A tool junkie discusses his favorite gunsmithing tools.
by Wendell Dwight Deaner
I am an inveterate tool collector. OK, junkie. I never met a tool I didn’t like except for, to paraphrase the late, great Will Rogers, the *$#% pieces of crap that didn’t work as advertised. That being said, you can always find a tool you don’t actually have any use for. Yeah, but something is bound to turn up, right? I like digging around in old antique stores. Sometimes a gem will turn up in all that rough.
Auctions, especially farm auctions, can be a good source for working tools. For example, my cousin is a meat cutter by trade. He knows how to sharpen a knife and has given me good instruction in the art. I always assumed he learned how to keep a fine edge on his equipment in trade school. However, when the subject came up one day he told me our grandfather had taught him. If you want to know how to sharpen anything ask a farmer. I recently picked up an old marble stone for final finishing of knives for a couple of bucks. It is set in a wooden holder with some kind of epoxy to place it in a vise while in use. Even a leather strop is not much better to get that last degree of keen hone on a blade.
Sometimes real bargains can be obtained. I was looking at a pair of tin snips at Lowe’s, retailing around thirty dollars. I found an old pair in an antique store for three dollars. The owners assumed they would be hanging on the wall as a decoration. I use them in my shop and they’re stronger than the new ones. Yard saleing is a minor industry in my neck of the woods. Every weekend there are a lot of people trying to get rid of old junk. On holidays and other special occasions you can hardly drive up and down the road for all the cars parked on both sides. If you are into baby clothes and mismatched glassware, this is the spot for you. If I see a promising setup I’ll ask if they have tools or sporting equipment like fishing reels, rods and old lures. Just don’t take your wife with you if you want to make a quick entrance and exit. Who do you think buys all those baby clothes?
Some guys seem to have all the luck. A friend brought home a motorized sharpener with a large white Arkansas stone that runs in a water bath. I drooled over it and would have paid a pretty penny if I could find one. When I asked him where he had obtained such a great tool, he answered, “yard sale.” I bought a new one and it wasn’t cheap.
Sometimes you just need that special tool to make a hard job go easy. A British Enfield showed up in the shop the other day with a bottom metal screw that looked as though a ham-fisted Nepalese Gurkha had tried to tighten it with a cast iron fence post. The screw slot was really ruined. I tried my gunsmith screw drivers after adding some penetrating oil. I even heated it with a heat gun and tapped the screwdriver as I tried to turn it out. No go.
Read more in our August 2014 issue. Back issues are available.