Muscle Car

Buying Older Tools May Save Money On Your Restoration

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oldlathe-456h5

By Mark Weisseg

Probably like you I am into buying gadgets. I have all kinds of things, but few really last in the long run. Sure it’s nice to have a handheld machine to read and clear codes. That’s an easy one to love. But I have tools in my garage that I have owned forever and still work fine and these old tools are easily available to buy a and last longer than you ever know.

I was at a home of a guy earlier this year who had a garage full of large machines. I looked them over to better understand what they were and he finally piped in. He said most of the machines were World War Two era or from the late Fifties. CNC machines, fine cutting machines, lathes of all types and so on. I asked for a demonstration and he was all to eager to show me.

After the display he told me that when he went into business years ago and he went in almost debt free. He bought old well kept machines and paid cash for them. He maintains them on a regular basis and they work just as well as any newer machine. The difference is his are debt free. So, I looked at this picture of a very old lathe and thought a lathe is a lathe. A CNC cutter is a CNC cutter. I have tools I use that are 40plus years old. I use tools my Father gave me that were used when he got them.


Now not every old tool will work. Let’s be honest. At some point you may need to upgrade here and there. But for the young guys and gals do you know what a Plumb is? Do you understand how to use it? It has been used for hundreds of years and still has a place in our hobby. I recall many moons ago a young buck came to work for us.

He had a brand new giant tool box with all the drawers filled and organized. Most of us would throw our tool onto or into the box and put them away at the end of the day. Well, this kid had organizers and scopes and the best of everything. He was a fair mechanic at best and a good enough person. But he learned fast that the rest of us were using older tools and doing the jobs just as fast or better. You see a rubber mallet is designed to hit an object and not sit in a tool box looking pretty. The simple idea was to find the tools you really needed and use them.

Back in the day the metric tools were just starting to come out. However we worked on older American cars so who needed anything in millimeters. In time we did of course. But back then we were using a brake lathe we had from the sixties. We had pry bars and other tools that were older than us that still worked fine.

My point is you don’t always need the newest, cleanest tool. You need the tool that works and that you can count on. See for yourself if you ever get inside a machine shop or steel making plant. Most of the tools and equipment will be older than you. We as a society used to make our tools and machines that way. Today not at all. Most equipment has a short life value. Your handy cool handheld computer will need constant updating or you will find it in a drawer some day under a pile of dust and old books. Meanwhile the old lathe will humming a tune that several generations have heard by now.

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