Old House & Barn Our house is of indeterminate age. It was built on the foundations of an old water-powered factory of the 18th or 19th century and is shown on maps as early as 1840. Half of the main structure is a very old building moved from somewhere else, and the other half was built before 1931, and there's a late 20th century dining room and fireplace that have been added on. The oldest part has transitional framing, somewhere between a true timber frame and a balloon frame, the middle part has something more like a true balloon frame but with some of the features of platform framing, and the newest part is somewhat shoddily framed out of 2x4s on cinder blocks. The timber frame barn was also built out in three stages - the central 2 story structure was built and signed in 1901, and the two single-story shed-roofed wings contain carved graffiti from 1910 and 1911 respectively. In 2002 the right wing, a former pig pen and horse stable, was destroyed by a falling walnut tree, but has since been rebuilt in oak and cypress.
1959 Table Saw Red and I dragged a rusty, broken Craftsman 10" table saw out of the basement of one of my mother's friends with the intention of delivering it to the steel recycling center for her. Before I got around to that, I needed to rip a couple of long boards, and on a whim I hot-wired the saw's motor and hung a weight off the broken motor mount so that I could use it without even taking it off the trailer. It did such a great job that I've rebuilt it and installed it in the shop.
1973 Electric Garden Tractor I purchased a nearly perfect condition GE Elec-Trak in the fall of 2011. Since then I've been been learning how it works, how to use it optimally, and how to maintain it. These old tractors are a marvel of robust, simple design - there's not a transistor in the thing, it's entirely made of parts you can reproduce in the shop yourself. I hope to add enhanced lights and an improved mowing deck to the tractor, since these are the least elegant systems it has, but I don't want to make any modifications that might decrease its antique value, since it's highly collectible.
1938 Robbins & Myers "Double Diamond" oscillating desk fan I found an antique fan in the garbage with a smashed cage, bent and distorted blade, gouged finish, and shot wiring. It's still got the trashed paint job, because She Who Must Be Obeyed likes it that way, but has otherwise been completely restored and is in regular use. It outperforms modern fans that cost more than a hundred dollars, and all it cost me was elbow grease and some modern reproduction cloth-covered wiring. Another elegant, robust machine; the most difficult part of restoration was planishing the damaged blade with hammer and anvil and rebalancing it.
1941 GE Telecron "Rapture" table clock Whenever I see an old telecron at a yard sale or Farmers' Market for less than $10, I buy it and restore it. These old machines use brushless, self-starting AC synchronous motors and their history is intimately entwined with the history of the US power grid - in a sense, the technology in these clocks is the reason that we have a true distributed grid today. Although I usually just give away the clocks to friends after I rewire and lube them (they rarely require any further repair) I kept this unusual version of the ultra-deco 3H160 Rapture - not because it's a rare version of a rare model of a historic clock, but because it's just so stylish!
Antique Hand Tools Another thing I buy at yard sales when I see them going cheaply are old tools made of hammered die-cast tool steel. Typically chisels that sell to collectors for $200 or more can be found for $5 or less... but they're quite the chore to sharpen.
Turn off your computer and go work on something physical.