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How to Make the Most Out of Woodworking Auctions to Save Costs for Your Shop


Did you know that buying used woodworking tools and equipment from an auction can save you up to 80-90% compared to brand-new prices? That’s a significant chunk of change that can be reinvested into your business or saved for a rainy day. 

If you’re new to the auction scene, it can be a bit daunting. But don’t worry! Anyone can get the hang of woodworking auctions with a little preparation and confidence. This guide will walk you through the process so you can make most of these auctions and save significantly on tools for your shop.

Finding a Woodworking Auction

First thing’s first–how do you even find a woodworking auction?

Tool-specific woodworking auctions can vary wildly by location, but they’re out there if you know where to look. Online searches and local auctioneer websites may list some upcoming events in your area. Some regional auctions are held on a regular schedule, allowing you to return frequently and see a wider range of options.

For online auctions, websites like Bidspotter, Craigslist, and eBay are great places to begin. Large, local auction houses will likely have their own websites to explore, too.

Once you’ve identified an auction you’re interested in–whether online or in person–take some time to read the fine print. Each auction will have its own set of terms and conditions, and you absolutely must understand what you’re signing up for.

If you win the bid on an item, you will be required to abide by all terms of the auction. You cannot change your mind or back out. This means you must account for fees and premiums in your budget and arrange a safe way to pick up heavy tools from the auction.

Some questions to consider:

  • Is there a deposit?
  • What are the payment options?
  • How long do you have to pick up the item? 
  • How much is the buyer’s premium?

If in doubt, ask questions. Auction houses are more than willing to assist–after all, they want to successfully auction off their lots without unexpected road bumps.

Keep in mind that there’s always some degree of risk with auctions. The photos and description can only scratch the surface about the tool’s actual condition, such as internal issues that keep the device from functioning properly. Any time you purchase from an auction, there is a risk that you will spend good money on a tool that does not work. That said, the money you’ll save by purchasing tools at an auction versus buying new will generally outweigh any losses. 

Research the Equipment

Especially for online auctions, it’s not uncommon for the individual creating the listing to be unfamiliar with the equipment. While the description and photos might provide some valuable information, take what you read and see with a grain of salt. 

Instead, focus your attention on the truly important part: the serial number. 

Researching the serial number should provide you more reliable information and specifications about the equipment, such as its dimensions and power needs. Can your workshop safely power the device? Do you have a place set aside where it will fit?

During this stage of the research process, also take note if there are multiples of the tools and equipment you’re interested in. For example, if there are several drill presses available in the same auction, you may be able to get an even better price when you go to bid on one. 

Set a Budget

Before attending the auction or bidding online, know your maximum limit. Stick to it to avoid overspending. Purchasing from an auction is supposed to save you money, but if the bid runs up too high, it may no longer be worth the cost–especially when you factor in fees and delivery costs. 

On a similar note, remember your original goal. If you came for a specific piece of equipment, keep your eyes on the prize. While a spur-of-the-moment decision to bid on an exciting find could be serendipitous, make sure your shop needs the item and has the capabilities to use it.

Be wary of smaller tools and materials up for auction. Woodworking auctions often have miscellaneous items such as handheld tools, supplies, fasteners, cuts of lumber, hand carts, and so on. However, these smaller items often have little discount compared to retail prices. If you need materials like these, check to see if there’s a Dakota Premium Hardwoods near you – we offer competitive prices on top-quality supplies and tools!

Don’t make impulse purchases just to avoid leaving empty-handed. 

Visit in Person

While online bidding is convenient, it’s worth visiting the auction in person if possible. 

Arrive early to inspect the items before the bidding starts. This gives you proper time to inspect the items you’re interested in – and if you’re lucky, you may even see the equipment in action. There is no guarantee that you’ll be able to plug it in and turn it on, though, as there may not be outlets available.

Placing Bids

When the bidding is finally underway, stay calm and remember your budget.

Auctioneers often speak quickly at in-person woodworking auctions, which may make the auction feel overwhelming or rushed. You may start to get caught up in the energy and fear losing out on a good deal, leading to impulse bids.

Online auctions do allow a little more time to collect your thoughts from the calm of your own home or workshop, but a countdown timer can still add to that fear of missing out. 

Remember that there are plenty of auctions out there. It’s better to miss out than to overpay or end up with equipment that doesn’t fit your needs. If you win a bid, you will be required to pay for that item and move it out of the auction house – so be absolutely sure it’s what you want. You won’t be able to return it if you change your mind.

Remember how we said to take note of any multiples? When there are multiples of the same equipment up for auction, it’s generally best to sit back and observe the first one, as it will usually go for the highest price. From there, it’s up to you how to balance when you enter the game. The last of that item will be the least expensive, but it’s also the last pick and may have damage or defects compared to the ones that sold earlier.

At in-person auctions, be cautious with your gestures. Unintended movements such as scratching your head or nose can be easily mistaken for a bid. When not bidding, cover your number by putting it in your pocket or facing it away from the action. 

Investigate Unsold Lots

Even after the auction is over, you may have an opportunity to find hidden gems. Items that didn’t sell during the auction are often available for their minimum bid price afterward at a first-come-first-served basis. This can lead to huge savings!

Some auction houses will post the list of unsold lots online. Otherwise, you can email the auctioneer to ask for it. 

Get the list of unsold lots and apply the same scrutiny as you would for other items. Look up the serial number, ensure it has a place in your woodworking shop, and understand the costs and fees associated with purchasing it.

Arrange Safe Delivery

If you’ve successfully won a bid at this point, congratulations! All that’s left is to transport the item to your shop. Ideally, you made a plan for this ahead of time–especially if you planned to bid on heavy, bulky equipment. 

Some auctions have professional shippers on-site who can arrange delivery to your location. If you plan to pick up the item yourself, check with the auction house regarding any insurance requirements. 

Always avoid taking risks with heavy equipment. Know your limits. When your health and safety are on the line, it’s better to spend a little money than risk damage to the equipment and serious injury to you. If you’re not sure about your ability to safely transport an item, arrange for professionals to handle it for you. 

Your Partner in Woodworking

Woodworking auctions are a fantastic way to equip your shop without breaking the bank. With careful planning, research, and a bit of patience, you can find incredible deals that keep your shop running at its best.

Now that your shop is well-equipped, it’s time to bring those woodworking projects to life. And what’s a project without the finest materials?

At Dakota Premium Hardwoods, we understand the passion and precision that goes into every piece you create. Whether you’re in need of plywood, the highest quality hardwood, functional or convenience cabinet hardware, shop supplies or tools, we’re your trusted partner! Contact us for questions or find a location near you. 


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