books/resources for keeping tool costs low?

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Dec 27, 2017
Grande Prairie, Alberta
As the list of vehicle projects grow, the budget for new tools seems to shrink, although I have most of what I need already.

I was impressed with my old neighbours growing up, some had been through the depression of the 30's and then the war, where there was zero dollars for new tools at home and the work still needed to be done. I recall my neighbor's father built a large shop bandsaw from scratch, my own gramps built a tablesaw from scratch as well; both were relatively common projects for that era.

Although those tools are available new or used nowdays for much less than the effort to build them, I have found a few resources to motivate maximum return for minimum budget.

Of the older Popular Mechanics magazines, they had a yearly "shop notes", that had many handy DIY tool projects. Most of the prewar copies of these are available free as PDF, but I expect the postwar years are most likely to be useful.

As well, reprinted books like the Canadian " Farm Workshop Guide, 1947 " are full of ideas, although not all of those projects should be pursued nowdays.

I was quite impressed with the discovery channel TV series " Cuban Chrome ", which detailed how they were making out on the island keeping wrecks on the road with very limited resources parts, tools, and little to no money. As with most TV shows there was some unnecessary drama added into the technical side. is a free resource with many old tool manuals, how to guides.

Any other major quality resources i'm missing?
Not a literary resource but garage sales and flea markets. In the first weekend of the season I scored an Osborne leather working knife for $10 retails at $70. But for every one of those there are 100 boxes full of rusty screwdrivers for $1 each. You have to keep your eyes peeled and know what you're looking at and be selective/patient.

I've not had luck at auctions. If it's quality/desirable someone will want it and they will bid to win. Used to be a lot of schools were getting rid of their shop classes due to safety/cost and were selling stuff bargain basement but that vein is pretty much cashed out these days.
Good note. I haven't seen many good buys at auction either. I have however routinely seen new in box department store socket sets sell at a few auctions for more than they do on sale in those stores.
I do make a point of going to the local flea market and often find nothing, sometimes one, rarely two tools worth buying at a great price. But those guys are pros and it's not that common that they would not know what something is really worth. So true bargains are probably fairly rare. Also, I got pretty much everything already, short of specialized pro tools, so that make me pickier. But if you're looking for run of the mill DIY stuff, like the typical rusty socket or screwdrivers there is a lot of that that can be had relatively cheap.
In contrast, you can score better deals at garage sales but that takes a lot more time and driving around. But when you score you score. I vividly remember -and it still sends shivers down my spine :D- a case where I bought many power tools like new at something like much less than a dime on the dollar. Unfortunately, I doubt that will happen again.
With Harbor Freight and used tools on craigslist and such, I somewhat question how economical it is to build your own tools these days. Still, it is worth reading through the David J. Gingery books just to see how it is done.

Build Your Own Metal Working Shop From Scrap is a progressive series of seven projects including, The Charcoal Foundry, The Metal Lathe, The Metal Shaper, The Milling Machine, The Drill Press, The Dividing Head and The Sheet Metal Brake. Beginning with a simple charcoal fired foundry, you produce the castings for building the machine tools to equip your shop. Initially the castings are finished by simple hand methods, but it isn’t long before the developing machines are doing much of the work to produce their own parts. It does not take long to learn the simple craft of pattern-making and sand molding. Each phase of the projects increase your knowledge and skill. There is no need to look for outside help. You can do it all in your own shop. No complicated math----No exotic equipment required----No large cash outlay. Lots of work to be sure, and some of it can be downright tedious, but the reward will be a practical small scale machine shop that you might never give yourself permission to buy, assuming you could afford it.

Maybe not economical, but I can guarantee that if you work your way through them and actually make everything, you'll learn a heck of a lot about operating them in the process that you certainly won't get just shelling out money at Harbor Freight.
I did see that set of books as well, and note that it isn't as useful to go that far these days. I have known some mechanics to build their own application-specific sockets and fittings at much less than the dealer tool.

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