Brace refurbish

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Project by yuridichesky posted 09-27-2013 06:44 PM 3386 views 5 times favorited 30 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Brace refurbish
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There’s a long-term project I’ve been working on for a while now – workbench

But some minor stuff goes on too, and I used time of this short project to rethink some details of my workbench build.

First things first: I already have two braces. First is the “classic” one: two-jaw chuck, ratchet, very heavy and old. I restored it from some solid piece of rust, and I like it very much:

Just one little thing: I own 3 (three) square-tip drill bits, all are flea-market finds.

My second brace is much newer than the first one, it has three-jaw chuck, ratchet, and I use it the most. It’s quite decent brace, I like it, but I’m not happy with it. I don’t use the ratchet at all, when I need to bore next to the wall or something, I use egg-beater, the chuck does not hold the bits well enough, and it’s heavier than it should be.

So I decided that I needed new brace: something skinny and lightweight, no ratchet, just chuck and two handles. (And this is I believe a typical case of woodworking bug diagnosis: tiny shop, two braces in stock, and desire to build third one.)

Here’s my starting point, some junk brace with Morse-taper mounting chuck:

First I replaced the chuck. I bought small three-jaw chuck with 1/2” threaded mount hole. Installation:

(left-handed threads here)

Next was handle:

Driving nails through the steel was complete nightmare. Bunch of small (from 1/16” to 1/8”) drill bits got broken. Couple of them were broken inside the hole – lots of fun! Three failed attempts in total.

Next was top knob.

Yeah, I know, thrust bearing is totally overkill here, but I just purchased half a dozen such bearings to upgrade my workbench vises and wanted to make use of them with the brace too.

Drilling carefully aligned holes was such pain in the neck… Two failed attempts…

Ready for glue-up and assembly. Wooden – beech BTW – parts’ finish is two coats of wax (initially wanted BLO, but it turned that I ran out of it).

Ta-da! Just exactly as I wanted: lightweight and robust. The chuck’s key is hardly necessary, the bits are secured in the chuck pretty well just by hand. And those thrust bearings… as smooth as a butter… :-)

Now back to workbench build, time to move it from “almost done” to “in use” state.

-- Yuri (10x4 -- yeah, that's my tiny shop!)

30 comments so far

View Mosquito's profile


9459 posts in 2436 days

#1 posted 09-27-2013 07:01 PM

Dude, that is some sweet work!

-- Mos - Twin Cities, MN - -

View WayneC's profile


13773 posts in 4241 days

#2 posted 09-27-2013 07:09 PM

Very nice work. What are the makes and model numbers of your other two braces?

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View Von's profile


238 posts in 2357 days

#3 posted 09-27-2013 07:45 PM

I’m an avid user and collector of antique braces & bits. I have a few that date to pre 1800’s -still perfectly useable. I have a pair of small hand drills too that date to the pre 1920’s.

View yuridichesky's profile


624 posts in 2107 days

#4 posted 09-27-2013 08:05 PM

Mos, thank you. The most hard part was (as usual) to try keeping things simple as I tend to over-design.

Wayne, thanks. The first brace has only some traces of manufacturer logo, will take a picture tomorrow at my daytime. This is definitively replica of some western brace made in Soviet Union (mid-soviet times, 60-s my guess). The second one is Soviet production too, most probably it was made in 80-s, it has manufacturer logo (unknown to me) and a price stamped on the top knob (8 Soviet Rubles – the price of approx. 50 bread loafs back then).

-- Yuri (10x4 -- yeah, that's my tiny shop!)

View yuridichesky's profile


624 posts in 2107 days

#5 posted 09-27-2013 08:13 PM

Von, I had two more rusty braces in the trunk of my car, and some day I’ll bring them to the shop, but I think this gonna be another shop, much bigger one, not my tiny shop as for now.

-- Yuri (10x4 -- yeah, that's my tiny shop!)

View John's profile


341 posts in 3941 days

#6 posted 09-27-2013 08:47 PM

awesome project!

-- John - Central PA -

View RiverWood's profile


115 posts in 2903 days

#7 posted 09-27-2013 09:16 PM

Best cordless drill ever.

-- My favorite projects were firewood bound

View Phil277's profile


185 posts in 2467 days

#8 posted 09-27-2013 11:01 PM

Great job on the bit brace. I first used one when I was a kid. I don’t think I would have stayed with woodworking if all tools required that much effort. I’m definitely a power tool guy. But I have a lot of respect for the hand tool guys.


-- The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. From a sign on a surfer bar in So. Calif.

View waho6o9's profile


8411 posts in 2720 days

#9 posted 09-28-2013 12:50 AM

That’s way cool, thanks for the great pictorial.

View Benvolio's profile


148 posts in 2075 days

#10 posted 09-28-2013 10:06 PM

fantastic work, sir. You’ve set a new benchmark in bit brace upcycling!

shame you didn’t have any BLO to hand – that would have really been the cherry on top so see that beech pop out.

could you tell us some more about how you worked the brass ferruls? What is your lathe set up and how did you tool down the nuts?



-- Ben, England.

View Boatman53's profile


1059 posts in 2340 days

#11 posted 09-29-2013 12:43 AM

Well done Yuri! I’ve never seen a 3 jaw chuck fitted out like that but there will be one in my shop as soon as I get a chance. I’ve got a mechanics speed wrench and a three jaw chuck, just need to fit them together. You did a fine job and inspired many people I would imagine. Thank you for posting this project.

-- Jim, Long Island, NY home of the chain leg vise

View yuridichesky's profile


624 posts in 2107 days

#12 posted 09-29-2013 09:05 AM

John, RW, thank you guys! Appreciate your warm reception very much!

Phil, in my “pre- woodworking bug times” I used everything I had at hand: jig saw and plywood mostly. But now when I work wood regularly and having quite strong space constraints I found hand tools much more useful and practical. And what the hell, I’m romantic too :-)

Waho6o9, you are very welcome!

Ben, thanks a lot. You make me want to sand those wax coats off in favor of BLO! Speaking about brass ferrules. First I cut nuts in length and fitted them on the handle. Then I put it in my “poor boy lathe” and used it as a clamping device only, no turning at this phase. To shape the ferrules I used two files: coarse one (you can see that gray bar and some brass saw dust on the picture) to remove material quickly and a medium one to smooth the scratches from the first one.

At first I doubled number of faces on the nuts (filed each edge down), then rounded the edges, and then went around with medium file to make it as cylindrical as I could. Then I powered my poor boy lathe and polished ferrules with the sandpaper.

My most concern was not to cut through the wall of the nut making the taper, and fortunately it went just fine.

Once I saw (youtube) some guy did this kind of work with sharp chisel, but I didn’t want to sacrifice my chisels for it.

Jim, thanks a ton! The speed wrench was exactly my “plan B” in case if I’d ditch this brace, and I was that close to it driving the nails through. The drill press is at the top of my wish list for the larger shop equipment – I have my rights to dream :-)

-- Yuri (10x4 -- yeah, that's my tiny shop!)

View yuridichesky's profile


624 posts in 2107 days

#13 posted 09-29-2013 09:16 AM

Wayne, here are the pictures of manufacturers’ logos.

Can’t read anything but “54” digits here. Have no idea what those digits may mean.

The “ЧИЗ” abbreviation (in Cyrillic) may mean “XXX Tool Factory”, where XXX is some city name (no idea which particular one). And the “ц7р” as a price, it was 7 Soviet rubes, not 8 as I wrote it in the first place. Had my weekly trip to the flea market today and counted at least dozen of exactly such braces there, all in unused condition. Looks like someone found some secret tool storage sealed back in 80-s.

-- Yuri (10x4 -- yeah, that's my tiny shop!)

View NormG's profile


6252 posts in 3147 days

#14 posted 09-29-2013 11:50 PM

Great rebuild, very nice brace

-- Norman - I never never make a mistake, I just change the design.

View WayneC's profile


13773 posts in 4241 days

#15 posted 09-30-2013 12:33 AM

Very cool. Thanks for the photo’s Yuri. First Soviet braces I have seen.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

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