Local News

June 4, 2014

Do you know what this is?


This past week's artifact from the Nelson Pioneer Farm is a Brace & Bit.

Some readers made a guess as to the identity of the artifact.

Tom Bowers wrote via email: “Hopefully  you aren’t calling this a hand drill.  Since it is a brace drill because you would brace it against you to drill.  Being a wood one it would have been hand made and used a spoon bit  not the  auger  bits that would have been used with the more modern metal brace drills.” 

Dorothy Vos also wrote via email: “The artifact in this week’s shopper is a cast vintage hand cranked drill frame.”

Eileen Van Weelden wrote via Facebook: “Antique hand drill. My dad used one of these”

Nelson Pioneer Farm Curator Kelly Halbert did some research on the artifact. She wrote: “BRACE & BIT

This artifact is an early brace and bit. A brace and bit is a hand operated tool that was used to create holes prior to the development of power drills. The brace, also called a bitstock or stock, was a bent handle designed to allow the operator to hold it in place with one hand while rotating in around the center with the other hand. Originally it was designed to drill a hole in wood, replacing augers and gimlets which were one piece drills or spoons with “T” shaped handles.

Historians do not agree on the date of origination of this tool. One claims the early 15th century, another implied the middle ages and yet another indicates that these tools became popular in the early 18th century. Documentation shows an early joiner’s brace and bit illustrated in Mechanick Exercises by Moxon, published in London in London, 1703. André-Jacob Roubo also illustrated the brace and bit in  L'Art du menuisier, in 1769. This tool didn’t seem to diversify until 1850 when the first metallic versions show up after 1850. It was at that time that the versatility of this tool came to light – someone suggested it to substitute as a screwdriver.

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