View Full Version : Brace and screwdriver bits

07-29-2006, 08:09 PM
For many years, I have used an old hand brace with screw driver bits to tighten the action screws on rifles. Much easier to use than a hand driver and I can get an extra 1/8 turn over a hand driver and all the force I can put on it with two hands.

I thought I was the only one to do this until I saw a documentary on TV a couple of weeks ago about England during WWII. They show a guy doing final assembly on SMLEs and he was useing the same rig. He was fast and sure with it.

Anybody else still use this method for gun work?

07-30-2006, 07:21 PM
Heck,I bet most guys would not know what a brace was![Cepting us old farts]
A old school finnish carpenter showed me how to use one.He put everything togther with slotted screws and a brace.In his 80s he decided to use a cordless sometimes,But only where the screws wouldnt show.
Never thought of using one for gun work though...Thanks...

07-31-2006, 12:50 AM
I still like hand drills as they don't have a mind of their own. They make holes where you want, as fast as your want and as deep as you want. In gunwork, the only electric drill i use is a 17" floor drill press.

I use a brace for larger work and a hand cranked breast drill for smaller bits. Works for me.

Four Fingers of Death
07-31-2006, 01:17 AM
I used to peer throught the windows of the Russian shop in Sydney years ago, They had these nifty Brace and Bit Drills (what my Grandpa used to call them) and some even had gearboxes. I suppose in outer Woop Woop in the middle of Siberia there wasn't / isn't always power. I never had the readies when I was looking and didn't think of them when I had the cash. I have several hand drills including one of those Stanley 'Yankee' screwdrivers. Like to use that, trouble is nowadays there are not many slotted screws around, must make up some phillips head bits Project No 536! Having two super efficient cordless screwdriver / drills makes getting them working a low priority. I suppose they would be good for allowing you to put a lot of pressure on screwheads. I must get them operating, Project number 537!Mick.

08-10-2006, 11:58 AM
I was raised by my Grandfather who was blacksmith, and wheelright before there was electricity and motor cars in that part of Texas. He never used anything but a brace and bits to drill any kind of whole in wood . We even had a wall mounted hand cranked drill press for metal, that I should have kept.

There never was any kind of power tool whatsoever around the house when I was growing up, so I guess I am a little retro. You have much more control over your work with handtools. The only things you pick up with power is speed and production which are not considerations if you are working for yourself.

You can really seperate a rifle from the wood quickly with the brace and screwdriver bits. No damage to the slots and you can really snug the screws back down without running the risky of buggering the slots.

I would like to have some Phillips or "Star" screwdriver bits for the brace if they made such. I suspect they did.

08-10-2006, 12:20 PM

Just cut the shanks off a Philips screwdriver


08-10-2006, 12:38 PM
Every time I see a brace at a yard sale or farm sale, I grab it. I have one with a big tapered reamer, one with a 1/4" drive extension, one with a shaft that takes the ubiquitous hex screwdriver bits, one with a slotted screwdriver. Oh yes, one that actually takes drill bits. Some of them ratchet, some don't. Neat tools. I also have two hand cranked drill presses and a cigar box of the special drill bits. One of them has a flywheel that takes a V-belt, the other must predate that. The older one is missing the pawl, and I haven't gotten around to making one for it.

08-10-2006, 11:43 PM
Joe... If you cut the shank off a Philipps screwdriver, that leaves you with a round shank. The brace requires a tapered four sided square shank. It won't hold a round shank.

bruce drake
08-11-2006, 05:06 PM
Chargar, You've got me by quite a few years but I'm glad I think like you in lot of stuff.

You could always braze some additional metal onto the screwdriver shank and than file it to the same contour to fir the bracehead. But that is more for people who have more time than money and are willing to construct the required tool.

Most people now a days consider Lowes or Home Depot the entirety of hardware. One day people will realize that building a tool is sometimes required to meet the need expressed.


08-11-2006, 07:33 PM

Do what Drake said. My dad had a bunch of those type drills and a few of them took round bits, ever see one of those?


08-11-2006, 09:06 PM
Joe... There are some types of hand drills that take round bits. I have a breast drill that uses them. You lean against curved plate and crank the drill with your hand. There are several gears you can use to change drill speeds.

In "Gunsmithing" by Roy Dunlap there is a picture of Roy using one of these to true up the face to the bolt in a Mauser action. I have had mine for 40 years and it has many uses.

08-13-2006, 08:49 AM
What I did for the brace and for the Yankee screwdrivers- I got a bit that fit, (4 sided for the braces and with the cutout for the Yankees) and afixed a Jacobs chuck to the brace and a 1/4" extension for sockets to the Yankee one. Now I can use regular drills or drivers in all of them.

FWIW- I have a blacksmiths hand cranked posts drill. What a monster. I can drill with my biggests bits through any steel I have. Slow, yes, but the powerfeed makes it work.

08-14-2006, 08:53 PM
FYI... I just picked up another brace and 8 screwdriver bits on Ebay for $4.95. The shipping is a bunch more that the purchase price. The brace works well, and it looks to be quite old with the non-ratcheting chuck, look to be about Civil War period, give or take a few years.