Many visitors to our storefront ask where to buy quality vintage woodworking tools. We have a few favorite online dealers (Patrick Leach, Jim Bode and Hyperkitten). But we always prefer buying old tools in person. Looking at 10 jack planes in person is better than looking at 100 on eBay.
For in-person tool shopping in our neck of the woods, we recommend attending a tool meet of the Mid-West Tool Collectors Association. Or a visit to Dan Raber at Colonial Homestead in Millersburg, Ohio.
Last week we made our irregularly scheduled pilgrimage to Colonial Homestead, which is in a new location, just outside downtown Millersburg. As always, it was an insanely pleasurable shock to see so many quality woodworking tools lining the shelves and tables of the store. We didn’t have a lot of time to browse, maybe 90 minutes. But I could have easily spent an entire day picking through all the tools and studying them.
I own all the tools I need to make furniture. But I still adore looking at the wide varieties of tools made by different manufacturers during the last couple centuries. Plus, I have a soft spot in my heart for user-made tools and oddities. As someone who both designs and uses woodworking tools every day, Colonial Homestead recharges my batteries when it comes to tools and tool design.
If you live within a day’s drive of Millersburg, Ohio, I recommend you load up the family and make the trip. Have them drop you off at Colonial Homestead with a wad of cash. Then your family can explore the gorgeous Amish country that surrounds Millersburg, Berlin and Walnut Creek, Ohio. (The community there is the second largest in North America.)
There’s good food. And tons of kitschy shopping to be had, especially in Berlin. There are tours, a cheese factory and, well just check out this website. Below are just a few photos of Dan’s store. There is no way to capture it all.
— Christopher Schwarz
22 thoughts on “Quality Used Tools in the Midwest”
Looks like my basement. Will be selling a bunch when I retire.
I am lucky enough to live about 50 miles from there. It is kind of astonishing the first time you set foot inside.
In case you are thinking “hyperbole” in Chris’ description of Colonial Homestead, think again. Worth the trip. Yes, you’ll find it. Yes, you’ll find something you didn’t know you needed, or didn’t know existed.
Nearby, I keep finding Fry Pies, which are unbelievably good handheld pies for one, in dozens of flavors. Highly addictive, just like Dan’s shop!
Ran into Patrick Leach at a woodworking show where he had a boat load of tools for sale.
I picked out a backsaw for my son, as soon as I picked it up I could tell by the feel and balance it was some craftsman’s prized tool so I pulled it out and handed it to him to purchase. There is nothing like handling a tool that’s been fitted and tuned. He only came to that one show, if I had known he was going to be there I would have brought more cash!
It’s nice to see a used tool store that isn’t piles of rusted crap.
I’ve been to Patrick Leach’s home. There is no single place on earth that has as many tools. I’ve been to three day auctions that were selling 3,000 lots of tools, and Patrick still had far more.
I live an hour away from Dan’s place. One thing to mention, he is a wealth of knowledge. If you are starting out and a bit overwhelmed ask him what you need to get started. Tell him your budget. He is honest and forthright, and will show you the tools you really need.
A word of caution if you plan to visit this fine emporium. The roads in this area are mostly one lane in each direction, heavily rural, hilly, curvy, and full of buggies. Please drive carefully.
Another interesting shop is located upstairs from Roy Underhill’s Woodwright’s School in Pittsboro, NC. The shop is small and Ed Lebetkin packs it full of a wide variety of hand tools.
If the photos above don’t do it justice, you can watch the walk through video James Wright made a couple of months ago.
If you go to Colonial, try to make time to visit Keim Lumber, just down the road a piece in Charm. Amazing selection of hardwood lumber.
Second Keim Lumber, was there as well as the tool store last fall. Keim’s is a multi-generational building center that is what the big box stores wish they could grow up to be. Cherry paneling on some walls, IIRC also the ladies’ room partitions, curved office areas to show what they can do, a ton of exotics. Also for the cook a bunch of kitchen stuff. If you have a quilter in the family several big quilt shops close by.
Definitely second rural road and assume you will suddenly be sharing with a buggy or a bicycle at any time, please don’t be rude to the locals and risk hurting someone. Wood heat and propane lanterns, they do have a phone which I suspect is solar charged, no website.
I live in northern Ohio and love to visit Dan’s tool shop. If you have old tools to sell, it’s a good place to sell them on consignment also. If you are looking for some special tools, you can give Dan a call and he will let you know if he has it.
Whew, I need to figure out a way to casually drive to the middle of the country from the left coast without arousing my beloved’s suspicions
After seeing the store on Wood by Wright video I went there and spent $750. I would have spent more but Dan kindly explained why I didn’t need some tools. I spent around 3 hours there and came away with my prize Stanley number 2 along with a cart full of tools. I can’t wait to go back. I 100% agree with Chris, something for the whole family.
I wish I’d known about Colonial back when I lived in Columbus. Now it’s a wee bit far (and an expensive 3 day ferry ride) to drive from Juneau to there. Since I cannot get to Ohio often these days, I highly recommend Josh at HyperKitten… accurate descriptions, good prices, great terms (pay when you receive the item if you like it, else send it back). And he is very friendly and helpful.
Check out McNulty Tools in Hixton, Wisconsin. Right off 94. Leave the bored in 10 minutes, in The Dells.
Man, I’d love to go there someday if I’m near Ohio. There is another amazing vintage tool shop in Catskill, NY called Swamp Angel Antiques. You’d never know it from the name, but they pretty much only sell antique woodworking tools that are all useable (and amazing duck decoys…if you’re into that…). If you’re every lucky enough to be in the Catskills it’s worth checking it out.
That’s just under tool porn. My kinda store.
Plus one for Dan’s shop. I’m not next door, but family is. HIGHLY RECOMMEND a visit, folks.
What day were Y’all there we stopped in last week on the way back to Texas.
We went on Thursday, June 30. Sorry we missed you!
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