As I was editing a video presentation about woodworking braces with Ron Herman (yes, woodworkingwithron.com Ron Herman) I was enamored with a funky woodworking brace that he shows and describes in one section of the video.
As you probably know, hand tools are not a huge part of my woodworking – certainly not old braces, but I do have a couple of examples. One is from my Dad, which he used in business and I played with as a boy. The other is a brace I purchase at a flea market – it’s a 19th-century, plated brace with a button-pad.
The brace, however, that caught my attention was, according to an old Stanley catalog, a No. 984 Short Brace. Ron simply called it a joist or stair brace because that’s where they were so often used. It was a great tool for working in tight spots. According to Ron, these braces came into life when older houses were re-worked to install new electrical and gas lines sometime in the late 1800s.
Clever & Special
The handles on these braces appear to be chunked off or broken. But it was done on purpose so that users could hold the tool tight to a surface (a joist) as it was used. While that is a clever idea, what I found more special is that the axis of the tool is exactly 3/4″ away from the joist face, which allowed a 1-1/2″ diameter auger or bit to be used, leaving a hole tight against the joist. With that a worker could install and easily move along a 1-1/4″ pipe, which was used in the retrofit.
Can you imagine how a worker’s arm would feel at the end of a day after drilling that many holes using this brace – the best option at the time? And I laughed when Dad purchased a set of Makita 9-volt battery drills. Told him battery drills were a fad!
If you didn’t recognize that Ron’s funky woodworking brace had a Stanley chuck – or what a Stanley chuck does that other chucks do not – you need to watch the video. It’s going out to members of 360Woodworking later this week. Plus there’s another section on hand drills.
Not a 360Woodworking.com member? Join here. There’s scads of tips, techniques and projects available. It’s the best $36 you could invest in your woodworking.