Russell Jennings

One of the long time, premier maker of spur auger bits and other bitstock tools, the Russell Jennings Company of Deep River and later, Chester, Connecticut (on the Connecticut River between Essex and Haddam) was a late comer into the brace marketing business.  Jennings' seminal 1855 patent for a "double twist" auger bit with extension lips launched the company.  Over the last half of the Nineteenth Century the company produced all sorts of auger and boring bits based on this patent.  Long after Jenning's death in 1888, the Russell Jennings Mfg. Co decided to get into bit brace manufacturing, and sometime between 1904 and 1915 four models of bit brace, two of which accepted only a proprietary style of auger bit, were introduced..  The braces (and bits) were based on the patent (No. 1,127,007)of Arthur L. Jennings of Deep River that was issued on Feb. 2, 1915.  The braces today carry a Pearson "A" rating for rarity, and indeed they are uncommon.

The four brace models listed in the 1927 catalogue are their "Fig. 30",  "Fig 40",  Fig 50", and "Fig. 55" models.  The first three were made with black "vulcanized fibre" handles, while the No. 55 was a less expensive model offered with stained hardwood handles.  The No. 30 was a sleeve brace equipped with the No. 500 "precision" chuck that accepted only the patented auger bit with back taper and slotted end.  It was made in only 8 and 10 inch sweeps. The No. 40 was a ratchet brace with the No. 400 "Universal Precision" chuck that accepted both the patent bit and the more familiar tanged bit.  Finally, the No. 50 brace was a ratchet one, with the No. 500 chuck.  The two ratchet models were made in 8, 10, 12, and 14 inch sweeps.

Apparently these braces (and bits) met with little favor from the buying public, for they are rare finds today.  I can find no record of how long these braces were in production, but surely the Stanley Company did not produce them after acquiring the Jennings Company about 1944.

I own three of the braces, including both the No. 40 and No. 50 ratchet braces, as well as several of the patent bits with slotted ends.  This is the No. 50 in an 8 inch sweep,  The No. 500 chuck at the right accepts only these special bits


Below is my example of the No. 40 brace in the 12 inch sweep.  This model is equipped with the No. 400 "Universal" chuck that has both conventional alligator-type jaws and the receiver for the slotted patent bits.








All of my braces have chucks marked with the patent date, "Mar. 1, 1904."  This is a valid date, but I've been unable to locate any appropriate brace, chuck, or bit patent awarded on that date.  The patent covering these bits and chucks was not awarded until almost 8 years later.  More research will tell, but perhaps the Jennings Company put these braces into production before applying for the patent, and wanted some measure of protection before its issue.

The most treasured of my Jennings braces is a 10 inch sweep example of the No. 50 brace which is cased in its original wood box, with a full set of 13 of the special bits, plus a 16 inch bit extension, expansive bit, two screw driver bits, and one counter sink.  It is missing a second countersink from being complete.

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