A Bit (of a) Dilemma

A few years ago, after my grandfather’s death, I inherited a couple boxes of his tools (he’d trained in high school as a cabinetmaker). His jointer plane is in my tool chest at work, and now sports a replacement blade. The tote needs tightening every time I use it for more than 20 minutes, but that’s OK; it works well enough (and though it would fix the problem, I really don’t want to replace my grandfather’s original tote). I also flattened the sole of his old Stanley block plane and use it fairly regularly, and I have his No. 3 almost ready to put back in action. I also have a couple of his wooden moulders, but alas, no matched set of a hollow and round.

But I haven’t gotten very far beyond rehabbing the planes. As shown in the picture above, I also got a great many auger bits in a bewildering array of sizes – especially given that the brace that was in the same box has a 10″ sweep. I can’t imagine trying to use one of those massive bits off to the left in that tiny brace off to the right. I’m guessing a brace with a 14″ sweep ended up with one of my relatives (and if so, if said relative is reading this, please call me!).

The brace has no markings on it that I can find, but it seems to be in good working order. I tried it out with a handful of the bits, and it worked a treat. The bits, on the other hand, are mostly orangey-brown with rust – but the screw tips are sharp, as are the spurs. There’s also a bunch of driver tips – while I’ll clean them up, too, it’s doubtful I’ll reach for the brace to drive a screw. And does anyone know the purpose of this curious little bit? It’s about 3″ long with a 45° bend at the end; that 1/2″-long part has a little trough in the middle. The other end has the typical brace-bit four-sided taper, so I know it’s meant to go in a brace and turn. I’ve been looking at it this way and that, and all I can figure is that it might be used to clean out the bottom of a hole?

So anyway, today, I bought a gallon of Evapo-Rust. Let the healing begin!

– Megan Fitzpatrick

If you like old hand tools and their uses, check out our reprint of “Spons’ Mechanics’ Own Book,” (a book my Grandfather likely knew well in his shop class days). We selected the most useful 276 pages (the ones on woodworking, natch) and reprinted them as “Spons on Carpentry & Joinery: A Manual for Handicraftsmen & Amateurs.”

11 thoughts on “A Bit (of a) Dilemma

  1. bobbollin

    Just an FYI, Megan…

    I too have inherited a bunch of rusty auger bits and, after reading your article on your dilemma, decided to try the Evapo-Rust routine. I was amazed at the results! They came out very nicely indeed! Not exactly showroom-clean and shiny, but very satisfactorily clean.

    Thanks for the advice.

  2. jgasal

    Just a guess about the odd bit–I think it’s for driving in eye screws. Hook the bent section inside the eye, with the groove against the side of the eye, and it should work pretty well.

    1. J. Pierce

      That was going to be my guess too – I had to screw a bunch of small hooks and eyes in once, in tiny places (for a jewelry box my wife was making out of an old type tray) and I just chucked either an old allen key, or brass hook into my Millers Falls eggbeater, and used that for driving them. Worked great, and without marring the brass of the hooks and eyelets.

  3. Joe "the Pro" Sainz

    A shot in the dark, but I think it could be used to bevel or clean up the exit side of a hole that cannot be reached, possibly one drilled in a wall or built-in? Insert the bit in the drilled hole, pull up on the brace and turn?

  4. tsangelltsangell

    I might recommend a drop of Loctite 242 (blue) on the tote threads. Just a touch is needed, then snug it down, let it cure for a bit, and it should hold the threads secure.

  5. Steve_OH

    You inherited a couple boxes???

    Did you perhaps mean to say that you inherited a couple OF boxes?

    A drop of Loctite (the blue kind, not the red) on the screw thread might help with the loose tote.

    I think the funny-looking bit with the bent tip is a special-purpose lobotomy bit. Probably a collectors’ item.

    -Steve

      1. Steve_OH

        Okay, so what are the odds that I’d read the word “inculcate” in two places[1] in the same day?

        -Steve

        [1] Schwarz C (2011) _The Anarchist’s Tool Chest_, p. 348.

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