned by the same folks who own Liberty Tool.

      There is always a crowd at Liberty on Saturday mornings to help unload the van with new stuff. Be prepared to wrestle. Or, you can go to Hull’s Cove Friday, where they load the van that goes to Liberty on Saturday.

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