Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Buying Tools Online - Craigslist, etc.

Yesterday I picked up a bench grinder for dirt cheap from CL. The seller said it worked fine, and the price was right. When I went to pick it up the only thing I checked was bearing play. I was pretty unconcerned with electrical issues since I can repair most of those. No play was detectable to my hand so I took it.

I got it home and discovered there was no way the seller could have used the thing. Probably ever. The crimp on the spade connector to the switch wasn't tight, and the grinder would not turn on. No biggie, new connector properly crimped, and it works beautifully.

At the end of this minor adventure, I realized I should document the thought process I went through.

I knew going in that a cheap tool WILL have flaws. Regardless of the story given by the seller. So how to minimize the risk is the real challenge.

For the above mentioned grinder, I decided before going in that the most difficult thing to repair FOR ME would be bearings. Wheels are cheap (and would probably be replaced anyway), electrical is easy to me, even a motor can be replaced if absolutely necessary. But bearings would be the hardest thing to me and absolutely a deal breaker. Grinders are cheap enough new that I wouldn't even take a free one with bad bearings.

So when I got there, and the seller wasn't in a hurry to plug it in and show me that it worked, I just did a wiggle check and spin check on the bearings. They felt good so I paid and left.

When I bought the tablesaw and jointer combo last year, bearings and gears were my main concerns. I knew it was rusty, but surface rust repair was within my reach. The guts were nice, only the bare cast iron surfaces were rusty.

So pick the 'deal breaker' problem(s) and stick to your guns. If you can press bearings all day long, but electrical wiring is a mystery to you, find the stuff with good electrics and bad bearings. If all you are comfortable with is painting, then find the uglies with layers of klown paint and make them purdy.

There are deals out there, but what's a deal to me may not be a deal to you.

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