1. I’ve just made myself a workbench (along the lines of the ‘Moravian’ one) with a 2″/50mm beech top. the only tool that would make the dog holes properly was my trusty brace and bit: it makes a cleaner cut and it isn’t hard to cut the hole plumb and square, because, as Paul points out, it runs at a human pace

    my brace is identical to Paul’s, but doesn’t have a maker’s mark that I can see. is yours a Stanley?

    1. If you’re in the US, Highland Woodworking stocks(usually) the bits. They’re Jenning’s Pattern bits made by Fisch, and you can also get the bit file from them too. I’ve used them and I like them.

      New braces, on the other hand, all seem to suck.

    2. Check out Lee Valley, the Canadian retailer; they sell different varieties of bits that are newly manufactured, including Wood Owl bits, which are a bit pricey but quite well made. A company called Fisch make auger bits in the Jennings style and can be found in Europe and in the U.S. through Tools for Working Wood. They are also a bit expensive but very, very nice (I could only afford two of their bits but that’s all I’ve needed so far).

    3. Irwin still makes them. I’m not sure as to quality, but they’re new. It wouldn’t surprise me to learn they need to be sharpened out of the box. I think there is also a company in Europe making them (Fisch, maybe?), but I’m not finding the link at the moment.

      1. Beware the current grind on Irwin bits is only good for softwoods like construction grade SPF. I purchased a set, contacted Irwin about the problem(with pictures), they replaced them with the exact same problem. The grind does not transition all the way to the center spur leaving a diamond shaped ridge. In hardwood, chips do not clear effectively then build up around the spur and cause the spur to stop feeding. I currently use the Wood Owl bits but understand the Fisch bits are good also. This may not apply to older Irwin bits.

    4. I came across these on Amazon, I haven’t tried them yet (still waiting on my brace to arrive in the mail), but they have decent reviews.


      There’s also these, which I have seen mentioned on the common woodworking site as well. They’re a bit cheaper, reviews aren’t quite as good, but I’m sure they’d get the job done.


  2. Braces are fabulous much under appreciated hand tools. Powerful, versatile, easy, silent and fun to use.

    I do like a non ratchet brace. Lighter and (when you buy on ebay) a little less likely to be broken.

    Because it was the most useful size a 10″ (5″ swing in the US) is the most common. Rather like the No4 plane.

    For bigger deeper holes in harder woods a 12″ (6″ swing) is significantly easier to turn. Even larger sizes were made but are quite rare and, unless you have very long arms, perhaps a little awkward to handle. Braces, though, are so cheap on ebay you can buy as many different sizes and styles as you want.

    Besides screw drivers braces can be used to turn sockets or big allen heads and I’ve found them the easiest way to set threaded inserts nice and square – an awkward job with most other tools.

    I also find a brace better than any other hand tool when you really need to drill a perpendicular hole. Probably because they are long and you can sight down it like a rifle. You can place a square next to the bit for guidance. For me that works best when the workpiece is at knee level and I drill down from above holding the pad under my chin. It’s the closest you’ll get to pillar drill accuracy without having a pillar drill.

  3. Hi mister Paul!
    Just wanted to let you know that with your sharing sir, you have been helping me a lot! In the last few years I have turning my self in to a maker, “wood worker”… And learning immensely with you! For me, what you say is low and I try to figure it out and obey! 😀
    dear sir. I’m not a religious person! But Amen to you sir!
    Thank you very very much!

    1. Have my grandfathers set as well as his chisels etc. The oil stone belonged to his father dates back to circa. 1878.Etched on wooden box Whenever I get a chance to use his tools I feel as I am channelling pa. I have many quality tools but really get great enjoyment using his.

  4. I still have my dad’s old ratchet brace. It must be at least 80 years old. One adaptation I have made is that I use a keyless chuck made as an adapter for an SDS power drill. It is held snugly in the brace chuck and runs true on the axis of the brace. It adds about 3” to the length but it allows me to use anything from a 2 mm twist drill to a hex shank spade or augur bit as well as screwdriver bits etc.

    1. I did a similar thing, but with the spindle and chuck from a drill/driver. I tried an sds adapter, but it was not working too well. A little bit of diamond time to square the end of the spindle, and it fits perfectly, almost no run out at all. (I had been thinking of buying a brace with interchangeable bits, but that is not so necessary now. Crimbo is coming though.)

      I would love to know if anyone has any tips to stop the 4 jaw from undoing itself when turning anti-clockwise.

  5. Very nice video and a plea for the trusty brace. Thank you for that.

    There are some points I’d like to amend:
    The thread at the tip of the bit in most cases is too small to pull the bit through the wood. Usually the thread will rip off the matching threads within the wood. So we have to support that thread by give gently some pushing force at the knob.

    By pressing the knob eg. against the belly gives not only the supportive force, but also allows to keep the direction of the bore.

    If it’s necessary to bore vertically eg. when sitting on a saw bench, then it’s worth a try to lay the forehead on the hand which pushes down the knob – regarding to the previous point.

    As far as I know, there’s only one manufacturer for drill bits with square taper shank: https://www.fisch-tools.com/en/produkte/0033-jennings-pattern-auger-bit
    The bits are available in imperial measurements (roughly 35€ per bit at Fine Tools).


  6. Old brace bits are probably the most common vintage tool you run across at flea markets and garage sales. Learn to identify one that is in good shape or can be made so. I sell them 3/$1 at tool swaps (unless of a rare type or maker). Good sets are all over, but go for big $$ and you don’t need some of the sizes anyway – just collect single ones as you find them. Always buy a phillips bit with the square tang when you find one – they are quite scarce

  7. As usual excellent Paul.
    I have a collection of bits that do not have the side cutting blades in the region of the snail.
    I have never seen you use one of these, do you use these.
    My basic research suggests there are 2 types, one for softwood and the other for hardwood, is this basically correct?
    Thanks again
    Tim from Australia.

  8. Paul,
    Very pleased to see an article on the brace & bit. I was introduced to these by my father in the late ‘50s and have always had them (including dad’s now).
    Two things; The screwdriver bit you called unusual, was very common once and is without doubt the most powerful screwdriver there is, useful for pulling timber down hard or removing those rusted in 12s in your Victorian door hinges.This is the tool of last resort when nothing else will do it, the only down side is these rely on properly made screws !
    You missed out the most useful bit; The adjustable bit, I have a couple of these that are always around and others in a drawer somewhere, if sharp they cut a magnificently clean hole. I use both sizes and can cut a hole from 1/2” to 3” beautifully, I also have one which will fit in an extension bar so your depth is up to you ( I’ve never gone further than 20” like this !!)
    And never forget the side brace and the three jaw chuck.
    Next week “The Yankee Screwdriver” ??

  9. Lee Valley sells a couple of useful accessories for the square-jaw brace: a 1/4″ hex driver (which you can use for many of the modern screw types beyond slotted and Phillips) and a 3/8″ socket driver (so you can use 3/8″ sockets, which can be very useful for larger bolts). I don’t have a full set of auger bits, but these two accessories mean I still get regular use from my antique brace.

  10. Most points have been covered, but here’s an old tip: When boring horizontally, it’s not difficult to maintain perpendicularity side-to-side, but starting & keeping the bit level may be more difficult. So place a large washer on the shank of the drill – it will provide a visual indicator that the bit is level when it does not slide up or down the shank.

  11. I have two Yankee/Stanley braces (8” and 10”) that I’ll never part with. They get used a lot. When I was working building and repairing traditional wooden boats, they were essential for removing and driving the large screws used. I have drivers that use the disposable/changeable hex bits so that I can do virtually any screw. I particulartly like using square drive marine bronze screws and driving them with a brace. I have so many other brace accessories including two complete sets of auger bits that are about 100 years old; my grandfathers used them. I even have an adjustable round tenon cutter that one grandfather used to make tenons on wagon spokes! I cannot imagine not having at least one brace.

  12. Paul, thank you for yet another wonderful video. Is your 1/4″ Hex Bit adapter from Lee Valley? This is the only commercially available adapter for this use I have managed to find. I am wondering if there are alternatives out there. (LV currently don’t sell it online)

  13. Braces are dime a dozen, vintage around here. BUT good bits you have to hunt around for. I’ve been collecting for some time. I’ve blew some minds with my bit sharpening not too long ago-made the work they’d been doing 10x faster and easier.

    Shopping for an adapter to the modern stuff-brilliant. Shipwrights use the flat bit in a brace for great control over large screws. Spoon bits I don’t have yet, but will get.

  14. I purchased mine at a pawn shop 25 years ago, I had to put in a gate that was 50 yards from my house. it was either buy a half inch drill driver and a large bit and carry the 6x6s to the house and back or use the brace and bit from the pawn shop. Being broke, I purchased the brace and bit and was amazed at the speed of use. would have take me longer to find the extension cord, than it did to bore those holes. thanks for the great vlog.

  15. Oh Paul…great introduction to brace and bits,, but you’ve barely touched the diversity of bit stock tools., of which you are well aware….?future program? Brace and bits are stock in my truck, wouldn’t be without em.


  16. Paul, braces are wonderful tools. Their torque for large holes is greater than most cordless drills.

    A tip for all: I work predominantly with very hard Australian woods. These can prove a challenge for the bits. Generally, the amount of downforce on the thread needed increases and cutting becomes too difficult. There is a way around this: drill a pilot hole (say 1/8″) first – you can do this with a brace or cordless drill. This tiny hole reduces most of the work that the thread needs to do, and cutting wide holes is now a relatively easy process. This applies to both coarse and fine threads.

    Regards from Perth, Australia

    Derek Cohen

  17. I have my father’s old brace, and also a couple of his Yankee push-drills. Hand tools like that can be used for decades, generations, and centuries. No battery-powered tool will match that. They are obsolete in a decade or two at most. If you can’t get replacement batteries, then they are paper weights. I really enjoy the “connection” I feel when I use an antique tool. It’s a pleasure that no electrical powered tool can generate.

  18. Oddly enough, yesterday my neighbor discarded both a Stanley and a Millers Falls brace in perfect condition, along with a reamer bit and several countersink bits. The braces are somewhat better quality than the two no-name braces that I already have, so I’ll pass the no-names along to a newcomer. But there is one countersink that I’ll not part with – it’s a single flute bit that cuts very smoothly, unlike the multi-flute countersinks.

    Also, I see that Dieter Schmidt sells several bit adapters at very reasonable prices.

  19. As always, a brilliant demonstration of tried and tested technology. Just last week I was using an impact driver to drive four long screws into oak, with suitably prepared pilot holes. The fourth screw jammed and the Pozidrive screw head ‘cammed’ out. The drill-driver couldn’t engage with the screw, in or out. But placing a driver-bit into my old brace enabled me to get a grip on the screw and carefully, slowly, withdraw it. The screw shank had been bent by the impact driver. A new screw went in beautifully with the brace! So often the old ways are the best.

  20. I have two identical old drills with the ratchet function and use them a lot but always thought it would be nice to have one without ratchet as well. Thanks to this video, Paul, I will jump in the workshop now and see if the “in-between-position” also exists on my old german ones! Thank you 🙂

    Regarding the bits: you don’t need the vintage bits, the contemporary snail bits with the hexagonal shaft also work very nicely (at least with my braces). I bought an inexpensive metric set at fine-tools about five years ago and am very happy with the result.

    1. No-ratchet-position found! That made my day. Thanks again.

      One addition. You said that putting the workpiece flat in the vice would not be very common for boring.
      With my bits let’s say from 3/4″ up I have to bore a workpiece this narrow flat in the vise because the lead screw would otherwise split the piece. Is it possible that the old bits have finer screws?

  21. I have my father’s brace and some bits, including a flat screwdriver. Anybody know where I can get Philipps screwdriver bits? That is what you need when you want a LOT of torque on a difficult screw.

  22. I can find plenty of modern auger bits with round shanks but few with tapered square shanks.
    I pick them up at boot fairs for pennies whenever I see them.
    My old wooden brace has only a tapered socket with a spring clip, no shell or chuck arrangement so I need square shanked bits.

  23. Although I have two sets of sharp traditional auger bits for my Stanley brace, I’ve found that Wood Owl tri-cut auger bits outperform. They are smooth and consistent in their “grab.” They also work well in a power drill but have tremendous torque. That torque can make them a challenge in a drill press (clamp the work piece well). Wood Owl makes a wide range of bits. http://www.woodowl.com. Sold by Lee Valley, Amazon and many others, including the big home stores.

  24. I have not read all of the comments, so this may have already been said, ; however, Irwin Tools make the auger bits for a brace. They can be found on Amazon and Amazon.ca. Slightly pricey but they are what they are.

    Irwin Tools 43608 1/2-Inch Hand Braced Solid Centre Auger Bit and they come in a multitude of sizes

  25. Hi everyone,

    Just a quick point, I think I may have said it before. If you have a screw that is coming out of the screwdriver bit, I put a bit of valve grinding compound on the screwdriver bit. It has a very fine grit suspended in grease. I usually get it at automotive stores. You may get a funny look from some of the staff because most cars are made so that you can’t grind the valves in most engines.

    That’s my two cents worth, Doug.

  26. I ordered a brace (Made in France, via Fine tools in Germany) because of this video, and I was surprised to find it more accurate and even more effective for drilling with a Forstner bit (FAMAG Bohrmax 19mm) compared to a cordless screwdriver (36mm oak, mobile work bench). Building up pressure with the weight of my upper body, focussing on the drill, listening to the wood, and very slow drilling with high torque seems to be key. So thank you for this video, changed and improved my work.

  27. I switched to the WoodOwl Ulta Smooth bits years ago because they cut with so much less effort than a brand new Fisch or Irwin or a newly sharpened vintage bit. I am able to use a brace with 10” swing and drill a 1” hole in end grain oak with a WoodOwl with minimal effort. I could never do that with and other bit. Plus the hole quality is excellent. The only barrier to using WoodOwl bits is that the 7/16” hex shaft does not interface with most two-jaw brace chucks. So, I just had an adapter made to address this problem. My adapter has one end that accepts 7/16” hex shanks and the other end is square and tapered and fits perfectly in any hand brace chuck. This adapter will allow use of any WoodOwl Tri-Cut Ultra Smooth bit in your hand brace. I believe that WoodOwl makes the best bits in the world.


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