Lee Valley Tools    Woodworking Newsletter
   Vol. 5, Issue 3
   January 2011
   From the Collection

The Pilkington Brace

Pilkington Brace

This form of wooden brace is thought to have originated in northern Europe sometime in the 15th century. Prior to that date, the bow drill or different styles of hand augers were used to pierce or drill circular holes. Coinciding with this type of brace's appearance was the concept of removable bits, which eliminated the need for a purpose-built device for each bit size used. By 1800, graduated sets of metal bits were being manufactured for distribution by ironmongers in Sheffield, England. This meant the journeyman no longer had to carry as much weight in his daily toolkit; one tool holder could be used for the various shell, center, taper and nose bits. Countersinking in wood and metal, along with driving larger screws and nuts, was easily accomplished using the wide range of specialty inset bits made for the brace. Its sweep design allowed the user to develop great torque and control.

  The nosepiece features a spring device that retains notched tapered bits, such as the one shown here.
The English wooden sweep brace was manufactured in many forms: plain wood, plated and metal framed with wood infill (Ultimatum style). A type with an all-metal or iron body was often referred to as a Scotch brace. All types had a brass or steel nosepiece or pad (chuck) that encapsulated the tapered square tang of the bit and, in most cases, had a spring device that actuated to engage a filed slot in the bit. This slot allowed for the retention of the cutting tool in the brace during use.

The brace shown here is a version described in the letters patent #1,113, granted to Charles Pilkington, Thomas Pilkington and Abraham Pedigor on April 30, 1853. The patent claim was for an improved joiner's brace. In 1854, partners Pilkington, Pedigor and Storr, of Chester joinery works in Sheffield, claimed they were the sole inventors and manufacturers of the patent brass mounted brace. By 1856, Storr had left the company and in 1858, the company became C. & T. Pilkington. It's unknown when the company ceased operations.
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