Geared braces of which I have knowledge.
by George Langford, Sc.D.

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1. Bennett & Bloedel patent brace drills intended for use not only as common bit braces but also as compact corner braces for drilling holes in confined spaces (click on each image to see aditional design details).

a. Specimen 1.

 This Bennett & Bloedel patent brace drill was made by E.C.Atkins & Company, otherwise famous for saws.  The patent date is October 10, 1905.  A nearly identical version of this design was seen at the recent PATINA tailgating, but that one was made by a different manufacturer.

b. Catalog illustration corresponding closely to the above Atkins specimen1(a).

 The crank on my specimen is slightly shorter than the one illustrated here in the 1914 catalog, so it interferes with the crank handle of the brace.  The gears are not only totally enclosed in this design, but they also permit the crank gear to ratchet.  Two different chuck designs were offered by Atkins; the specimen in 1(a) has the "other" kind.  The crank is held onto the gear shaft with an elegant captive key that engages a small groove in the end of the gear shaft.

c. Catalog photograph of a specimen made by Lancaster Machine & Knife Works, Lancaster, New York.

 The photograph was included with Specimen 1(a) as provenance, but it is not the same drill.  The crank arm of the Lancaster drill is a casting, and the crank arm of Specimen 1(a) is rectangular section wrought steel.

2. Several Millers Falls brace drills. These geared braces are all impossible to use close to an inside corner because the axis of the large gear is immutably parallel to the torque arms of the brace crank (click on each image to see aditional design details). The apparent purpose of their geared drives is to turn small bits more quickly than can be done with the plain double crank of the brace.  That interpretation is supported by the catalog illustration found for the third geared brace in this series, No.2(c) below.  The first two braces function well, although their delicate construction hints that their gear sets are intended only for light duty.  It would not make sense to struggle with a 1:3 mechanical disadvantage to turn the geared crank when the double crank of the brace has the direct 1:1 ratio.  The first two braces are presented in their apparent chronological order.  The third brace has not been dated and might not have been made by Millers Falls, although that maker's name appears on the chuck shell.  The identical text goes with illustrations of the second and third braces in two different catalogs, and the sketch of Brace Drill No. 2(b) matches that in the Millers Falls catalogs that I have, so that supports the notion that Millers Falls did actualy make the cruder Brace Drill No.2(c).  The design of the complex Brace Drill No.2(d) allows for various orientations of the axis of rotation of the main gear, but still does not permit the drill to work close to a corner.

     Quickly compare the overall arrangements of the top three braces

a. Patent date March 23, 1880 (Brace Drill No.1)

 Gear and crank are held on by a winged nut that fits in the end of the gear shaft.

b. Same design, later crank (Brace Drill No.2) without patent date.

 Similar to Brace Drill No.1, but the nut is knurled instead of winged.

c. Cruder design, unknown date (Brace Drill No.3).

 The least successful design of the three on this page, this geared brace comes with a winged screw that fastens the entire gear, crank and gear shaft to the elbow of the brace.  The winged screw has a conical tip that serves to force the two ratchet pawls to disengage from the ratchet wheel.  This feature prevents the frustrating occurrence of leaving the ratchet engaged, which can prevent the crank from being turned.  None of these three drills' gear drives can ratchet; that function applies only to the brace mechanism.  The attachment of the gear to this brace is not rigid enough to keep the gear in mesh with the pinion, so the teeth slip.  Brace Drills No.'s 1 & 2 do not have this fault, because their gear shaft housings are integral parts of the brace housing.  There is a drawing of this brace drill in the trade catalog #21 of Montgomery & Co. but there is no copyright date in that catalog and no maker's name for the drill.  In that catalog this is termed a "drill brace." The catalog illustration for Brace Drill No.2 has the identical text as the catalog illustration for this version, Brace Drill No.3, but was published in 1922; it would appear that this cruder design antedates the designs of Brace Drills No.'s 1 & 2.

d. An attempt at a more versatile design (Brace Drill No.4).

 Remember that I said that none of the above three Millers Falls braces would work close to corners ?  Well, do not be fooled by the ability of this even more complex Millers Falls brace (which I have never seen in the wild) to be assembled with the main gear's axis in any one of three orientations.  It still won't work in a corner like the Bennett & Bloedel patent brace drills at the top of this page.  It was found as Model 192 in the 1915 Millers Falls Catalog No.35 (reprinted by Roger K. Smith), but it is already absent in my original 1925 Millers Falls Catalog No.33.

3. An elaborate spur-geared breast drill which also functions like a brace.

a. Ephemera included with a salesman's sample.

Ephemera included with Ultra-Rapid spur-geared breast drillThis booklet was included with the following Ultra-Rapid spur-geared breast drill.  It was clearly translated from another language (probably German) into English, so it takes some interpretation to decipher the extravagant claims.  The booklet announces that the tool is intended for the "Sole distribution for Argentine, Brazil, and Phillippine Islands by Europa-Transocean Warenhandels-Compagnie m.b.H.
Berlin W 50 (Germany), Neue Bayreuther Strasse 2." The spindle has ball bearings, and the gears are all straight-cut spur gears, so in "effect the drilling-speed of „Ultra-Rapid" is the double of that of an electric Hand-Drilling-Machine or seven times more as that of the best so-called American Hand-Drilling-Machine. This special speed is attained by the accurate constructional workmanship and by the enormous oscillating-power of the driver.  In experimentalizing to drill we had the following result, where all 3 machines were working with 5 mm spiral drill in 6,5 mm angle-iron and for a time of 3 1/2 minutes real drilling and without marking any center ..."

Sure. When I try this drill, the low speed is about 1:1 turn of the drill bit to a turn of the crank, making this a flywheel-assisted geared brace.  The high speed is about 5:1, making this speed about the same as one of Goodell-Pratt's high speed hand drills.

b. The Ultra-Rapid drill itself.

Ultra-Rapid spur-geared breast drillThe Ultra-Rapid spur-geared breast drill was perhaps the inspiration for OSHA, the Occupational Health & Safety Administration.  Ultra-vigilant usage of this tool is an absolute requirement, as the geared flywheel keeps the drill's gears revolving with great force for some fifteen seconds after one lets go of the handle.  The breast plate is imprinted with the Ultra-Rapid trade name and "Made in Germany," making this a pre-WWII model, post-1900, more-or less.  It may be that the flywheel's impressive amount of stored kinetic energy allows the user to apply more force in the "easy" portion of a rotation and to coast during the "hard" portion.

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