I close out this series of posts about monkey wrenches in the Tison Tool Barn with some wrenches of indeterminate origin. First is this 12 inch wrench with a metal handle. The metal handle suggests that the wrench was manufactured after the beginning of the 20th century. The word "INTERMEDIATE" is stamped on the bar. The letter "S" is stamped in two different places. Finally, the name "C. SWANBUM" is stamped on the bar. I have found a similar monkey wrench marked with "INTERMEDIATE" offered on eBay. The listing did not mention any other markings. I have concluded that the letters "S" and the name "C. SWANBUM" are owner's marks. Curiously, the Tison Tool Barn also holds a pipe wrench with an owner's mark of "S. E. SWANBUM." I do not know what connection there might be between the two names.
The next monkey wrench has some owner's marks, but nothing to indicate the manufacturer. It is 18 inches long, and has a knife-style handle. There are two sets of marks on the fixed jaw, "R.M.F." and "452", formed of dots punched into the metal. A star consisting of 4 scratched lines is on the bar.
The marks on the above wrench, "R.M.F." to the left, "452" in the center, and the star on the right. Photos by Donald Albury.
Next from the Tison Tool Barn is this twisted handle, or ACME, monkey wrench. It is 5 inches long, and has no discernible markings. The ACME monkey wrench is distinguished by a rod which is doubled over so that the moving jaw slides over parallel segments of the rod,with one threaded to take the adjustment nut. The lower section of the parallel rods may be twisted. The U.S. patent for this wrench, 273,171, was issued to Fred Seymour in 1883. At least four different companies manufactured versions of this wrench ranging from 4 to 21 inches long, but production stopped by 1915. This wrench has been badly abused.
The final monkey wrench from the Tison Tool Barn is this 21 inch long wrench, the largest monkey wrench in the collection. It has a badly fitted wooden handle. I have not found any readable marks on it. This is no where near the largest monkey wrench made. Coes sold at least two six-foot long monkey wrenches to bridge builders.
This completes my coverage of monkey wrenches held in the Tison Tool Barn. Next up: pipe wrenches.
This is another in a series of posts on monkey wrenches in the Tison Tool Barn with a look at a couple of wrenches from less-well known manufacturers, and a wrench with several marks, despite which I cannot identify the manufacturer.
The first wrench below was made by The Lamson and Sessions (L. & S.) Co. of Cleveland, Ohio. Lamson and Sessions was founded in Southington, Ct. (that hotbed of tool and hardware manufacture) in 1866, and moved to Cleveland (another center of tool and hardware manufacture) in 1869. The company is still around, but no longer produces metal products. From its appearance, this wrench was produced in the late 19th century or very early 20th century. It is 6-1/2 inches long.
The next wrench below was made by the Girard Wrench Mfg. Co. The company was established as a partnership in 1875 in Girard, Pa., but did not incorporate under the name Girard Wrench Mfg. Co. until 1902. The company continued in business until the 1920s. This wrench is 10 inches long and has a cylindrical wood handle. I have seen a photo of a Girard wrench that is identical to this one, except for having a metal handle. The wrench below was made sometime between 1902 and the early 1920s, likely in the 1910s.
The final monkey wrench from the Tison Tool Barn in this post poses a problem. It is marked "P & C" (in two places) and "SOUTHINGTON, CT.". There are some other possible marks, but they are very obscure. I believe that I can make out a mark "H. W. P.", which is likely an owner's mark. I cannot make sense of other possible marks even under a magnifying glass after rubbing the area with chalk. For a while I thought that the wrench was made by the Peck, Stow, and Wilcox Company, which had a plant located in Southington (other tool and hardware companies were also located in Southington, but I have not found a listing of all of them). The wrench looked like another wrench in the Tison Tool Barn that was made by Peck, Stow, and Wilcox. However, I noticed that this wrench does not have the seam on the back of the slider that is present on the three Peck, Stow, and Wilcox wrenches in the Tison Tool Barn, and which seems to be a product of how Peck, Stow, and Wilcox manufactured monkey wrenches, at least after 1896. A couple of suggestions from people I asked for help in identifying this wrench seem to be ruled out by timing. The wrench appears to be from the late 19th or very early 20th century. It was suggested that the wrench belonged to the Philadelphia and Columbia (P & C) RR, but the P & C RR was taken over by the Pennsylvania RR in 1857, well before the period of this wrench. Another suggestion was that this wrench was produced by the P & C Hand Forged Tool Company, but that company was founded in 1920, and I can find no evidence that it ever produced monkey wrenches. For now, I cannot identify who made this wrench. The wrench is 10 inches long.
In my next post I will finally finish describing the monkey wrenches held in the Tison Tool Barn.
Personal and family issues have taken up most of my attention for the past two or three weeks, but I am again finding time to research and write about tools.
Monkey wrenches have sometimes been called hammer wrenches. There are some people who maintain that every tool has more than one use, including at least one use that was never intended by the designer or manufacturer. Many workers have found themselves in need of a hammer, but with only a monkey wrench at hand. The back faces of the jaws of a monkey wrench may look like they could serve as a hammer, but those faces normally do not have the hardened steel surfaces required for striking metal. Most of the monkey wrenches in the Tison Tool Barn show evidence of having been used as hammers. The small (5-inch) monkey wrench at bottom center below shows evidence of other abuse, as well.
Monkey wrenches with mushroomed and otherwise deformed back faces on their jaws. Photos by Donald Albury.
The Tison Tool Barn has three monkey wrenches from the Peck, Stow & Wilcox Company. The company, located in Southington, Connecticut, was formed by the merger of three predecessor firms in 1870, and continued into the middle of the 20th century. Wilcox, Treadway and Company of Cleveland, Ohio was acquired by Peck, Stow, and Wilcox in 1881, and the plant in Cleveland continued in production. The earliest P. S. & W. monkey wrench in the Tison Tool Barn may be from the late 19th century. It has a handle consisting of a cylinder of wood held on a rod extending from the bar and held on by a nut at the end. Later Peck, Stow, & Wilcox wrenches have a knife-handle, with two pieces of wood fastened on either side of a wide metal frame. The wrench does not have any patent information, but the back of the slider has a seam similar to those found on P., S., & W wrenches produced under a patent issued January 14, 1896. This patent was for a method of mounting the slider on the bar, in which the fixed jaw was forged in one piece with the bar, and the slider was split down the back, mounted over the bar, and then welded shut. The usual method at other companies was to slide the slider onto the bar, and then weld the fixed jaw to the bar.This wrench is 9-3/4 inches long and was produced in the Cleveland plant of the Peck, Stow, & Wilcox Company.
On the left below is a detail of the marks on this wrench, "P.S.&W.Co. CLEVELAND, O. U.S.A." In the middle is a detail of the back of the slider on this wrench, showing the seam where the two halves of the slider were welded together (similar seams can be seen on the other two P., S., & W. wrenches described below). On the right is a detail of the back of the slider on a wrench from another company, which does not have a seam. Photos by Donald Albury.
The next Peck, Stow, & Wilcox monkey wrench in the Tison Tool Barn is from the early 20th century, or possibly the very late 19th century. It is 6-1/2 inches long and has a knife-handle., The marks on it include a patent date of Jan. 14, 1896, but not the "PEXTO" inside an oval trade mark that was introduced in 1914.
The final monkey wrench from Peck, Stow, and Wilcox in the Tison Tool Barn is this 10 inch one with a wooden knife handle and the PEXTO in an oval logo, which was introduced in 1914..
The Tison Tool Barn has several wrenches made by the Bemis & Call company, but only the one below is a monkey wrench. This wrench differs from the wrenches displayed above, in that the adjustment knob is threaded on the bar and held on the adjustable jaw by a flange, while on most other monkey wrenches the adjustment knob stays in place, and is attached to a long screw that moves the adjustable jaw. This means that the advantage of a monkey wrench being operable with one hand by adjusting the opening of the jaws with the thumb on the hand holding the handle, is lost with this wrench. This wrench has the mark "Billings" on it, indicating that it was made after the Billings & Spencer Company acquired the wrench part of the business of Bemis & Call in 1939. This wrench is 15-1/2 inches long.
I will be looking at more monkey wrenches in the Tison Tool Barn in my next post.
Here are a couple of monkey wrenches from the Tison Tool Barn with markings that I could not identify at first in searches of the Internet. First is the wrench below, which had only the marking shown in the right-hand photo.
This wrench, which is 12 inches long, has only the mark shown in the right-hand photo.
Although the mark is quite deep, I had trouble deciphering it. In particular, I could not tell whether the two vertical lines were the letter "i" or "l". Trying different combinations of those letters, I finally got a couple of hits on "Mieble", a manufacturer of printing presses. And then I noticed that one web page had both "Mieble" and "Miehle". The fourth letter in the name was "h", not "b". It appears that I am not the only one who has had trouble deciphering this mark.
The Miehle Printing Press and Manufacturing Company was an important producer of printing presses from late in the 19th century until well into the 20th century. While I have not found a history or other substantial article about the company on the Internet, it's presses seem to have been well regarded. There is no indication that the Miehle company produced wrenches or any other tools.
So, how did this wrench come to be stamped with "The Miehle"? Early in the 20th century wrenches and other tools were included as part of the equipment provided with automobiles and farm equipment. Such wrenches were often stamped with the name of the automobile or farm equipment manufacturer rather than the company that produced the wrench. This was common enough that monkey wrenches were often referred to as "Ford wrenches". While I have not found any source that indicates that the Miehle company provided at least a wrench, and possibly other tools, with its presses, this does seem to be a reasonable explanation for the mark on this wrench.
Another wrench also baffled me at first. This wrench, in the left-hand photo below, had an elaborate but badly worn mark, shown in the right-hand photo below.
This wrench, which is 18-1/2 inches long, has a badly worn mark on it.
Mel MIller, in the Antique and Vintage Tools Forum on Facebook, was able to identify this mark as the logo for the H. D. Smith & Co. Perfect Handle line, perhaps best known by collectors and woodworkers for its screw drivers. However, H. D. Smith & Co. first used Perfect Handles on their wrenches. Perfect Handle wrenches were based on U. S. patents D33,468, 666,029 and D34,136, which were issued in 1900 and 1901, which means that all Perfect Handle tools were produced in the 20th century.
The Perfect Handle was forged as part of the bar of the wrench. It was a flat frame as wide as the handle in the plane in which the wrench was turned when tightening or loosening a nut. Two pieces of wood were fastened to the frame to provide a comfortable grip for the user. Earlier wrench handles were generally in the shape of a rod running down the center of a wooden handle, and could be bent if too much force was applied. The shape of the Perfect Handle was much more resistant to bending. Similar handles, often called knife handles, came into use for other monkey wrenches. The term "perfect handle" is sometimes used for any tool handle with wood inserts on a metal frame, but the trade mark "Perfect Handle" was used only by H. D. Smith & Co.
I will be looking at more monkey wrenches from the Tison Tool Barn in my next post.
Starting with this post I'm taking a break from woodworking tools. For the next few posts I will be looking at monkey wrenches and other adjustable wrenches in the Tison Tool Barn.
Monkey wrenches are adjustable nut wrenches. They have flat, smooth, and parallel faces on their jaws, so that the jaw faces are flat against each other when the wrench is fully closed. A monkey wrench has one jaw fixed to a bar, rectangular in cross-section, which extends to a handle. The second jaw is fixed to a shorter piece that wraps around the bar, which slides along the bar while keeping the jaws aligned. In some early adjustable nut wrenches the jaws were locked into place by a wedge inserted between the bar the and the surrounding piece attached to the lower jaw. In screw or monkey wrenches, the opening between the jaws is adjusted with a screw mechanism.
Monkey wrenches derived from 18th century coach wrenches, which were used to tighten or loosen nuts on coaches, including nuts holding wheel hubs on the end of axles. Coach wrenches that were adjusted with a screw mechanism were called monkey wrenches from early in the 19th century. Monkey wrenches were in wide use well into the 20th century. They were made in a range of sizes, from 5 inches long to six feet long. By the 1960s, however, they were disappearing from the workplace, As the new kid on a construction job in the summer of 1962, I was sent off to find a left-handed monkey wrench. I figured it was a joke, but I didn't know what a monkey wrench looked like.
The origin of the name "monkey wrench" has been lost. One theory is that the sliding of the lower jaw up and down the bar reminded people of the monkey-on-a-stick toy. (A monkey-on-a-stick consisted of a wooden puppet of a monkey with articulated legs, with the front paws fastened to the top of a stick, and the rear paws fastened to a block which slid up and down the stick, making the monkey jump around.) Another theory is based on the fact that with early screw-mechanism monkey wrenches adjustments were made by twisting the handle, suggesting a connection with twisting the tale of a monkey. The old and often repeated legend that the monkey wrench was invented by a man named Monk, Monck, or Moncky was proved false in the 19th century.
As noted above, monkey wrenches in the first part of the 19th century were adjusted by turning the handle. The handles were hollow with internal screw threads which engaged screw threads on the bar. This arrangement meant that workers had to use both hands to adjust the jaw opening. In 1841 Loring Coes received a patent for a screw wrench that could be adjusted with one hand. All of the monkey wrenches in the Tison Tool Barn are derived from that design. Loring Coes and his brother Aury Gates Coes dominated the screw wrench business in the United States for many years. They eventually split the company, and operated independently for many years. The two firms merged again in 1888, forming the Coes Wrench Co. Wrenches made by the Coes Wrench Co. were stamped "Worcester". Bemis & Call, another major manufacturer of wrenches, bought the Coes Wrench Co. in 1928. Wrenches made under the Coes brand after 1928 were stamped "Springfield." The Tison Tool Barn has four monkey wrenches stamped "Coes Wrench Co." and "Worcester," and which means that they were made between 1888 and 1928. They all have "knife" handles, with a flat iron or steel core and wood pieces fastened to each side.
I will continue this exploration of monkey wrenches from the Tison Tool Barn in my next post.
In this post I will be finishing my coverage of bits for braces found in the Tison Tool Barn, including a bit gauge, a screwdriver bit, countersinks, and washer cutters.
First, I want to show a device that is not a bit, but which attaches to an auger bit. It is an adjustable bit gauge. It locks onto an auger bit, and stops the bit after it has bored a hole to a specified depth. This allows a worker to precisely bore a series of holes all to the same depth. This item is marked "STANLEY MADE IN USA C575." The bit gauge has two identical cast pieces, held together by two sets of bolt, washer and wing nut. The flared feet on one end stop the bit when they touch the surface of the piece wood in which the hole is being bored. This gauge fits on an auger bit up to 1 inch in diameter. This Stanley No. 49 adjustable bit gauge was introduced around 1904. Stanley began advertising a different bit gauge, No. 47, by the 1950s.
The Stanley adjustable bit gauge No. 49 in the left photo, and set on an auger bit in the right photo. Photos by Donald Albury.
Next is a screwdriver bit. A screwdriver bit mounted in a brace can be handy for driving or removing large screws, as the sweep of the brace provides much more torque than gripping a screwdriver handle by hand. This bit is 5-1./2 inches long and has a 9/16 inch wide tip. The bit has no visible markings.
A countersink bit cuts a conical depression around a screw-hole, so that a flat-headed screw will have its top at or below the surrounding surface.
The first countersink in the Tison Tool Barn collection bores a conical hole up to 7/8 inch across. This countersink has a hollow head with a cutting edge that shaves wood from the hole, unlike many countersinks, which scrape wood out of the hole. It has "PATD APR 12, 187~", "P MALVIK" and "P WHEELER" stamped on it. US Patent 101,796 was assigned to Asa Wheeler on Apr. 12, 1870 for this countersink. The countersink was manufactured by George B. Wheeler and, later, by the Stanley Rule and Level Company. I have found no information on the name P. Malvik..
This countersink bit has a cutting head with several radial vanes that scraped wood from the hole. It is 3/4 inch at the widest point of the head. "RAFTSMA" is visible stamped on the shaft. This is almost certainly a Craftsman bit from Sears, from sometime after 1927.
The next countersink bit does not have a tang, It probably was used with a powered drill. It has "80" (or "08") stamped on the shaft. The cutting head has a single cutting edge.
If you have ever taken a pump apart, then you have probably had the experience of hand-cutting a replacement gasket. Gaskets may be made of cork, leather, rubber, rubberized cloth, and other materials. (One contemporary supplier lists 41 types of gasket material for sale.) Washers, or circular gaskets, may also be made of those materials. The next two items are washer cutting bits, which allow the cutting of washers with concentric inside and outside edges from any material that can be cut by a knife blade. Both of these washer cutters have two adjustable cutters. One can be set for the outside diameter of the washer, and the other for the inside diameter.
The first washer cutter has a maximum outside diameter of 3 inches. It is marked "KING & SMITH'S PAT. OCT. 24, 1865" and "MF~ BY SAVAGE & SMITH, MIDDLETON, CT". This tool was assigned US Patent 50,600.
The second washer cutter has a maximum outside diameter of 4-1/2 inches. The only markings on the tool are an "H" in a circle, and the letters "HA" followed by some worn down or otherwise obscured characters. This tool was sold under the "Hargrave" trade mark used by the Cincinnati Tool Company. (My thanks to Bob Page and Mark Stansbury in the Antique and Vintage Tools Forum on Facebook for helping me identify this trade mark.) The Hargrave brand was used on clamps, chisels, punches, washer cutters, and other related tools. I have not found a model number for this tool, nor when it was made.
In my next post I will leave woodworking tools for a bit, and take a look at the monkey wrenches in the Tison Tool Barn.
In my last post I wrote about bits in the Tison Tool Barn that were used with a brace to bore holes in wood. In this post I will look at hollow augers, which cut wood away on the end of a spoke or post, leaving a cylinder of wood called a round tenon.
Round tenons are a form of the tenon in mortise and tenon joints. Round tenons are inserted into round mortises, which are indistinguishable from bore holes. Round mortises and tenons have primarily been used by wheelwrights in mounting spokes to rims on wooden wheels. Round mortise and tenon joints are also used in making Windsor chairs.
Forming round tenons that fit correctly in their corresponding mortises took skill and care. The development of hollow augers allowed wheelwrights and chairmakers to repeatedly and quickly cut round tenons of a consistent size and shape. Between 1835 and 1928 there were 98 US patents issued for hollow augers and other tools for cutting round tenons. (Although manufacture of wagons and coaches had steeply declined in the 20th century, wooden spokes continued to be used in motor vehicle wheels until well after World War I.) Many of the hollow augers invented during that time cut tenons of a fixed diameter. A worker needed a different fixed-size hollow auger for each diameter tenon he wanted to cut. Other hollow augers were adjustable, allowing a worker to use one tool to cut tenons of various diameters by making adjustments in the settings of the cutting blades.
The Tison Tool Barn collection has three adjustable hollow augers. First is a Bonney's Pattern Hollow Auger, patented Aug. 2, 1870. This bit has one cutting blade. It has a wheel with 8 holes from 3/8 inch to 1 inch in diameter, limiting it to cutting round tenons of those diameters. This range of tenon diameters may have met the needs of most woodworkers. This tool has two slots cut into the tang, indicating that it could be used with at least two different varieties of cut-tang chuck.
The next adjustable hollow auger in the Tison Tool Barn is shown below. It is marked "E. C. STERNS & CO. SYRACUSE, N.Y." and "PATENTED MARCH 16, 1880." Patent number 225,496 was issued to Edward C. Stearns, who had become the head of a company founded by his father in 1864. George N. Stearns & Co. became E. C. Stearns & Co. in 1877. The company was still doing business in 1891. Father and son were obviously interested in improving hollow augers. George N. Stearns was issued 8 patents for hollow augers between 1863 and 1880, several of which were manufactured by the Stearns company.
The third adjustable hollow auger in the Tison Tool Barn appears to be a rare find. The only marking on the tool is "PATḎ DEC ~ 1868." US patent 85,423 was issued to J. H. Beauregard of Sandy Hill, N. Y. on Dec. 29, 1868. The Directory of American Tool and Machinery Patents web site, which is a volunteer effort to compile information on patents, had not found any previous evidence that this tool had ever been manufactured. I have found no information on who manufactured this item, or when. This hollow auger has two cutting blades.
Before a hollow auger could start cutting a round tenon, the end of the spoke had to be pointed, that is, have a truncated cone cut on the end so that a hollow auger could be securely centered on it. Spokes could be trimmed with a pointing tool. The Tison Tool Barn has two tools that could be so used. First is this dowel pointer or trimmer. It could point a spoke or dowel up to 3/4 inch in diameter. The only mark on the tool is the trade mark "STANLEY."
Next is a spoke pointer. This tool is marked "E. C. STEARNS & CO. SYRACUSE, N. Y." Patent No. 220,442 for this tool was issued to Edward C. Stearns on Oct. 7, 1879. This tool will point a spoke or post up to 1-3/4 inches in diameter.
In my next post I will cover some odds and ends of bits in the Tison Tool Barn that were used with a brace.
Bits and braces go together like, ... well, you get the idea. This week I will cover some of bits in the Tison Tool Barn that were used with braces.
Most of the bits included here are for working with wood. Bits for boring metal are often used these days on wood (and plastic) as well, but the Tison Tool Barn does not have any metal-working drill bits. Over the last two centuries the most common wood boring bit used in braces has been the spiral auger bit. Auger bits differ from T-augers (covered a couple of weeks ago) primarily in that they have a tang for use with a chuck, rather than a cross handle.
First is a wooden box that holds a set of spiral auger bits. There are twelve bits in two trays, ranging in diameter from 1/4 inch to 7/8 inch in 1/16th inch intervals, plus a 1 inch bit. The size is marked on the tang of each bit by a whole number, 4 through 14, plus 16, representing sixteenths of an inch. These days I am used to interpreting whole numbers on a set of bits, sockets, etc. as millimeters, but these bits go back to a time when the metric system was not in general use in America, and such confusion was unlikely.
Box containing twelve auger bits from the Tison Tool Barn. Photos by Donald Albury.
The set is from early in the 20th century. The box is unmarked. Ten of the bits are marked "THE FULTON." Fulton was a house brand of Sears, Roebuck & Co. in the early 20th century. Sears registered the brand name Craftsman" in 1927, but I have not been able to find when Craftsman replace Fulton on auger bits sold by Sears. One of the other bits, number 6 (3/8 inch), has no discernible markings. The final bit, number 16 (1 inch), is marked "THE IRW~~/REG. US PAT~~~/MADE IN USA/MAINBOR." Irwin Tools has been manufacturing auger bits for over a century (and still sells auger bits for hand braces). The Mainbor line of auger bits was advertised at least as early as 1928.
Next are two spiral auger bits marked "RUSSELL JENNINGS." The Russell Jennings Company made auger bits from 1855 until 1944. One of the bits is size 8 (1/2 inch) and the other is size 24 (1-1/2 inches).
Spiral auger bits made by Russell Jennings. Size 8 (1/2 inch) on the left and size 24 (1-1/2 inches) on the right. Photos by Donald Albury.
The Tison Tool Barn also has an auger bit that would not have been used with the usual chuck on a brace. It does not have a conventional tang, but does have an wider section of the shaft with a flat side and a depression where a set screw would hold it in place. This bit may have been for use in a drill press or other power drill. There is no discernible marking or size number on the bit. It is 7/8 inch in diameter.
Auger bit on the left .Close up on the right of the round tang with flat side and depression for a set screw. Photos by Donald Albury.
Next is a center or centre (British spelling) bit. The center bit was invented in England, and was in wide enough use by 1879 to be included in the article "Boring" in The American Cyclopædia of that year. It reportedly is no longer produced by any manufacturer. The center bit has a wide flat blade. the point in the center anchors the bit as it turns. One wing of the blade bends up and has a sharpened edge, so that the edge shaves the wood to make a hole. The other wing has a spur which cuts a groove around the hole slightly deeper that the cutting edge, so that the cutting edge lifts the shaving cleanly without tearing around the edge of the hole. A center bit superficially resembles a spade bit, but a spade bit scrapes wood from the bottom of the hole, while a center bit shaves wood from the hole, as does a spiral auger bit. This center bit has no markings. It is 1-3/16 inch in diameter. The tang has a slot for use in a cut-tang chuck.
The centre bit is on the left. On the right is a closeup of the cut in the tang. Photos by Donald Albury.
Another bit is this taphole auger (previously shown in one of my posts about cooper's tools). Like spiral auger bits, it has a gimlet-style point, which lets the tool start its own hole. The tang on this bit appears to have been forged onto the shaft after the bit was made. This suggests that the bit originally had a cross handle (i.e., was a T-auger), and was later modified to work with a brace.
The taphole auger bit is on the left. A closeup of the forged joint in the shaft is on the right. Photos by Donald Albury.
Reamers are tools for enlarging holes with a taper (wider at the top than at the bottom of the hole). The Tison Tool Barn has three reamer bits. First is a number 1 reamer. It is marked with a logo consisting of a V-shape with a curved line across the top, like a quarter of a pie, with the letters "AKT" inside. I have not been able to identify this mark.
Next is a number 5 reamer. This has markings on the stem that are hard to read. The appear to be two triangles, with a "G" in the left hand one. The right side of the marking is either damaged or was not stamped completely into the metal. I cannot identify this mark.
Number 5 reamer on the left. Closeup of stamped logo on reamer on the right. Photos by Donald Albury.
The last reamer is a number 6 reamer made by the Watervliet Tool Co. Information on the Internet is scarce, but the Watervliet Tool Co. published a catalog of reamers and other automotive tools in 1922. By the 1950s it was known for making automobile jacks, when it was bought out and the business name retired. This may not have been intended as a woodworking tool.
Number 6 reamer on the left. Closeup of marking on tang on the right. Photos by Donald Albury.
Next week I will finish covering bits in the Tison Tool Barn that were used with braces.
By Donald Albury.
This week I continue describing braces that are in the Tison Tool Barn.
In the second half of the 19th century chucks using jaws tightened and loosened by rotating a shell came into use on braces. William Henry Barber was issued a patent in 1864 for what became known as the Barber chuck. The Barber chuck has a pair of spring-loaded jaws inside a rotating shell. The jaws are arranged so that they make contact along their full length with a square tapered bit tang. The rotating shell tightens or loosens the jaws depending on which way it is rotated. The Barber chuck, with various improvements introduced over the years, became a popular style of chuck for braces.
The Tison Tool Barn holds several braces with jawed chucks. First is this brace with a Barber chuck and a wooden head and sweep grip. There are stamped markings in four different places: "F. BUNNY", "F. DUCK" (twice), and "G. ROCK". I have no idea what those markings mean. This brace is 14.5 inches long and has an 11 inch sweep.
While a brace was an efficient tool when the crank could be swept in a full circle, it became much less useful if something obstructed a full sweep. The invention of a ratcheting mechanism solved the problem. William P. Dolan was issued a patent in 1871 that became the basis for most ratcheting braces, in which the sweep could be swung back and forth, turning the bit in only one direction. Ratcheting braces normally have three settings, turning the bit clockwise only, counter-clockwise only, or locked, so that the bit always turns with the sweep.
This ratcheting brace, which has a Barber chuck, is marked "NO. 33" and "PAT PDGY.18 1880". "PAT PDG" is short for "patent pending", but the rest of the marking is confusing. The PDG may have been stamped over JUL in what was originally JULY 18 1880, or the date was added in an attempt to overstamp PDG. A (rather cursory) search has not found a patent with that date for either a brace or a chuck. "NO. 33" is probably a model number, but I have no clue as the manufacturer of this brace. The brace is 13 inches long with an 8 inch sweep.
Here is another ratcheting brace with a Barber chuck. It is marked "STANLEY" and "NO. 945-10 IN." I have seen comments on the Internet that the model 945 was offered in the 1920s and in the 1950s, so this brace is likely between 60 and 100 years old. It is 13 inches long, and has a 10 inch sweep.
The next brace, shown below, is marked "P. S. & W. Co." and "59 1/2". The Peck, Stow & Wilcox Co. was formed in 1870 by the merger of three companies, and continued in business until 1950. This brace appears to have a Barber chuck, which indicates that it was probably produced in the 20th century (braces with Barber chucks are shown in a 1911 caralog from P., S. & W). The "59 1/2" appears to be a model number, but the few model numbers I have seen for P. S. & W. braces have been four digits long with no fractions. This brace is 11 inches long and has an 8 inch sweep.
Below is another ratcheting brace from the Peck, Stow & Wilcox Co. with a Barber chuck. The Brace is marked "P, S. & W. CO. 2010". Again, the Barber chuck indicates that this brace was probably manufactured in the 20th century. The brace is 13.5 inches long, with a 10 inch sweep.
The next brace is also from Peck, Stow & Wilcox Co. It has a Peck and Powers-style interlocking jaws chuck. (The Peck of Peck and Powers apparently had no relation to the Peck of Peck, Stow & Wilcox.) The Peck and Powers chuck was patented in 1879.
The brace is marked "P., S. & W. CO." and "1003". The lack of a patent number for the chuck on the brace indicates this is a later model. The brace is 13.5 inches long with an 8 inch sweep.
The brace below is a corner brace. The rotary motion of the crank is transmitted through gears to the chuck. The brace is not marked, but appears to be a Fray model 100, but with a Barber-style chuck rather than the interlocking jaws chuck pictured in the 1911 Fray catalog. This model was also made by Stanley after it acquired Fray, and it may have been produced for sale by other companies. The brace is 17.5 inches long and 9 inches wide. It has an 8 inch sweep.
The last brace in this post is more of a toy than a working tool. It probably came from a child's tool kit. The handle on the crank is short, and not really big enough for a grown man's hand. The sweep is narrow, producing a low torque suitable only for drilling very small holes. The chuck is simple. There is a ratchet, similar to ones on mechanical screwdrivers, just below the head. The brace is 12.5 inches long, with a sweep of 2 inches.
Spofford Style Bit Braces - 1897
Featured Braces - The Barber Brace, Dolan's ratchet patent
Peck, Stow & Wilcox Co..
Another source (for information about all sorts of old hand tools) is:
Walsh, Peter C., Woodworking Tools 1600-1900, Smithsonian Institution. The e-book version is downloadable for free from Project Gutenberg. Information about augers is found starting at location 515.
By Donald Albury.
I was pleased to learn this week that the Tools and Hardware section of the Collectors Weekly web site has linked to this blog as a Great Reference Site.
A Brief Note on Augers
I could say that the search for truth is unending, but that seems a bit pretentious when talking about old tools. I have found, less than a week after my last post, more information about the history of augers. D.B. Laney posted a few days ago about the book Country Furniture by Aldren Watson. I've had a copy of the book for 40 years, but hadn't looked at it in a long time. I agree with Laney, this book is a real pleasure to browse through. Watson does mention (page 97) that a single cutter spiral auger with a gimlet point was invented about 1770, but the gimlet point was narrow and frequently broke. The 1809 patent that I referred to last week was apparently for the double cutting edge on a spiral auger, rather than for the gimlet point. Another source I just found on Wikisource is the article on "Boring" in the 1879 issue of The American Cyclopedia. Figures 7 through 16 illustrate the various forms of augers and auger bits in use up to that year.
Braces: Origins, Sheffield and Spofford
This issue of my blog begins a description of the braces held in the Tison Tool Barn. I will finish this topic next week.
A brace or bitstock is a woodworking tool used to bore holes in wood. It has a U-shaped section offset from the shaft of the handle that forms a crank. One end holds a bit, which will bore into wood when it is turned. The crank allows the woodworker to rotate the handle with one hand while pushing down on a knob or pad (the head) at the end of the brace with the other hand, imparting a continuous rotary motion to the cutting end of the bit. The sweep is the diameter of the circle swept out by the crank handle as it is turned. The wider the sweep, the greater the torque that can be generated with the brace.
A brace and set of bits were essential to woodworkers well into the 20th century, but have been largely replaced by power drills. I bought a brace and set of auger bits some 50 years ago, but have not used the auger bits for 35 years. I have used the brace with a screwdriver bit on occasion.
The brace is a relatively recent addition to the woodworker's tool chest. The oldest known surviving brace was found on the Mary Rose, an English warship that sank in 1545. The first known depiction of a brace is in a painting by Robert Campin completed sometime between 1425 and 1428. In the detail below, St. Joseph is holding the brace in an awkward manner that makes me suspect that neither Campin nor his model had ever seen a brace in use.
The earliest braces had a bit permanently mounted to the brace. A woodworker would need a different brace for every size hole he wanted to bore. Eventually a socket was introduced into the end of a brace, in which a wooden pad mounted to a bit was held by friction, or by a thumbscrew. The sockets and pads had a square cross-section. Some early sockets and pads had the same width for their full length, but the development of tapered pads and sockets allowed for easier insertion and removal of bits while still achieving a tight fit. Wooden pads for bits were eliminated by the development of tangs, in which bits were given a tapered end with a square cross-section.
A mechanical device to secure the tang of a bit to a brace is called a chuck. There have been many types of chucks and many styles of braces in the past two centuries. I will only cover ones for which examples are found in the Tison Tool Barn.
One early method of securing bits to a brace was the cut-tang chuck, in which the tang has a slot which is engaged by a spring-loaded hook.
The brace shown below is a Sheffield-type brace with a push-button chuck. A push-button chuck is a type of cut-tang chuck. The button pushes the hook clear, releasing the bit. There are no markings on this brace. A book on 18th century tools published in 1816 has an illustration showing a brace with a push-button chuck. Similar braces were made through most of the 19th century. The brace is 13.5 inches long, and the crank has a 7 inch sweep.
The next brace is another Sheffield style brace with a push-button chuck. This brace has brass (or brass-plated) reinforcing plates attached to the curved sections of the brace. The only markings on the brace are the name "JOHN GREEN" with unevenly spaced and aligned letters, and "1816" in another location. "John Green" is probably an owner's name. The number is a problem. I doubt an owner would bother to stamp a date on his tool. A manufacturer might stamp a part number on a tool, but that is seen primarily on metal tools. A year may appear on a tool as either the date the manufacturer was founded, or the date a patent was issued, but neither is the case here. I suspect the "1816" was added at some point to make the tool seem older, and therefore more valuable. The brace is 11 inches long and has an 8 inch sweep.
The brace below is a Sheffield style brace with a lever release chuck. This is another type of cut-tang chuck, in which pressing the lever lifts the hook out of the slot on the tang. It has brass reinforcing plates on the curved parts of the brace. It is stamped "Made for T. TILLOTSON SHEFFIELD". Thomas Tillotson was a merchant and dealer in New York. The business, an old family firm, became "T. Tillotson" after 1843, when Thomas's brother John left the firm, and appears to have closed by the beginning of the Civil War. This leaves a well defined time period in which the brace was probably produced. The brace is 14 inches long, and the crank has a sweep of 7 inches.
This next brace is a steel brace (even the head is metal). It has a Taylors Patent chuck, which is another type of cut-tang chuck. Jeremy Taylor of Connecticut patented this chuck in 1836. The brace is also marked "I. WILSON". Increase Wilson manufactured tools starting in 1818. His business became a public company under the name "Wilson Manufacturing Co." in 1855. This brace is 12 inches long, and the crank has a 9 inch sweep.
In 1859 Nelson Spofford received a patent for a "clamshell" type of chuck. This chuck was formed by a fork or split at the end of the brace, with a channel for a bit tang. The chuck was closed on the tang like a vise by turning a thumbscrew. The Spofford chuck was used starting in 1859 on braces produced initially by Fray & Pigg Manufacturers, and from sometime before 1866 by John S. Fray and Co. Stanley Works acquired John S. Fray & Co. shortly after 1900 and continued to manufacture Spofford chuck braces until 1942.
The brace below has a Spofford chuck. It is marked "JOHN S. FRAY" and "BRIDGEPORT, CT." The wood head and rotating wood grip on the crank indicates that this is a later model from Fray. The wood crank grip is two parts held together on the crank by pewter rings. The brace is 11.75 inches long, and has a sweep of 13 inches.
This next brace is not marked, but is very similar to the one above, and likely also from John S. Fray & Co. It also has a wood head and crank grip, and is therefore from sometime in the later part of the 19th century or the 20th century. The brace is 11.5 inches long and has a 17 inch sweep.
I will cover more braces from the Tison Tool Barn next week.
Hand-powered drilling tools and machines, Low-Tech Magazine
A Collection of Bit Braces
Brace Innovative History: an Overview
The Primitive Wooden Brace
Repair of push-button chuck
John S. Fray & Co.
Spofford Style Braces
Barlow, Ronald S. (1999) The Antique Tool collector's Guide to Value. Gas City, IN: L-W Book Sales.
Another source (for information about all sorts of old hand tools) is:
Walsh, Peter C., Woodworking Tools 1600-1900, Smithsonian Institution. The e-book version is downloadable for free from Project Gutenberg. Information about augers is found starting at location 515.
I have been a volunteer at the Matheson History Museum. Feeling an affinity with old hand tools (some of which I remember from my youth), I have tried to learn more about the history of the tools in the Tison Tool Barn, and how they were used.
All text and photographs by Donald Albury in this blog are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. All illustrations taken from Wikimedia Commons are either in the public domain, or have been released under a Creative Commons license.
Interesting Sites about Old Tools