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The Humble Hand Brace - A Beginner's Guide to Restoring, Buying and Using #3: Part 3 - Cleaning and Restoring a Brace to 'Like New' Condition

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Blog entry by Brit posted 08-28-2011 12:18 AM 11400 reads 1 time favorited 17 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 2: Part 2 – Cleaning and Restoring a Brace to ‘Like New’ Condition Part 3 of The Humble Hand Brace - A Beginner's Guide to Restoring, Buying and Using series Part 4: Cleaning and Restoring a Brace to ‘Like New’ Condition »

At the end of Part 2, I left you with this photo showing how the ratchet end of the brace looked after de-rusting it and polishing it up. I still had the other end to do.

So I went ahead and de-rusted the ‘Head’ end of the brace using the same process I covered in Parts 1 and 2. You don’t need to see that again. After the rust came off, I found confirmation that this was indeed a Skinner brace made in Sheffield, England. I was pretty sure it was, because I’ve got a 6” Skinner brace that is identical, but its nice to see it in the steel.

Before I started to file and polish the ‘Head’ end of the brace, I decided to try to fix something that I knew would irritate the hell out of me every time I used this brace, if I didn’t fix it. As you can see from the photo below (taken before the rust was removed), there is quite a lot of excess movement between the sweep handle and the end caps. This is quite a common problem on old braces. When wood rubs against metal, guess which one looses? You can see that the metal end caps have worn an undercut in the ends of the sweep handle and it felt really sloppy in use. I’ve never tried to fix this problem on any other brace that I’ve restored, but I had to try this time if I was going to enjoy using it.

I grabbed a piece of scrap hardwood (Sapele in this case) about 1 3/4” x 1 3/4” and cut off a piece 5” long. The diameter of the metal bar on the brace is 12mm, so I found the centre of one of the sides, marked 6mm each side of the centre line and drew two parallel lines along the length of the wood. Using my carcass saw (filed rip), I sawed down to a depth of 1” on both the lines. Then I had a coffee while a rain cloud passed, dried my saw and gave it a light coat of Camellia oil.

After making the two rip cuts, I chiselled out the centre piece and cut it into two 2 ½ “ pieces using my other carcass saw (filed crosscut).

Here’s the two pieces that make up my jig for fixing the sloppy sweep handle.

The photo below shows how the jig fits on the brace. The two pieces slide over the metal bar and end up centred over both of the end caps. This should allow me to apply an equal force over most of the end cap shoulders whilst keeping the end caps square to the ends of the sweep handle. At least, that’s the plan. :-)

I gripped one part of the jig in the vice, slotted the brace into it, held the other part of the jig in my hand and lightly tapped the top of the block with a mallet. I really sneeked up on the right amount of force, as I knew that too much would cause the sweep handle to lock up completely and that would be very difficult to fix. However, as it happened I lucked out. When I checked how much play was now in the sweep handle, it was perfect. I like it when a plan comes together.

So after breathing a sigh of relief, out came the files and the wet and dry paper and I set about removing the pitting from the Head end of the brace, polishing it up through the grits and finishing with 0000 steel wool. The following two photos show how the brace looks now. I still need to polish it a little more in a couple of places, but the grunt work is now behind me and the finish line is in sight.

I know I said at the end of Part 2 that I would rub down the wood in this episode, but the light was failing and I was getting really tired of getting everything out and putting it away again every time it rained, so I’ll save that for Part 4. What I did do in preparation though, was to wipe over the sweep handle and the head with methylated spirit to remove most of the grease and dirt from the surface. I’ve found in the past that if you don’t remove any grime before you sand, you end up smearing it over the newly exposed bare wood and having to sand more than you needed to get rid of the marks again.

So there you have it folks, we’re nearly at the end of this restoration (YIPPEE!!!). In Part 4, I’ll share a few finish recipes that I think are suitable for a hand brace along with the finishing regime for each one.

Don’t forget that Part 4 will of course end with reassembly and THE GREAT UNVEILING

There might even be a little show for you. What? Yes, you read that correctly – a little show. Confused? Well you’ll just have to wait. HA HA.

-- Andy -- Old Chinese proverb say: If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it.



17 comments so far

View Scott's profile

Scott

55 posts in 2084 days


#1 posted 08-28-2011 01:47 AM

Wow. You’d make Bob Smalser proud with this tutorial. Looks fantastic.

I would feel guilty using this brace unless I grimed it back up a bit…heheh….

-- Scott

View Tim Kindrick's profile

Tim Kindrick

369 posts in 1309 days


#2 posted 08-28-2011 01:54 AM

Thanks for showing how you fixed the “play” in the sweep handle!!! I never would have thought of that!!! BTW Very nice saws you have there!!!

-- I have metal in my neck but wood in my blood!!

View Don W's profile

Don W

15584 posts in 1322 days


#3 posted 08-28-2011 01:55 AM

oh, its getting hard to ignore. When does the book come out? I’m getting pretty close to either restoring one of these or screwing it up so bad I’ll, be out the $3 i paid for it.

Thanks Andy. I love your detail.

-- Master hand plane hoarder. - http://timetestedtools.com

View Dennisgrosen's profile

Dennisgrosen

10850 posts in 1870 days


#4 posted 08-28-2011 09:02 AM

thank´s Andy :-)
great tip and if that doesn´t work …... there is always the sledgehammer …. right … LOL

looking forward to the next picturebook from you :-)

take care
Dennis

View mafe's profile

mafe

9693 posts in 1844 days


#5 posted 08-28-2011 12:23 PM

Hi Andy,
You amaze me again!
Your patience and care for the details are admirable, I do!
This is becomming such a jewel.
And yes those saws are so drop dead beautiful!
Best thoughts,
Mads

-- Mad F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect. Democraticwoodworking.

View Brit's profile

Brit

5313 posts in 1597 days


#6 posted 08-28-2011 08:40 PM

Scott – We can all learn a lot from Bob and I’m sure it won’t be long before it has a few scars.

Tim – The say necessity is the mother of invention. It would have really irritated me had I not fixed it.

Don - The only book I’ll be doing is for people to bet on whether you’ll ever restore your braces. I’m offering 20:1 against. Any takers? LOL

Dennis – My pleasure.

Mads – The devil is in the detail my friend. This is a blog for beginners after all. :-)

-- Andy -- Old Chinese proverb say: If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it.

View dakremer's profile

dakremer

2492 posts in 1846 days


#7 posted 08-29-2011 01:31 AM

Brit – This brace is looking awesome! I have not gotten any farther on mine, but plan to soon (gettin busy with school). I’m looking forward to the finishing of the wood and the “surprise” at the end! :) :)

-- Hey you dang woodchucks, quit chucking my wood!!!!

View Brit's profile

Brit

5313 posts in 1597 days


#8 posted 08-29-2011 10:12 AM

Thanks Doug. School is way more important, the brace can wait. Hope you enjoy the surprise!!!

-- Andy -- Old Chinese proverb say: If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it.

View mafe's profile

mafe

9693 posts in 1844 days


#9 posted 08-29-2011 12:57 PM

Andy I wan’t to see this surprice now… I can’t wait, I’m like a child!
I have been back three times to see if there were a lifting of the secret surprice.
Laugh.
Mads

-- Mad F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect. Democraticwoodworking.

View Brit's profile

Brit

5313 posts in 1597 days


#10 posted 08-29-2011 02:50 PM

Ah Mads, sorry but my lips are sealed. I can promise you one thing though, when people see it they will think I’ve finally lost it. Some will laugh until they cry, some will be concerned for my mental health and some will simply block me. HA HA.

-- Andy -- Old Chinese proverb say: If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it.

View Dennisgrosen's profile

Dennisgrosen

10850 posts in 1870 days


#11 posted 08-29-2011 03:05 PM

sounds scary Andy are you sure we gets a warning in good time …. :-)

Dennis

View racerglen's profile

racerglen

2407 posts in 1535 days


#12 posted 08-29-2011 04:49 PM

And now..a loaded question..
Andy will you be covering what to do with nickle plated ones ?

-- Glen, Vernon B.C. Canada

View Brit's profile

Brit

5313 posts in 1597 days


#13 posted 08-29-2011 09:44 PM

Racerglen – Yes I was going to mention that some braces are nickel or chrome plated when I do a little video about the variations you’re likely to encounter. Personally, if the plating is good, I would leave it be. I will be showing some braces that are plated including one where the plating is missing in places and discussing the options in terms of restoration.

-- Andy -- Old Chinese proverb say: If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it.

View Don W's profile

Don W

15584 posts in 1322 days


#14 posted 08-30-2011 03:31 AM

Andy, thought you’d like this.

-- Master hand plane hoarder. - http://timetestedtools.com

View Brit's profile

Brit

5313 posts in 1597 days


#15 posted 08-30-2011 07:57 AM

Looking good Don. That’s going to come up a treat.

-- Andy -- Old Chinese proverb say: If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it.

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