The crank brace that allows you to bore a hole with a continuous motion seems so obvious now, but Europeans thought of it only about 600 years ago. Like the T-handle auger, the brace is essentially a rotary lever—the offset of the crank makes your hand travel farther in exchange for added strength. A brace with a compact throw radius of less than four inches will quickly bore a series of half-inch holes to start a mortise, but will test your strength when cranking a one-inch bit through hard maple.

Used metal braces with ratcheted, self-centering jaws and ball-bearing heads are cheap enough that you can have several. Some wooden braces, however, go for many thousands of dollars. These ebony and ivory braces were made as presentation pieces, but even a common beechwood brace still carries a certain mystique. We know in our bones enough about wood grain and strength to find the offset shape of a wooden brace unsettling in itself.

Wooden braces commonly use a spring chuck — a tapered square socket with a button-released catch. Bits had the matching square taper and a notch to receive the catch, but the shape of the tapering square varied enough that you were well advised to buy them in matched sets from the same maker. A century or more of jumbling in time's junk drawer now resigns us to wobbly fits between braces and bits.

Spofford-chucked braces split the difference between panache and utility. Developed in the 1860s, about the same time as the familiar Barber double-jaw chuck, a Spofford is an iron brace with a thumbscrew-tightened split socket. Spoffords center well on any taper square bit and retain the clean lines of a wooden brace, lacking only the seldom-needed up-against-the-wall advantage of a ratchet jaw.

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Woodworking Tools and Installation Tips

Woodworking Tools and Installation Tips

There are a lot of things that either needs to be repaired, or put together when youre a homeowner. If youre a new homeowner, and have just gotten out of apartment style living, you might want to take this list with you to the hardware store. From remolding jobs to putting together furniture you can use these 5 power tools to get your stuff together. Dont forget too that youll need a few extra tools for other jobs around the house.

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