Estate Planning and Management

Families often need help to dispose of unused woodworking equipment from a woodworker's estate. Woodworking shops typically contain power tools, hand tools, lumber and various other items unfamiliar to non-woodworkers. Determining the value and saleability of a shop's contents can be a challenging task. It can be difficult to decide whether to try to sell these items yourself, hire a professional estate seller or find an organization to receive a donation and receive a tax benefit. The San Diego Fine Woodworkers Association (SDFWA) may be able to assist you in making the right choice


This section outlines what SDFWA can do to assist you. We have put together an experienced team of woodworkers to help families deal with the disposition of an unused woodworking shop during stressful times. Woodworking tools and materials are specialized and complex. Most non-woodworkers will not be able to value these items appropriately. A small hand tool may look like a $20 item but be worth $200. At the other extreme, a large power tool may appear to be worth $1,000 but, because it is obsolete or in poor condition, be worth much less.  We can visit the shop, conduct a brief survey of the contents, advise you as to the value and saleability of the equipment, tools and materials and explain various options for disposing of the shop. SDFWA is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and, if the contents are suitable, can sometimes accept donations. For additional information send an email to us at:


1. Give some or all items away to neighbors, family or friends.

2. Donate to: local schools with woodworking programs, organizations such as Habitat For Humanity ReStore, other worthy organizations, or SDFWA.

3. List items on Craigslist, eBay, or local publications and sell items piecemeal.

4. Hire a professional estate seller to dispose of the contents of the shop.

5. Ask SDFWA to conduct a sale on your behalf.

6. Hold a garage or estate sale yourself.



1. Suggest alternatives for selling or donating tools and materials.


2. With your approval we can post an inventory of the items you wish to sell and your contact information in our newsletter and on the Wants and Disposals page of the SDFWA website.


3. If you chose to donate these items to our association and the items are suitable, SDFWA will remove all the items from the shop and leave it in clean, orderly condition. We will not be able to assist with disposition of items unrelated to woodworking. Donated tools may be used in our member shop, or sold to SDFWA members as appropriate. Any remaining tools will be donated to other charitable organizations, sold to the public, or discarded.


4. If you prefer to sell the contents of the shop, and the contents are suitable for SDFWA to sell on your behalf, we will prepare the shop for a sale in place, schedule and advertise the sale with your approval, conduct the sale, provide security, collect and account for payments received and clean up afterwards. Disposal of unsold items will be the responsibility of the estate. To compensate SDFWA for the time and effort involved in preparing for and conducting the sale we will retain 25% of the sale proceeds.


1. Take stock;

Inventory the contents of the shop

Make a few notes about categories of items, for instance;

            Large power tools sitting on the floor

            Bench mounted and portable power tools

            Hand tools, fasteners and finishing supplies

            Clamps, fixtures, accessories and jigs

2. Organize items of similar nature and arrange them on tables for display

3. Price all items and label with secure price tags.

4. Discard clutter. It is best for someone not emotionally attached to the material get rid of unsaleable items such as scraps of wood, loose fasteners and damaged tools.

5. Wood falls into one of several categories: Furniture grade - hardwood lumber and veneer plywood and larger pieces of furniture grade hardwood lumber are saleable Construction grade - decking material, plywood, MDF, molding, 2x4s, 2x6s, and other soft wood material may be saleable, but is not preferred by most woodworkers. It might be welcome at Habitat For Humanity ReStore locations or other community organizations. Shorts & Cut-Offs –Lumber pieces less than 3 feet long. Small hardwood pieces are usable by wood turners for pens and other small items. The hobbyist woodworker can make use of shorter boards for building small projects such as jewelry boxes. High school wood shop programs can sometimes accept larger boards. Milled hardwoods – Surfaced hardwoods (maple, walnut, cherry, mahogany), ¼” - 1” thick, widths from 3” – 12”, and lengths from 2’ to 8’ are of value to woodworkers. Wood must be free of bug damage, nails and deep cracks. Small pieces of exotic species and figured hardwood are often of great interest, especially wood turners (check with San Diego Wood Turners ( Veneers in good condition are also of interest if stored properly. Blocks of wood for turning and carving – may be green or dry,  large blocks, half or full logs, burls, squares, rounds, etc. It should be sealed with waxy material on the end grain and be free of deep cracks. Spalting (from fungus) is valued as long as the wood is not too soft.

6. Advertise the sale on Craigslist with a brief description of the contents, starting and closing times, location and a clearly defined cash and carry policy. Valuable tools can be advertised on eBay. Place posters announcing the sale in your neighborhood.

7. Decide in advance what your policy for bargaining will be.

8. If possible, setup the location so that physical access is limited to a single entrance.

9. Do not permit entry until the starting time and, if possible, keep the door closed until starting time.

10. Set up a table in a secure spot for checking out purchases and taking payments.

11. Have a supply of small bills for making change.

12. Make it clear that buyers are responsible for removing purchases at the time of sale except by special arrangement with the seller.

13. Be sure that all items are marked with secure price tags.

14. Arrange to have sufficient personnel to collect payment, assist and watch buyers, and help with heavy items.


We will all eventually reach a point when we are no longer able to do woodworking. If you are not present to direct the disposition of your tools and supplies, your family may be left to complete this task at a stressful time. You can make things far easier for your family by providing some guidance now. Any advice you give them in advance about your preferences for the disposition of the contents of your shop, an accurate inventory of the contents and estimates of the value of your tools will be helpful. This can be done informally or, preferably, in writing. You might also consider including directions about the disposition of your shop in your will. Directions could designate specific items to be given to special individuals or specify organizations to receive a donation. Of course you should consult an attorney to be sure your instructions meet the legal requirements for a will. In the past SDFWA members have named our Association to receive a bequest of their shop's contents. SDFWA would be grateful for such bequests in the future.