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painful topic - when should we let our shops go?

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  • painful topic - when should we let our shops go?

    I know that a lot of us are retirees. And we all get older. It gets harder and harder to lift that mill vise or 4-jaw chuck. One day, we'll die. It's going to happen to every one of us. I also know that a bunch of us HSMs have the attitude "let my descendants worry about it!"

    I don't. By the time I die I'd like my shop to look like two 2-car garages again - empty. I'm sure many of you feel the same way.

    My wife and I had a deal. If she ever decided we were going to sell the house, I needed two full years to downsize before the move. As it happened, our 4 kids grew up and left, and she decided it was time. She gave me the official notice, and I had 2 years to sell pretty much everything. I sold my Bridgeport and a 15" Cincinnati lathe and a big Kaltenbach cold saw and an Alzmetall drill press and lots of smaller stuff. But when I looked at my shop you could barely tell anything was missing! I got overwhelmed and admitted to my wife that I was going to need help. Fortunately for me, she let me off the hook and decided we should stay here.

    I had a good friend who lived about a mile from me. He was a very savvy ex Boeing engineer and he had a two car garage STUFFED with machines and tools and supplies and partly completed projects. He died suddenly and his family contacted me and asked me to please help them get their garage back. I agreed and bought the entire contents of his shop and liquidated absolutely everything. It literally took me six months working at least half time. I sold his South Bend heavy 10, his Harig 6x12 surface grinder, his CNC Bridgeport, his drill press and his horizontal/vertical bandsaw, his air compressor, his heat treating oven, his surface plate and Biax scraper. And dozens (hundreds) of other items. It was a ton of work! The lesson I learned is that completely liquidating a home shop, especially one which has items collected over decades, is hard and stressful. I really don't want to put my family through that.

    My kids are both pretty handy. Sure, they'd take some of my tools. But I have four Kennedy stacks and a 16 foot workbench with 56 big drawers under it all full. They might take half a percent of that. Kids these days don't have big houses to put things in.

    So it's going to be up to me. I'm 68 and feel healthy and I can still lift my mill table and lathe chucks just fine. But that day is coming. My question is, how do I know when it gets here?

    Assuming I decline slowly and gracefully and don't drop dead suddenly, of course.


  • #2
    My kids are going to curse me. Everything is over 500 pounds. !! Using a popular vernacular, NMFP


    • #3
      I'm in a similar position here. Over the last 15 years I have bought a lot of machines to upgrade what I had before. Unfortunately a lot of the old equipment is still sitting in my shop. My plan to start is to try to sell off the surplus tools and equipment and then decide how much of the core shop I want to keep. Several years ago I bought what I refer to as my nursing home lathe. It's a Craftsman 6X12 and I had always wanted one as a teenager but my dad told me it was a toy and if I wanted a lathe to buy a real one. Done and done.

      My sister in law called me years ago and asked me if I knew what a lathe was. I told her yes, I have lathes in my shop. She said that a lady from her church had just put her husband in a nursing home and he had the basement of their riverfront home full of machines and she wanted them gone. When my brother heard about it he asked her why she called me as he would have been interested so I bowed out and let him get them. He ended up taking the Cannedy lathe to the scrap yard as it was missing the threading gearbox.

      Like you said, none of us will live forever.





      • #4
        The problem with living is that it can end suddenly, or not. I want my toys until I can't, but I'm not going to sell them until then, and well... it may be suddenly too late. The worst thing for me would be to sell it all way too early... timing is everything in life. What if you stay in good health into your 80's? 68 is spring chicken.

        So... I don't think you can plan your way out of this unless you get lucky. Maybe have a plan if you get disabled, or a terminal plan if you go out like a light bulb, but ,,,

        And in truth, you family has to go though nothing - someone could cart it all away in 2 days or auction it in a week. If you are trying to realize "max $$" - you are in for a drawn out process.
        Last edited by lakeside53; 03-28-2021, 05:47 PM.


        • #5
          When they find my cold dead body hunched over a machine.
          *** I always wanted a welding stinger that looked like the north end of a south bound chicken. Often my welds look like somebody pointed the wrong end of a chicken at the joint and squeezed until something came out. Might as well look the part.


          • #6
            Except for his micrometers and wrenches, my Dad gave it all away to a guy in return for the guy getting the stuff out of Dad's basement. This included SB 9" Model A, 16" drill press, 30" x 60" cast iron layout table, 5 hp old-school two-stage air compressor, and a ton or two of stock. I am not sure the clean-out guy got a deal. The micrometers and wrenches went to my son. My brother an I already had better shop equipment, so did not want Dad's machines. My other brother did not want it, so out it all went. I would have liked the layout table, but getting it from PA to CA would have been a real pain.


            • #7
              Sixty-eight is not that old. Not old enough to start liquidating, for sure, absent serious disease, etc.

              Another issue is that much of the equipment many of us have is losing value by the minute, most have manual machines, probably not the best, either, and in many cases ones of which a lot were made. Not particularly collectible, not new, not in super NOS condition, and of little to no interest to folks who have switched to CNC. It is not going to provide much cash to offset the loss of the shop.

              While I can see the point of getting rid of things before they become a burden, I also can see that most use their machines, and would be quite bored without a shop. Getting rid of it before you are getting unable to use it seems like a way to BECOME debilitated (and maybe senile), condemning you to TV, cards, and Mah-Jong.

              As for being too weak, in many cases, most that I am aware of, actually, that is a choice. I am about the age of the OP, and, frankly, I have never been stronger than I am now. I took up weightlifting a while back, and although I do not gain strength as fast as a 20 yo, I can lift and bench press more now than I could when I was quite a bit younger. Aerobic exercise is another component of staying healthy.

              I do not think that becoming debilitated at some particular age is inevitable. I have seen family members, and others, allow it to happen to them when it needn't have, and it does not turn out well. I wish to avoid it. It seems to be working.... friends who are my age get me to move stuff and pick it up for them, when they used to be considerably stronger than I was. And there are folks who are running, and finishing, marathons at 89 even, when others only a year or two older (or even younger) are unable to make it across a room without a walker.

              It's a use it or lose it proposition. I understand that disease etc can foul up plans, but there is no reason to accept what is considered the inevitable result of age before it is truly inevitable.

              It's not just my crackpot theory. It seems that this is becoming mainstream medical thought now. Taking heed should permit many to continue enjoying the use of their shops (and life) into their 90s.

              CNC machines only go through the motions


              • #8
                I'm currently considering the same things. I don't quite feel like a spring chicken, but at 70 (in one week) I'm still pretty spry, and I don't intend to pass anytime soon. Of course that won't be my decision- things can happen suddenly- I could even get hit by one of Elons satellites falling out of orbit and somehow surviving the trip back through the atmosphere- or maybe I'll fall asleep behind the wheel and careen off a cliff into Hells Canyon.

                At any rate, I want to keep all my stuff until the end is nigh- but when that time comes I don't want to leave a burden for anyone. I've been thinking lately about how I can relocate my shop onto another property where there would also be a house where my producer friend and his family would live, and operate the studio, etc. I would live in a carriage house above the shop, something like that. When I pass, the shop would remain, and either become an extension of the studio, or be used for what it is- a workshop with whatever machinery is in it. I'm looking at how to protect the other family against the division of my estate upon my demise- since they would now be living on my property. Were I to live long enough, they could buy me out, and my estate would then consist of what's left of my investments, etc. If I died suddenly- well at present they could not afford to buy me out. I don't intend to leave the entire estate to them, as I wish to help out my sisters, nieces, and nephews. At any rate it's going to be a chore to figure it all out-
                I seldom do anything within the scope of logical reason and calculated cost/benefit, etc- I'm following my passion-


                • #9
                  Im with Bob, theyll be prying my tools out of my cold, dead hands. Which, if i keep buying tools instead of food, will happen some time nest week...

                  On a serious note, id say its time to get rid of the tools when they stop providing you enjoyment. If you cant use them anymore or no longer derive any enjoyment from them, time to get rid of them, but if its something that makes you happy, keep it until the end. Life is for living, not preparing for the end


                  • #10
                    I'll be 75 in July, and I think about this. Non of my kids are interested in machining or designing machinery. I'm hoping wife and I can stay healthy at least until I'm 80, and maybe then I'll actually do something about it. If I didn't have my shop and all of the machinery, I might die of boredom, so I'm not ready to let anything go yet.----Brian
                    Brian Rupnow
                    Design engineer
                    Barrie, Ontario, Canada


                    • #11
                      My wife & I are going through this a bit with her folks who are both 83. My MIL has dementia and my FIL is not far behind her. It's not metal working tools that he has, it's wood. But the problem is he hasn't used any of the machines in years because he can't get to them. They are a bit like hoarders. The garage is stacked floor to rafters with crap and you can barely step in the side door! There's probably not much chance of opening the big door! We've tried to get them to get rid of stuff but my FIL says he doesn't have time because they're too busy driving around getting more crap to bring home! Their gasoline bill is about $550 per month. They bring home boards that someone dumped along the road, some he's stacked outside and they've been there so long it's rotten! He says he brings the wood home in case he ever cleans out the garage and can do wood work again! Scrap metal, boxes of jars that someone discarded. This is an everyday routine for them! They drive all over the county mostly looking for empty brass shell casings but they bring home anything & everything they find. Even underwear that they find in the mountains! They wash them & wear them! Shoes, socks, jackets, you name it. The house isn't in the best of shape but isn't stacked completely up with crap but they can never get rid of anything even if it's broken. An old, broken TV in the living room with a flat screen sitting on top of it. A long console stereo from the late 50's that hasn't worked in decades with crap stacked on it! You have to use the side door to the house because theres been crap stacked on the front porch covered with a tarp for years. My FIL says he doesn't want to get rid of anything because it has "too many memories". My wife told them that with all the crap they have saved for no reason that when they "go" we're probably just going to call the fire dept. and let them use the place for a practice burn. My BIL lives local but has been a no show at family events for 25 yrs so he'll be no help. He couldn't even come to his father's 80th B-day! Said he "didn't have time". Even if my two SIL's help clean out the place, I would bet it would take us a couple of months working 5-6 days a week, several cans of bug spray for the Black Widows, rat traps, and a large 20-24 ft dumpster or two to get everything hauled away and of course, my wife and her sisters will have to pay all the dump/landfill fees.

                      On my tools & stuff, I've got one son who would like to have my main tools like the lathe, mill, DP, welder, plasma, compressor and my Barracuda but he lives 500 miles away and he doesn't have anywhere to keep any of it. I told them (daughter & 2 sons) that as for the car, they will have to agree on a price and if any of them wants it that person will have to "buy" the others shares or sell it and split the money. I've made a list of firearms each kid is to get but as far as my tools, I've got too much to try to try to list. They'll just have to work it out amongst themselves or sell it all and split the money.


                      • #12
                        Ive basically told my wife and kids what most of the stuff is worth, so when Im gone have an auction or list it.
                        Unless of course I have warning then I will liquidate as much as I can.
                        I plan to keep all my tools for as long as Im able to use them.
                        But I have started to sell stuff that I dont or will never use.
                        Beaver County Alberta Canada


                        • #13
                          I've taken a bit different approach. I have taken pictures of all of the machines & tools and the accessories for each piece of equipment. what I have done is place these pictures in various places, the thumb drive in savings deposit box, the thumb drive on the bench labeled, My Google drive, and a typed list in the file cabinet in the shop. Try to keep it updated but not completely as of today.
                          I have told my kids about this and expect them to get what they can or scrap it when I'm gone. I figure that with the pictures at least the items that are for that given machine will hopefully stay with it to be used by the new owner. If they choose to break it all up so be it, I'm gone !!

                          Mr fixit for the family


                          • #14
                            When my dad retired in his 60s, he moved to Florida (from New Hampshire) and turned into a turnip.Did absolutely nothing!! Me, I am 78 and while I have slowed down and have a few issues, keep going as much as my sometimes tired body allows, both mentally and physically. I like moving machinery, and so I have a big trailer, lots of blocking, jacks, hoists, etc, and lots of friends who buy wood and metal working machines. It keeps me going.
                            Grantham, New Hampshire


                            • #15
                              Many of us face the same problem. I am 77 and not getting any younger. And the garage/shop is packed. My wife worries about what she is going to do with "all that stuff". But I am not ready to just go to seed. And I may never be.

                              So, where does that leave me?
                              Paul A.
                              SE Texas

                              And if you look REAL close at an analog signal,
                              You will find that it has discrete steps.