PEACE DALE, R.I. — If a Makita cordless impact driver is something you need right away, MacLaughlin’s Used Tools in Peace Dale might be the place to find it. A Dowling Jig is also available if that’s in demand.
Row after row of used tools line the large interior of the warehouse-like shop, located in the back of 1425 Kingstown Road. Inside are tables with tools all over them and rows of boxes, bins, and cases of gadgets and devices for home repairs to specialty work.
For instance, vices large and small are lined up on one table. Frank Livolsi of South Kingstown browsed the several choices.
“I’m just looking. I’m thinking about getting into wood working and I’ll need a vice, so I came down here to see that they have,” said the URI graduate in mechanical engineering.
It’s Livolsi’s first stop, and it’s based on past experience. He discovered the place 10 years ago, while a student looking for a spanner — a mechanical compass to measure distance on a surface — for his capstone project, which involved a heat exchanger.
And he found it. “This is a really cool place,” said Livolsi, who noted he doesn’t go there often, but goes when he’s looking for something special.
Prices throughout the store vary for sockets, files, clamps, allen wrenches, trowels and any number of specialty devices, like a Matco Tools electronic leak detector. The convenience of going there on a weekend to find a bargain or certain tool can be irresistible to some.
On The Hunt
Bruce Decker of Narragansett knows that feeling.
He walked in this past weekend and yelled to owner Daryl Sherman, who owns and runs the tool depot.
“Got any magnetic strips or holder for screw drivers?” Decker asks. Sherman replies, “Pegboard kind of thing?”
“That might work,” Decker replied. He looked around. “I always come here looking for planes,” said the Narragansett resident, who happily called himself a regular at the tool shop that’s been open for the last 11 years.
“I come in here about once a week and look for things he gets,” said Decker, whose daily job is building stairs and other similar kinds of work.
Another customer strolled up and down the aisles looking at a variety of tools. He turned over various ones as he stood by a rack with long and short hammers, some with wood handles and others with metal. Prices ranged from $5 to $23 for a nearly new top-of-the-line one.
“I just like to explore, perhaps find something I can’t live without,” said Rick Green of South Kingstown. He also checked out different tools to add to his 25-year-old son Collin’s growing tool chest.
Sherman said his brother-in-law, Mike MacLaughlin, started the business in 2010.
“He really opened it so his daughter could have a part-time job, but she didn’t like it, dealing with tools all the time,” he said with a laugh. Soon after, MacLaughlin asked him to work part-time and about later turned the business over the Sherman.
It’s now open only on Saturdays and Sundays. Weekdays are by appointment only. Sherman’s full-time job is making concrete foundations.
“I do this to make a little extra money, which I’d need to do anyway,” he said.
The shop has many regulars, said Sherman, who knows the 20 or so who come each weekend by name. There’s also the 30 to 40 he sees every other weekend who he knows by face. The uncounted number that show up once a month he is only getting to know.
They all come for a simple reason, he said: They are looking for whatever might be new and don’t want to miss a bargain.
“Some guys will come in and say, ‘She’s going shoe shopping, I’m coming here to see what you’ve got,’” Sherman said about men who have the same shopping habits as wives or girlfriends.
He added that mostly men visit his shop. However, occasionally a woman will show up looking for something for herself or someone she knows, he said.
His inventory in the warehouse building “could be a couple thousand items, but I really don’t know,” he said. It’s not very important. Collecting tools and making them available to people is what he enjoys about the weekend hobby and part-time job.
He said he builds the collection through buying used tools in any number of places, from individual sales to estate offerings.
“The majority comes from a guy who passes away and the wife and kids take the tools they want and they don’t want a lot of people coming to the house, so they call me,” he said. After looking them over, he offers a price and usually the deal is done.
It was through one of those purchases that he found the strangest tool he has ever acquired.
About three years ago, he discovered a toy lathe among the items. It is a small machining tool used primarily for shaping metal or wood.
“It’s not something I’ve ever come across. You come across band saws all the times and wrenches all the times, but in 10 years I’ve never come across something like this,” Sherman said.
He thinks it was used for small and tiny objects, including guns, and was made in the 1940s.
He also has a 1950s tap-and-dye set. It is used to create screw threads. A tap cuts or forms the hole with threads for a screw or bolt, and the die is used to cut matching threads on the cylinder going into the threaded hole.
Oddities aside, the store has such a large assortment that it’s always worth a check for an item, said Sherman, “because for the most part you get a good deal. If it’s tool you’re only going to use once or twice, why pay full price?”
And that idea brought Steven Fox of Narragansett to the store last week. He looked rather intent as he walked around, and said he wanted a specific kind of floor jack at a good price.
“It’s a good place to look for a bargain, but it’s hit or miss,” he said, not finding his floor jack. “It’s nice that it’s here in our hometown and especially if you don’t want to spend a lot of money.”