Thursday, November 17, 2022

Spofford Patent Braces

At the recent PAST Tool Collectors show, I bid on and won a box of tools that included two Spofford patent braces.  I've known about this type of brace for a while, but have never had one.  Now I have two.

The two braces

The Spofford mechanism is very simple: the head is split
and a thumb screw tightens the two halves on an inserted bit.

Just insert the square, tapered shank of a bit ...

... and tighten the thumb screw and it holds very securely

The first of the two is a 10" sweep brace by Fray and Pigg.  According to a post on Sawmill Creek, this brace could date from 1859-1869!  It was in beautiful condition as found and I only needed to oil the rotating head (handle) to get it working perfectly.  It has rosewood handles.

The oil port

The crank handle is two pieces of rosewood, held together on the shaft by two wire springs housed in shallow grooves in the handle.  It's entirely possible that these springs are a replacement for what was originally pewter or something similar.

The two-piece crank handle

The second brace is an all-metal tool with 7" sweep from an unknown maker.  This one is in rougher condition, but only in terms of surface appearance.  After oiling the head (handle), it works perfectly.  I'm not going to try to shine it up.

Unknown maker Spofford's patent 7" brace

The swing handle is just a swelled part of the shaft

The head (handle) is metal and turns freely.
I don't know how to remove these, but fortunately don't really need to.

Underside of that handle: don't know if the "7" has to do with the
brace's size or simply a casting number for the handle.

The clamping mechanism

I saw a picture somewhere on the internet of a Fray and Pigg brace that looked just like this one.  So maybe it's another F&P, but there is no indication anywhere on the tool.

I love the simplicity of these braces.  There is no ratcheting mechanism like on newer braces, but in most cases I don't need that.  I'm really looking forward to using them.


  1. Oh I think you will like them. They are my favorite. Strong , not a lot to go wrong, but more importantly hold secured any bits I throw at it. Not every chucks can do that. You are correct those c clips are not original


    1. Yeah Bob, I love the simplicity of these braces. Simple - and effective! Perfect!

  2. A number of year ago I cast new pewter rings on a spofford brace handle using pewter from a cheap rummage sale pewter spoon and playdough (Not ideal but worked better than expected) to form a funnel and a strip to cover the channel. I was surprised how well it worked. The liquid pewter flowed into the complete channel, actually also into some cracks unintentionally. No traces of burning on the wood. It s easy to file any surplus pewter away.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Alfred. I've never worked with pewter, but it sounds interesting. I know it's not the same thing, but I once "fixed" a brace by making new rings (that support the sweep handle) out of JB Weld . It's a bit rough looking, but it works. I'd like to know more about pewter.

    2. Pewter is tin and has a melting point close to that of lead or tin solder. Once liquid it is quite runny. I didn t need flux but flux for plumbing solder works fine. My ' crucible' was an old steel table spoon but a tea spoon would have worked too. I just used play dough strip to cover the hollow ring in the rose wood handle all ghe way around and the opened one small area, formed a small funnel in the playdough, and poured the liquid pewter. It dispersed quickly into the cavity. Ihad to cut off a small knob at the funnel point but pewter is easily sawed or filed.

    3. Cool. Thanks for the extra info, Alfred.