20 Antique Woodworking Tools That Are Worth Big Bucks

Updated: Jun. 22, 2024

You won't believe what the most expensive old tools in the world sold for at auction.

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Nicholson Molding Plane

Francis Nicholson is America’s first documented planemaker. It’s believed he was the first planemaker to imprint his name on the tools he created. Nicholson lived from 1683-1753 and this wooden plane he designed and built sold for $5,140 at auction.

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Norris Jointer Plane

Thomas Norris made precision planes in England because he worked with exotic woods. Few of his planes survived through WW2, and those remaining have become valuable for their rarity and their utilitarian value. This jointer plane fetched $12,250 at auction.

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Tidey Patent Beveling Plane

Milton B. Tidey created an elaborate beveling plane that is a marvel for collectors because of its complex design. This one grabbed $8,970 at auction.

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Adams Patent Patternmaker’s Plane

The uniqueness of this bronze plane drove its value up to $19,550 at auction. It’s more useful as a showpiece than a tool, because it requires switching out parts for specific jobs that could be done faster with individual tools. Learn the 12 tool myths you’d do well to stop believing.

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Davis Patent Double Inclinometer

Leonard Davis created several inclinometers to measure angles, but this double inclinometer is special because it has two levels. The rarity of this one helped drive the price to $8,165 at auction. 

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Davis Patent Level

Another Leonard Davis creation, this level tool grabbed the attention of collectors and non-collectors at auction because of the ornate design. It went for $2,310.

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Gunmetal Miller Patent No. 50

Charles Miller came up with this plane, which would’ve cost a cabinetmaker two months salary to buy when it was patented in 1872. It was only offered for a year and its rarity pushed its price up to $18,650 at auction.  Modern day planers are incredibly useful, and you can do a lot with one.

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C.E. Chelor Cornice Molding Plane

This cornice molding plane was made by Cesar Chelor, a former slave of Francis Nicholson, who was freed after Nicholson’s death. Chelor became Nicholson’s apprentice and continued to create tools throughout his life. He is the earliest documented African American toolmaker in the United States. This particular plane garnered $27,950 at auction because it dates back to the 1730s or 1740s and it came in unused condition.

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Carpenter Patent Plow Plane

Emanuel W. Carpenter of Lancaster, Pennsylvania became adept at creating innovative tools and his plow plane has become a coveted item. It sold for $17,600 at auction. It’s a unique tool because it has a handle in the back.

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Hovey Family Tool Chest

This tool chest is a bit of a history lesson, too. It belonged to the Hovey family and contained not only the patriarch’s tools but also the family’s history. The tool chest dates back to the 19th century and traveled with the family from New Hampshire to Ohio. It sold for $14,950 at auction.

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Miller Patent Plane No. 42 Type 1

Charles Miller made patterns and castings from toys in addition to planes. Stanley eventually took over this elaborate and elegant plane. It’s a gunmetal bronze alloy and it sold for $19,800 at auction. Hand tools are still great for many jobs, and can become even better with these handy hand tool hacks and modifications.

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Ohio No. 1 C Smoothing Plane

Few plane makers made a No. 1 plane because of its small size — it’s only 5 1/2-inches long. Ohio Tool was the only company to come up with a corrugated sole in the No. 1 size and there are believed to only be one or two of these planes left. If any of these items are sitting in your attic, you could be sitting on a goldmine.

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Engraved Victorian Calipers

This set of calipers from the Victorian era caught $4,510 at auction because of the superior condition they came in.

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Patent Gold-Plated Ivory Handle Presentation Wrench

This wrench is thought to be a gift to Chauncey Depew, an attorney for Cornelius Vanderbilt’s railroad interests who later became president of the New York Central Railroad System and a U.S. Senator. It’s a gold-plated, ivory-handled wrench with one standout feature.  The engraver misspelled Depew’s name on it. It fetched $5,980 at auction.

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Chaplin Patent Plane

A Chaplin No. 1 plane is a rare item and considered one of the planes every collector wants, Donnelly said. This one went for $7,700.

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Vertical Post Plane

Leonard Bailey patented several planes before Stanley finally bought him out after a series of patent fights. We still use his designed today. His was one of the first to build metallic planes and this plane sold for $7,920.

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Leonard Bailey Patent Bronze Scraper

This bronze scraper is thought to be the only one of its kind, again made by Leonard Bailey, Donnelly said. It sold for $32,200 and is believed to have been created during Bailey’s early development.

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Broom Vise

This broom vise sold at a 2008 auction for $275. Not a bad haul for something that was probably just sitting around an old barn.

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John Deere Wrench

Yes, a wrench went for $16,500 at an auction in 2017. The reason it’s so valuable is that it is a wrench for John Deere tractor that the company tried to take out of circulation. It’s believed that there are just nine wrenches total in the world that can work with the Dain all-wheel drive, four-cylinder, three-wheel tractor. It’s unknown how many of these tractors still exist. John Deere made just 100 of the model and repurchased nearly all of them after selling the tractors primarily in the Dakotas. D. Wayne Dill purchased this wrench in 2009 for $15,000. If you’ve got a tractor, see what you need to do to keep it running great.

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Rodier’s Patent Models and Drafting Set

In the world of antique tool collecting, this drafting set and patent model of Louis C. Rodier holds the world record price for a tool. It sold for $91,000 at auction in 2004. The previous record for a tool was just $30,000 at the time.

Because it belonged to Rodier himself, the set’s inventor, this item unique is unique . The tool is unique because of its design and high level of “gizmosity,” according to auctioneer Martin J. Donnelly.