Oskaloosa.com

June 4, 2014

Do you know what this is?

By DUANE NOLLEN
The Oskaloosa Herald

OSKALOOSA —

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.

Our brace strongly resembles one illustrated in a Smithsonian Photo (49792-E) as an 18th century non-factory form “in which none of the components are ever precisely alike.” Complete with several changeable bits, the well-worn handle tells a tale of a tool well loved, preserved and frequently used.”

The Oskaloosa Herald and the Nelson Pioneer Farm are teaming up to test your knowledge of historical artifacts.

The Nelson Pioneer Farm has about 15,000 artifacts in its collection spanning in age from the 1840s to the present.

The Herald will take a picture of an artifact and publish it in the Herald section of the Oskaloosa Shopper, The Oskaloosa Herald an the Herald's Web site, www.oskaloosa.com. People can make a guess on what they think the object could be.

People can either email their guess to oskynews@oskyherald.com or mail their guess to The Oskaloosa Herald, P.O. Box 530, Oskaloosa, IA 52577. You can vote from Wednesday through Saturday.

The identity of the artifact and the vote breakdown will be announced in each Wednesday's Herald Shopper along with the week's new artifact.

Herald Editor Duane Nollen can be reached by email at oskynews@oskyherald.com