Vintage Tool Rehab Projects #6: Rehabbing an English Brace—Before and after eye candy for a 10” Skinner hand drill

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Blog entry by Brad posted 01-20-2012 07:31 PM 8503 reads 1 time favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 5: Brace yourself: the nuanced differences between restoration and rehabbing Part 6 of Vintage Tool Rehab Projects series Part 7: Restoring a Skinner 6” Brace »

Yes Virginia, there IS a Santa Claus. Soon after finishing my restoration of “Dusty” an 8” Stanley brace on Andy’s superb “Humble Hand Brace” series came early to my doorstep.

My buddy Andy was kind enough to hook me up with two Skinner braces (10” and 6”). He was tireless in his pursuit, even stopping at a Dutch rest stop to bid on Ebay UK for me while driving home from a consulting gig.

The 10” Skinner arrived in decent shape so I chose to rehab it rather than restore it. I named him Ken.

The 6” Skinner, however, was in pretty rough shape…which makes it PERFECT to be my next restoration subject.

The rehab
The first order of business was to break down the brace.

Overall, the piece was in pretty good shape. The chuck jaws had the faintest signs of scoring. And while the chuck showed some pitting, the metal surfaces were in pretty good order. Don’t let the prairie-wind-swept look of the wood fool you. They cleaned up very well.

There were some rust spots, so I soaked the metal pieces overnight in Evaporust, then used a brass brush and/or green scouring pad to clean up the surfaces.

For the wood, I followed Andy’s instructions closely, sanding through 150, 220 and 320 grits. I followed this up by buffing the wood parts on my buffing wheel (not in Andy’s tutorial but I’ve come to like this step). I bought a clean cloth pad, removing the one I use to polish metal so as not to impregnate (i.e. color) the wood with tiny gray, metal particles.

I followed this with several coats of BLO and three coats of wipe-on varnish. To that I added three coats of paste wax using 0000 steel wool. This last tip from Andy really made the wood warm and inviting to the touch.

Here it is post-rehab and ready for assembly.

And here is my Skinner pal after reassembly (post -Evaporust/wood finish):

…and some detail shots:

Overall, I’m pleased with the rehab. Choosing not to polish steel gives Ken a rugged, serviceable look. A square jaw, ruffled hair, 5-oclock shadow.

Testing Ken and adding him to my tool kit
I chucked up an auger bit and was pleased with how tightly the chuck cinched it up. Then I vised a 2” x 4” and bored a hole. Man is Ken smooth. All the oiling Andy suggests makes him rotate effortlessly with nary a sound.

Here’s Ken at work:

And here he is in his new home, an honored place next to my Stanley brace. Note that they’re both 10” braces but the Skinner looks and feels more compact.

There he sits, waiting patiently for work on my next project. He won’t have to wait long. But I fear that the Stanley will become jealous of the new guy I’ll be using to put bit to wood. There’s nothing worse than a brace suspicious that you’re two-timing, uh, two-boring her. The last thing I need is more drama in my shop.

I need to find Ken a girlfriend.

-- "People's lives are their own rewards or punishments."

6 comments so far

View PurpLev's profile


8547 posts in 3850 days

#1 posted 01-20-2012 07:48 PM


-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View Brit's profile


7545 posts in 3044 days

#2 posted 01-20-2012 08:56 PM

Don’t tell me you’re going to name the 6” brace Barbie. :-)

Nice job Brad, the wood came up lovely. You’re starting to get quite a collection going.

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

View Don W's profile

Don W

19010 posts in 2769 days

#3 posted 01-20-2012 09:01 PM

Another brace that has been “andy’ed”. Nice job. Although the ken and barbie reference seem a little creepy :-)

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View Brandon's profile


4152 posts in 3153 days

#4 posted 01-21-2012 12:12 AM

Sweet! And it’s good to see that “andy” as a verb is gaining traction.

-- "hold fast to that which is good"

View racerglen's profile


3112 posts in 2982 days

#5 posted 01-21-2012 02:18 AM

Sweet work..Can hardly wait for Barbie !
And LOOK Andy’s back..his avitar that is..
Watching over the restoration worlds.


-- Glen, B.C. Canada

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3316 days

#6 posted 01-21-2012 10:41 PM

you better find a 8inch or 12 inch girlfreind to Mr Stanley before you let
the little 6inch nips enter the thrugh the door to the shop …. if not ….. huu ..just the thought scary me

thanks for sharing the serie with us :-)


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