a quick one today, about braces. I showed a couple the other day from the collection formerly at Heritage Plantation. Here’s the last one of those I have, a small brace, fitted with a permanent bit. Now snapped off. A ferrule fits on the stock where the bit is secured into the brace.

small brace

 I have an old wooden brace, sent to me by Jennie Alexander (like many of my tools, thanks JA) that shows evidence of having had a ferrule also.

brace, oak?


embossing and staining from ferrule

This brace seems to be made of oak. It is impossible to date, I think. Could be 70 yrs old, could be 200 years old. I think more likely the former. Not sure if the head is original, it’s fixed on with an iron nail or brad through its protruding tenon.

head of brace

There’s some layout lines scribed on the stock to align the bit and the head:

layout lines

A nice, simple brace, fitted with just one bit. So this craftsman had several braces, presumably, for different sized holes. Here is a brace from Pilgrim Hall, showing a removeable “pad” – thus a brace that could have several bits. The caption uses a common period term, “wimble” for the brace. Moxon called the whole thing the “piercer”.

wimble & bit; probably 17th c; New England


and here it is, in the early 15th century, in the Merode Altarpiece. St. Joseph boring holes for foot warmers:

brace & bit, c. 1425

I often point out to folks that the tools depicted in this painting are fully-developed. Not a transition phase, so the early 1420s is the date of the painting. the tools’ forms are older than that still..there’s more to come. Randle Holme has a nice illustration identifying the parts of the brace…but I’m out of time.
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