Brace and Bit, anybody still use this?

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Forum topic by controlfreak posted 10-21-2019 05:49 PM 1566 views 0 times favorited 15 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2906 posts in 846 days

10-21-2019 05:49 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question drill-driver

As I am being slowly seduced by traditional hand tools it made me think of my fathers tools. I have his Craftsman hand plane which never worked well til I sharpened it for what was probably the first time. He also had a brace and bit that had a beautiful mahogany handle. As a child I remember drilling holes just for fun. I also remember getting a very sore chest after using it to apply downward force because I didn’t have sufficient weight or arm strength to get it to cut. I don’t know where it went to but I am having a craving to get one. Does anybody use these for tasks like debulking a mortise?

If I look to get an older classic what models seem to be the most favored or prized?

If I go with new what is a nice one to get?

And the bits, do any hold an edge or cut better than others?

Edit: I am an idiot, as soon as I posted this I spotted the “vintage drill of your dreams” topic but have never clicked on it til now.

15 replies so far

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John Smith

3007 posts in 1407 days

#1 posted 10-21-2019 05:54 PM

pretty common topic here.
read through some of these posts



-- I am a painter: that's what I do, I like to paint things. --

View MrRon's profile


6187 posts in 4488 days

#2 posted 10-21-2019 07:38 PM

As early as 75 years ago, a brace and bit was my often used tool. Now with all the new tools we have, the brace has pretty much fallen out of favor. Probably the last time I used a brace was maybe 40 years ago to drive wood screws. I still have my old brace, a Millers Falls that is about 70 years old and is still in perfect condition. I wouldn’t consider the MF a classic, but it’s a quality tool.

I wouldn’t bother with a brand new brace as it won’t work any better than any other old brace. New doesn’t always mean the best. Shop around at garage sales and weekend parking lots.

View controlfreak's profile


2906 posts in 846 days

#3 posted 10-21-2019 08:56 PM

It just seems like I would have more control over work assuming I can’t get it up to the drill press. Do folks here just chisel out a mortise or do they just use a power drill these days?

View therealSteveN's profile


8882 posts in 1818 days

#4 posted 10-21-2019 09:09 PM

Mortises are much easier to just clean out, instead of having to vacate the entire thing, so yeah. I use a drill press, or hand drill to remove the center. Sometimes I use a mortiser too, depends on how many are involved.

I’ve got a pile of braces, bits for them, and some dodads that work off a brace. I use them still, but would not call them front line tools. They require beer, food, or some other type of energy source to run them. I haven’t gotten worn out flipping the on switch on the drill press ever. Sometimes it comes down to those kind of choices.

Mr Auger does a fine job of poking holes, but he isn’t near the fine craftsman that Mr Forstner is. that is another choice decider.

-- Think safe, be safe

View Andre's profile


4741 posts in 3050 days

#5 posted 10-21-2019 09:32 PM

When I started to drill holes for my new bench thought the router was the way to go, fast and accurate, wrong first hole, bit caught and a very ugly scar on a brand new bench. Rest of the holes all done with the bit and brace!
Was lucky to pick up a canvas roll full of brand new bits at an auction, think $12.00 ?

-- Lifting one end of the plank.

View AdmiralRich's profile


20 posts in 3770 days

#6 posted 10-21-2019 10:18 PM

Well, you can go down the rabbit hole easily with braces; 10” throw are the jack of all trades, 12” throw great when you need extra torque, 8” (or the elusive 6”) throw when you need more control. Cadillac of braces is the Yankee 2101 and 2101A, they made them for the Bell System, no better brace was made. Braces are also good for driving screws. Remember to sharpen the bits, you can use a diamond paddle, but best is an auger bit file.

-- Elvem ipsum etiam vivere

View Phil32's profile


1586 posts in 1148 days

#7 posted 10-21-2019 10:28 PM

I have used a brace & bit for many years – still have a 1” auger I use to drill holes for tree spikes (fertilizer). More recently I find that I like brad point bits in my cordless drill – for wood, not dirt.

-- You know, this site doesn't require woodworking skills, but you should know how to write.

View BubbaIBA's profile


545 posts in 3621 days

#8 posted 10-22-2019 09:24 AM

A brace and bit will give better control, as an example, if you want a 25mm or 30mm deep hole and you know how many turns/mm you auger uses it is simple to count the turns. No need for stops or blue tape on your bit. It is easy to drill from both sides to prevent tearout when using a brace and bit, again because you have better control. If the job requires control I go with a brace and bit, if not, electric is easier.

The best brace is the simplest, a Spofford style made by John Fray until Stanley bought the Fray company. IIRC Stanley produced Spofford braces as Stanley #12.

Not a great photo but I’m using a Spoffort brace and a #10 bit to drill the mortises in a bench slab. The mortises will be used to attach the slab to the base with ⅝” dowels. IIRC That #10 auger takes just under one turn/mm and the mortise needed to be 25mm deep.


View bandit571's profile (online now)


29725 posts in 3928 days

#9 posted 10-22-2019 01:43 PM

I have a pair of 6” sweep braces…one set up for a pilot hole bit, the other for the counter-sink bit…

I used a 12” sweep and a #13 bit, to drill the round dog holes in my bench….

If I need a counter bore…a #6 (3/8”) works well, and leaves a centered pilot hole starter behind.

-- A Planer? I'M the planer, this is what I use

View Sylvain's profile


1400 posts in 3744 days

#10 posted 10-24-2019 08:50 AM

have a look here

-- Sylvain, Brussels, Belgium, Europe - The more I learn, the more there is to learn

View controlfreak's profile


2906 posts in 846 days

#11 posted 10-24-2019 02:10 PM

Garrett Wade has an interesting modern brace and bit set that has interchangeable jaws so you can use hex shafts or square style bits. It also has various drives and accepts sockets too. It also doesn’t have that old time look that am after. Maybe I need both ;-)

View BubbaIBA's profile


545 posts in 3621 days

#12 posted 10-24-2019 04:19 PM

Purpose made tools usually work better than Swiss Army knife models, simple is good.


View OleGrump's profile


581 posts in 1589 days

#13 posted 10-25-2019 02:38 PM

There are a Hell of a lot of us still hand crankin’ holes. Check out the “Vintage drill” thread on the power tool forum. (Don’t know how it got over there, but anyway…)
Yes, I bore out the bulk of material in a mortise and finish the sides and ends with chisels. Works very fast and well, plus you don’t drive people within earshot crazy bangin’ on your chisels all day long.

-- OleGrump

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581 posts in 1589 days

#14 posted 10-29-2019 04:39 PM

Couple of other thoughts here: 1. Even with at least two batteries for the Dewalt, they seem to either be dead or run down pretty quickly unless I’ve charged them the morning of the day I’m gonna use them, so the ORIGINAL cordless drills are standing by, ready to work 24/7/365. 2. Braces are the BEST for driving screws. Yes, your hex shank bits and bit holders WILL work in MOST braces. Driving screws this way gives you a lot of control and better torque. (Of course, everyone ALWAYS waxes their screws BEFORE attempting to drive them, either by hand or with a “screw gun” Right, Gang….???)

-- OleGrump

View JimDaddyO's profile


677 posts in 4323 days

#15 posted 10-30-2019 11:56 AM

I have about 5 braces, the newest acquisition is a Stanley 999 which has an offset crank with the frame going around it for boring close to a wall or floor. One of them has a rosebud countersink in it most of the time. There are a couple of different sweep sizes I have. One I am going to give to my son as it has blue plastic handles on it and just looks out of place with the older ones. I have a selection of bits, I find the Irwin pattern the most effective with the single spiral on one side going up the shank, and the other side shorter. I find them in lots at yard sales, not all of them in usable shape, so it takes time to sort through them (which I just did). Sharpening them is pretty easy. I also have a few centering bits and spoon bits and an extension shaft in case you need a 2’ deep hole I guess. When I did the last sorting and sharpening I captured it on video, which will come out eventually on my YT channel. I bored all the dog holes in my Roubo with the brace and bit. It just seems the right tool for the job many times. It’s nice and quiet too.

-- my blog: my You Tube channel:

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