Episode 10 – Boring Tools (Not!)

Modern gimlets (just add Vodka)

Modern Gimlets (just add vodka)

Yes, I have teenagers, so yes, I understand that any activity that isn’t their own idea or that sound like the vaguest hint of discomfort is… you’ve got it, “boring.” I’m not a teenager. Therefore, from my perspective the only boring Galoot tools out there are made to put holes in wood. This week’s episode covers exactly that — the myriad methods the Galoot has at his or her disposal to sever or spread those wood fibers in approximately (hopefully) perfectly round manners. Apparently, boring holes sort of lives up to its name among workmen, because over the years an incredible amount of creative energy has been invested in the tools that make round holes in wood (and skull material — listen to the podcast!)

Wooden Bitstock - my favorite tool I don't own

Wooden Brace (my favorite tool I don't own)

"Gentlemen's Brace" This is one I DO own!

"Gentleman's Brace" This is one I DO own

Despite being overly laden with puns (C’mon, by now you KNOW me…) we cram a lot of detail into 23 minutes: we take a look at gimlets, the bitstock (also known as the brace), and of course, the wide range of bits used in the brace, including the 6 main patterns of auger bits.

At the right is what is known as a Gentleman’s Brace, although it became known as such without association to its present owner. There once was a day when I thought I might become a tool coll… A tool coll… I can’t say it. I once thought I would own lots of tools. Disaster has a way of making one more practical, don’t you think? Here’s the interesting chuck on the end of this gentleman:

Beauty in simplicity.  Definitely not Dewalt.

Beauty in simplicity. Definitely not Dewalt!

Yankee brace

Yankee brace, 14" throw.

Yankee chuck

The Yankee chuck. Click to enlarge.

This brace fascinates me. It’s a Yankee brace, made by the North Bros. and does feature a ratchet. The ratchet is not exposed like it is on the standard Millers Falls pattern, but is, in fact, enclosed with a button that actuates it’s direction. With a 14″ throw, this brace is intended to get through tough stuff. One of the remarkable things about the North Bros. company was their ability to think outside the box. These are the same folks that brought us the Yankee push drill I used to see Daddy struggling with. Apparently his was a right-handed push drill, and he being left handed, well, you know.

Below are a few shots from the internet, showing some of the bits that we covered in the podcast. With six primary “patterns” of spiral bits (comparable to those found in spiral augers) our predecessors, the Galooterati, knew what they were doing when choosing a bit.

Center Bit

Center Bits

Spoon bit

Spoon Bit

Nose Auger

Nose Auger

The critical feature in choosing a bit (besides availability) is the grain direction the Galoot needs to bore through.

A Couple of interesting bits of engineering:


My Yankee ratcheting drill -- yes, ratcheting!


Like I said! Here's the ratcheting mechanism.

I wish I had lots more room to show and tell with all the pictures of really, really cool stuff.

Okay, just two more, because the items are just so intriguing – the breast drill (not for putting holes in your chicken, but for leaning on) and the post drill:


Millers Falls breast drill

A very cool post drill (from the internet)

A very cool post drill (from the internet)

Whew… not boring at all! Heres the podcast:


4 Responses to “Episode 10 – Boring Tools (Not!)”

  1. 1 Jeff Peachey
    11 January, 2009 at 16:26

    Interesting! Any idea where to find small (say 1/8″) spoon bits. Seems Lee Valley and the like only sell larger ones. Thanks, Jeff.

  2. 14 January, 2009 at 19:34


    There is a restaurant in Wiscasset, ME called Le Garage. Great lobster rolls, great view of the Sheepscott River, outstanding Maine Blueberry pie, and lots of antique shops in the area to buy old tools. I daresay this is the perfect storm!

    Anywho, the restaurant use to be an old mechanic shop and scattered around the restaurant are old belt driven tools. They are so large and heavy that I think the original restauranteur kept them as part of the decor only because he couldn’t remove them. One of those tools right by the front door and hostess stand is a gigantic post drill. It is still in working order! Can you say road trip! I’ll meet you there for some blueberry pie.


  3. 14 January, 2009 at 21:38

    Hey Jeff —

    A cursory exam of my favorite haunts didn’t reveal anything below 3/8″, which you’ve probably run across. HOWEVER — there may be a European solution to your quest, in the form of the tapered spoon bit that Dieter Schmid sells. Here’s the link, let me know if this works. http://www.fine-tools.com/G303710.htm

    Shannon —

    You’re on, brother! I love lobster rolls almost as I love Blueberry pie. From there, a tour of Lie-Nielsen, and for me, it would be on to all the fantastic traditional boat building facilities I’ve always wanted to oogle. Post drills, repro bedrocks, and channel cutters (sailboat.) Now THAT’s a road trip!

  4. 4 Jeff Peachey
    15 January, 2009 at 9:15

    Thanks for the link- I think it is too tapered, as I need a fairly deep, narrow hole. I really hope I can find something so I don’t have to take a day or two to make one! Jeff

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