Simmons Co. of St. Louis successfully marketed a large variety of tools under
the brand name, "Keen Kutter" from as early as 1870 well into the 1900s.
Most of these tools were made and marked for Simmons by established tool making
concerns. While "Keen Kutter" braces are not particularly common, they do
show up, and are usually rugged and quality items. More common than
regular bit braces are Keen Kutter ratcheting corner braces. The ones that
I've seen are most obviously similar to those produced by the
John S. Fray Co. I own just a single Keen
Kutter ratchet brace, and this one has distinctions that mark it as a product of
Peck, Stowe & Wilcox. This is a very heavy brace, of
12" sweep and marked "KBB 12". The giveaway is the unmarked
Samson ball bearing chuck that shouts, "P.S.&W."
But the brace also has (uncharacteristically of P.S.&W.) a walnut wrist handle,
with inlaid pewter rings surrounding it, in the manner of Fray's Spofford braces
and some others. But Fray's wrist handles were never made of walnut, and
were split--having been applied after the bows were bent. This brace has
an intact wrist handle, mounted before bending, so the rings are purely
decorative. One can imagine that Simmons ordered these braces to appear to
have the Fray pewter ring distinction.
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