MJD Toolapalooza – Preview

Recently Mrs. Barn and I headed to central New York for the annual overdose of antique tools at Martin Donnelly’s compound in Avoca.  It is a phenomenal experience that I can commend heartily to anyone interested in pawing through nearly 100,000 tools, all for sale.  The really great thing about this auction is it is the “cleaning out the warehouse” sale of items left over from MJD’s other auction the preceding year.  The earlier auctions have a much higher portion of “collectible” tools, this one is mostly “user” tools with little collectible value.  Not all, but mostly.

Previewing the auction lots is a nearly impossible task unless you take the full week beforehand; we arrived there the morning of the auction that was beginning at 2PM.  I was able to get about five hours of looking prior to the opening gavel.

I began with the first 600 lots, which were the opening day’s salvo.  Most of these are located in the first of the dozen or so tents on the grounds (there is logic to this arrangement, and the 2nd evening barbecue is in this space so it gets cleaned out first.  Most of the box lots for the sale include groupings of tools, sometimes up to a couple hundred small tools.  It is a fairly rare lot that inlcudes only one tool, I would estimate that at about 5%.

In the first-day tent I found a few things that interested me, including this solid ebony smoothing plane.  It was part of a small lot with several ebony navigating tools included.

More common were lots like these which included anywhere from a couple dozen items to a couple hundred.

About 1-in-25 lots is oversized and thus in one of the several tents full of bins or palates.   After browsing through the box lots in tent #1 for a couple hours I wandered through these tents and found some real treasures to be sold later, especially on Day #2.  One palate of heavy iron included THE tool I went to bid on, an Emmert Universal Metalworking Vise.  I’d been on the hunt for one of these behemoths for many years, always losing out when the bidding entered the stratosphere.  Maybe this was the year.

There was stuff everywhere, including the largest selection of foot-powered machinery I had ever seen in one place.  There must have been about 50 of these machines, including the pedal-powered shaper my pal MikeM is trying out.

There was even an avenue of tool chests out along the driveway.

Another tent for oversized lots included this pile of several hundred pounds of Brazilian rosewood, cocobolo, Gaboon ebony, and even more.  It came from an old closed yacht manufacturer in Long Island.

Still more giant tents stuffed to the gills with tools, baskets, boxes, you name it.  This included a fair number of boxes I was interested, at the right price of course.

And this does not include the two-dozen small tents and tailgates of tool swapping out near one of the parking areas.  I have learned to have a lot of fun with the wheeling and dealing here and can often learn a lot of tool lore with the dealers.

This fellow had two older Panavises that my pal JohnH and I were interested in.  His wallet was the size of a hoagie roll.  One friend of mine who was selling here confessed that she used to make fun of old guys with big wads of cash in their pockets, the had to confess further that she had become one of them.

Soon the time raced to the point where folks filled the bidding tent, and the contest was ready to begin.  Martin Donnelly greeted the crowd then turned the show over to the auctioneers, whose goal is to gavel four or five lots per minute until all 3000+ are gone.  You snooze, you lose.