wooden brace

I’m kind of in-between things these days. the museum opens this weekend, so lots of cleaning & sharpening in my shop right now. Then I will get back to some projects. One thing I hope to work on soon are some tools; I have some plane-making to resume, and I want to make a brace & bit for my shop. I dug out some of the braces I made years ago for review.  Here’s two of the same general design, based on an oldie at Pilgrim Hall in Plymouth.  I made mine out of maple; “pads” are hickory I think. Heads are ash, it looks like. These tools have seen regular use for about 10 years or more.

brace & bit/wimble/piercer


The head is made in two pieces; I think I made this up. The original when I saw it was in a case…I never handled it. So I turned a pin with a head, & that is fitted through a hole in the top end of the brace. Then the head itself is bored through as well, and the tenon end of the pin fits through that & is wedged.

head for brace


top view of brace's head


The bits are probably early 20th-century…and Mark Atchison fits them into pads I make. The pad spreads like a clothes pin, you squeeze the end of it to insert it into the brace. Mark grinds the tapered tangs into flat, tapered tangs. then bores holes for them, & burns them in…one got fitted with an iron ferrule, (first photo here) that might be after the fact; once it started to get beat up.

pad & bit


Here’s the old one I photographed; come to think of it, I had some measurements, so we must have had it out of the case years ago. then this photo was just maybe 5 years ago…that’s when I shot it through the case. So maybe I didn’t make up the way the head fits…

wimble & bit; probably 17th c; New England


braces or wimbles

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.