A COLLECTION OF BIT BRACES

  Last Modified on Nov. 5, 2008
This site is not affiliated with  any company named herein, and its written or image contents may not be reproduced without the express permission of the owner. Copyright (c) 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 by Sanford Moss. All rights reserved.   sushandel@msn.com

 Iron-framed bit braces are uniquely American tools that were developed independently of the earlier wood-framed "wheelwright’s braces," English brass plated braces, and the Sheffield steel framed "ultimatum" braces of the Nineteenth Century. Even before there were manufactured braces, the need to bore holes was satisfied, at least in part, by braces wrought by blacksmiths, and made almost wholly by the material they knew best--iron.  These early blacksmith braces are seldom signed or dated, but make an interesting early historical beginning point for any brace collection.  And this is where my collection  starts.

The earliest American patents for bit holding chucks and construction details go back to the 1830s, and a plethora of patents for chucks, ratchet mechanisms, etc. appeared from 1860 to the early 1900s, some of which, such as Darling's, are quite unique. By 1900 the successful manufacturers of American bit braces had shaken down to the John S. Fray Co. of Bridgeport, Connecticut, the Millers Falls Co. of Millers Falls, Massachusetts, and the Peck, Stow & Wilcox Co (P.S.&W.) Co. of Southington, Conn. There were other players, to be sure, but the top-of–the-line braces of these companies were quality tools that still hold their own. In particular, the simple Spofford patent chuck made popular by Fray and mounted on a steel frame with cocobolo handles enhanced by inlaid pewter rings, is today a highly desirable brace, both for looks and functionality. P.S.&W. braces with unique ratchet selectors, protruding "interlocking" jaws, and with rich lignum and cocobolo handles, continue to be popular among users today. Millers Falls pioneered the "Barber" chuck that provided a simple and fool-proof means of closing the jaws on a bit shank, and their line of braces remain extremely popular and useful.

    Shortly after 1900 The Stanley Rule & Level Company entered the bit brace business in a serious way, acquiring several companies to obtain patents, tooling, and workers with brace building experience.  Their line of braces became extensive.  But to put some limits on my brace collection I arbitrarily drew 1900 as a year beyond which braces did not interest me as much.  While I have many braces that extend that limit (Stanley, Goodell-Pratt, Millers Falls, North Bros, McClellan, etc), they are treated more as curiosities than an integral part of my collection.

    American braces make interesting objects for a collection.  The number of brace patents is large; the research of  Ron Pearson and Jim Price have produced books* and other information that detail many of these patents; and early braces can be found quite cheaply in the "wild"--having long been overlooked by collectors.

    My interest in early bit braces was whetted in my beginning "tooling" days, with each one that I found requiring substantial research to identify and appreciate.  As brace collections, go mine is small; but one that contains some of the major (and minor) patented braces produced in the late 1800s.  Because I sell a lot of braces, far more pass through my hands than accumulate in the collection.  This gives me the opportunity to retain just a relatively few of the representatives of important patents and styles.  I've tried to arrange these braces in some order on this page.  That order is by manufacturer, in a temporal sequence.  Where minor makers pop up, they are interjected into the mix.  As an initial orienting mechanism, you might care to look at an historical overview of brace chuck development graciously provided by Jim Price.

This page is very much a work in progress.  More braces will be added as they turn up.  I'm sure the page is rife with mistakes and errors, so critical comments that will improve its accuracy are sought and welcomed.  My hope is that this presentation will be informative as well as an aid to identification of braces that you may come across--and perhaps help stimulate more interest and research on American Braces.  Let's see how this works! 

Major Manufacturers 

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   -  Taylor Patent                                  

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   -  Bartholomew                                 

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   -  John S. Fray  

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             "Spofford" Braces

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             Non- "Spofford" Braces                           

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   -  Millers Falls                                   

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   -  Peck, Stow & Wilcox                       

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   -  Stanley Rule & Level Co.                       

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   -  North Bros.                                           

Other Manufacturers

American Bit Brace  Amidon   Backus   Caldwell  Consolidated  Darling   Davis   Fuller   Goodell Bros   Goodell Tool Co    Goodell-Pratt   Hazeltine & Chantrell Holt   Ives   C. E. Jennings  R. Jennings  Keen Kutter  Lancaster   Mason & Parker  Nobles   Phoenix   Ruger  Rusby   Saxton & Osgood  Smith  Seymour Smith  Staples  Streeter Tucker  Unmarked   White   Wilson 

Patentees

Amidon    Armstrong    Backus   Barber   Beard  J.Bolen   L.Bolen   Bostwick  F. Chantrell Darling  Davis  Daboll Dolin  Fegley   Fray  Fuller  Gavin & Cromer    Goodell   Haeberli & Schmidt  Hay   Holt   Ives   Ives & Rutz  Jennings  Johnson   McClellan   McCoy   Nobles   Osgood  Parker   Peck, O   Peck, W   Pederson  Pflegar  Reising  C. Rose   E. Rose   Rusby  Shepardson  Smith   Spofford  Stevens  Streeter   Taylor  Tucker Wilcox   Zirikelback  

Sydnas Sloot Home Page
Sydnas Sloot Tools Forsale List

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* -  Pearson, Ronald W. - The American Patented Brace, 1829 - 1924.  An Illustrated Directory
 of Patents
.  1994,  The Astragal Press (Mendham, NJ).  185 pp.  See the Mid-West Tool Collectors Association (MWTCA) website for his updated list of brace patents. http://www.mwtca.org

Pearson's "rarity index" (cited throughout this page) is based on the numbers of patented braces that he examined during the course of his research for the above book.  Of course, those numbers have been extended in the intervening years, but continue to provide the only measure of relative rarity among braces.  His scale is as follows:      NS - No Examples seen (none seen)
                     A   - Fewer than five examples seen.
                     B   -  Between six and twenty examples seen
                     C   -  Over twenty examples seen, but not common
                     FF  -  Frequently Found.

 

   -  Price, James E.  - A Sourcebook of United States Patents for Bitstock Tools and the
             Machines that Made Them
.  1992.  James E. Price (Naylor, MO).  Jim has produced a
             CD containing a comprehensive list of bit stock related patent drawings.  This is
             obtainable by contacting him at bitstock@semo.net or James E. Price, PO Box 6,
             Naylor, Missouri  63953-0006

This site is not affiliated with  any company named herein, and is purely educational. Copyright (c) 2003,  2004, 2005, 2006  by Sanford Moss. All rights reserved.   sushandel@msn.com

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