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Estate Sales

July 24, 2011

I went to an estate sale this weekend hoping to find more tools and funky objects. And a few people were curious about a phrase I wrote in a previous post: “Joe ‘the Pig Man’…” so I thought I’d document the last few estate sales. While not directly part of projects at BAB, we usually find something that will contribute to future projects.

A couple months ago, our friend Jackie sent us an email with news of an estate sale of Joe “Pig Man” Adams, a resident of the Soulard neighborhood who had passed away late last year. The description said that he had lots of tools. He was called the Pig Man not because he resembled a pig, or kept pigs, but because he was known in the neighborhood for his pig roasts, which he shared with friends & neighbors.

I arrived early enough (about 9:30) and it was already really crowded; at one point there was hardly room to turn around in his workshop; I carried a bucket that I was using to hold items I wanted and had to keep shooing people away from it like flies from a picnic ham… “Sorry, those are mine…” I got to it first sucka!

While EVERYTHING was for sale, like furniture, kitchen equipment, books, etc., I focused on tools.

The haul from Joe Pig Man estate sale

There’s a variety of concrete-working tools, new cutoff discs, old screwdrivers & chisels and a big tool bag. And a heat gun – you never know when you need to melt stuff. (I borrowed a friend’s years ago and played a prank at work – melted a guy’s keyboard but it was a non-working identical keyboard.)

Funky 3-sided tool

So in the middle of that group photo is a set of tools – but I don’t know what they are. Each has a wooden handle, with a steel shaft that ends in a tapered 3-sided steel tip that is wider than the shaft.

The “edge” between each face is extremely sharp and keen. The steel feels very hard like its been tempered.

The set ranges in size from 1″ size tip to 3″ – the only thing I can think that they might be used for is some kind of scraping or reaming device.

Anyway, they seemed pretty cool and only cost me a buck a piece. Anyone know what they are called?

And a cool find is in the box on the lower right in the first photo:

Cartoony rubber gloves

I saw these rubber gloves and kinda laughed – they are made of what feels like medical rubber – they hold their shape very well but they remind of something you’d see in a cartoon or what you’d expect a mad scientist would wear.

(Oooh – maybe Joe was a mad scientist too…)

Anyway – I tried them on and they fit well so I had to have them. There’s some labels on them – made by the White Rubber Company; there’s a model number too so maybe I’ll look them up.

The NEXT estate sale: Sue subscribes to a list that notifies her of upcoming estate sales. She forwarded it but noted and warned of the text describing the sale: “Hoarder”… So – this could be a great sale with a lot of stuff, or it could be a great big MESS. We decided to go for it.

It wasn’t too bad – we’ve seen worse.

Sue found these very cute Japanese porcelain bowls; she also bought a small box of little square plates made out of pressed paper, with a maple leaf visible through the last few layers of paper. They are very elegant but we couldn’t tell what they are meant for; there’s a tiny piece of paper with Japanese writing on it.

We soon realized that this was the estate of a Japanese couple.

Here are the things I brought home:

Estate sale finds

On the lower left is a tamper – I found the handle outside by itself, wasn’t sure what it went to, then stepped into the shed and dug around in the pile of hoses and other junk lying around and saw the steel plate part. Neither had a price but I like to bargain; got it for 4 bucks. I just wish I’d gotten it a few weeks ago – could have used it on that concrete sidewalk project.

We were in the basement and in one corner were two military trunks. One was smaller and opened; the other was larger – but locked so I couldn’t see the condition of the inside. But I could also tell by lifting it that something was inside – so I saw it like a surprise grab bag and I bought the larger locked one.

I don’t usually buy “new” things, but there was a small paint roller still in packaging for only a dollar – Home Depot wants at least 6 bucks for it. There’s also an old pipe wrench that was a dollar, and some vintage ledger books that they threw in for free only because I found them under a pile of crap and I was willing to take them.

An old labelmaker

First label made: B.A.B.

Found a cool old labelmaker – I remember Dymo as the popular brand but I’d never heard of “Rotex” It was made of metal instead of plastic like the old Dymo – so even if I  couldn’t fix it at least I’d have some interesting parts for another project. I also noticed that there was a roll of tape still in the handle compartment so I was looking forward to making some labels.

A few nights after the sale, my curiosity had peaked (and piqued) and I had to open the trunk.

Picking the trunk lock


So maybe you guessed but I have a lock pick set. One of the best birthday gifts ever from Sue – she bought them for me several years ago, along with a book on lock picking. It’s a skill that’s come in handy many times – from the time our old neighbors lost power and could not open their garage door but had misplaced the key to the override pull chain, to helping myself to the specialty tools cabinet at Home Depot when passing employees would not help me – three times. Side note: I do not use this skill for evil.

So the anticipation was building – was there long lost bearer bonds in this trunk? Maybe some vintage photographs? I opened the lid very slowly…

Wait for it...

Ahhhh nuts! Just a bunch of clothes.

Well – bummer – it was full of folded up clothes perhaps from their last trip. They all seemed to be mens clothes though. Maybe this was extra storage.

But – there were some brand new wife-beater T’s and a nifty 70’s wool V-neck vest! (Uh, I think I had one like that when I was 14…)

Wife beater T-shirts and a spiffy vest!

If I was only the size of a small Japanese man – then I might be able to use some of these clothes. A trip to Goodwill is in order to donate these.

And for our third estate sale tale…

This past Saturday, Sue & I were returning home from our wood-turning lathe class (Sure, we’ll write more about that later) and I saw a sign on a street corner for an estate sale. I was suspicious because there was no address, the sign was made of metal and “ESTATE SALE” was painted in neat black letters. Too generic. An arrow pointed in a general direction told me: “Over that way”.

Sue said “No, I need to get home…” so I took off for it as soon as I could find my checkbook at BAB. It was fairly close to home, just on the other side of the highway.

It was later in the day so not too crowded. The estate was an older home and the floors went up & down like a roller coaster. Unfortunately, the kitchen had that old-person stink. Obviously the SHAG CARPET on the kitchen floor contributed to the scent. When is carpet in the kitchen EVER a good idea?

I found some neat glass dishes that were very similar to those Sue bought at the last sale, so I texted her a picture of one, and also of a treadmill – she said she’s interested in getting one. She replied “Yes on glass, no on tread…”

I made it back towards what was probably originally a porch but recently used as a small shop.

Estate sale haul - mostly tools

I bought a router table, with router, and many accessories – one of them is a device that will rout spirals into table legs. Nothing I plan to do soon but it was all sold as a set. And you can’t beat a Craftsman miter box and saw for five bucks! And a 40’s vintage hacksaw for 50-cents, some files, etc. While I already have a router, having one dedicated to a router table is a good idea.

There was another group of stuff that I forgot I’d stored into this cool metal filing box.

Second group photo from estate sale

This stuff was so cheap! A gigantic cold chisel for 50-cents! A ball peen hammer for a quarter! And those gloves – not quite sure what they’re made of but they’re well made and appear to be waterproof. And also just a quarter!

I love the patina on the old putty knife (upper right in the photo). The wood has beautiful graining and there is even a metal ferrule where wood meets the blade. The blade is continuous through the handle. Nothing like the cheap plastic crap we have to buy today.

The metal file box is pretty awesome. I only wish the paper dividers inside weren’t deteriorating and falling apart – I would definitely use them. The box was only 50-cents.

Metal file box - sortof looks like a book on the outside

Inside the cover page has “The Capitol Metal File” on it with a vintage logo. If I had to guess I’d place this in the late 40’s or mid 50’s vintage. It’s very cool looking so I think I’ll use it to store my shop tool owner’s manuals. At least until it fills up.

So as I was writing this post I realized I should take some photos at the sales. The last three have been very different, from locations and “messiness” to their level of organization.

And I’m also torn about actually buying up stuff at estate sales – they are usually at the expense of some kind of negative turn in someone’s life like death or moving to assisted housing.

But in the end we don’t go to estate sales to profit at someone else’s expense. While you could probably make a decent living reselling the stuff at estate sales, Sue & I go to them because we are looking for things that you can’t buy anymore – and we feel that these old things have so much more value not just for their better quality, but because someone else cared for them and hopefully we will do our best to care for them too. They all have stories.

All I can say is that when Sue & I are no longer here, there is going to be one B.A.S. – that’s Big Ass (estate) Sale at the BAB.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. lauracm permalink
    July 28, 2011 9:20 pm

    That first set of gloves look like electrician’s gloves. You might want to use them if you’re ever messing around in the breaker box without really knowing what you’re doing (as if that would ever happen). They might also prove useful for making a Halloween costume…. mad scientist, perhaps?

  2. Mary Beth permalink
    July 25, 2011 9:07 am

    This post is missing one important detail: where does one sign up for the estate sale notification list? Or are you afraid of more competition?

    While I am deep in the middle of packing all my existing junk, the new house does have an actual, usable workshop space…

    Also, I have a box full of router bits I found at a sale, if you ever want to borrow a particular shape. They don’t all fit the laminate trimmer I picked up at the same time.

    • Sue permalink
      July 25, 2011 10:42 am

      I subscribed to:
      Most of the listings include photos which really helps to give a sense of what will be there and the condition of the stuff. The e-mails come in a couple times each week, not too spammy.


  1. Where we ‘shop’ « B. A. B.

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