Making a Brace


Since I am involved in the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) and I teach woodworking classes there, I am constantly trying to make a more “medieval like” kit.

I do not think that there is anything “wrong” with using modern hand tools, the wood cuts and behaves the same as it always has, It’s just that I feel for the look of things the tools should look correct for the venue.

So I am finding many examples of braces from sunken ships and items that were thrown into wells… these places seem like you couldn’t possibly retrieve any artifacts so old, and yet… From the Vasa and From the Mary Rose and from Wells all over England and Germany we do get artifacts. Strangely in salt water the metal tends to be lost to corrosion and in fresh water the wood tends to be lost to rotting…

thus at Birka we get a lot of iron or steel tool edges without handles and from the Mary Rose we get hand planes and braces without blades or bits.

I have stated when discussing saw handles that handles are a matter of fashion while blades (blade geometry) is dictated by the wood and the metal available.

A spoon bit made in England will be almost the same as a spoon bit made in Scandinavia. But the T handles in England were one solid stick firmly attached to the auger and the ones in Scandinavia have a swivel arrangement so that you can lean against them and still turn them.

But I am talking about smaller braces just now. the kind where you hold one end still and crank with the other. like this one…

my spring pole lathe when it was brand new!

So after scanning through the internet looking for ideas I made the one in the Photo of my springpole lathe when it was new.

I was a bit intimidated at first about making holes in both ends that would line up, but it ended up being not that hard. You need to start with a piece of material that is big enough to saw it out from and is straight on one edge. That will be the edge you end up gauging off from to layout the holes. And it doesn’t need to be more than 7/8″ thick.

mark the center of your holes, if you will be using a “pad” (a separate piece that has an auger bit fastened permanently into it) draw out the square hole and drill as straight as you can a hole a little smaller than your finished square, that way if you drift you will be trimming it up with a chisel anyhow. drill the hole for that other end, from your first hole! viola! you knob wants to be loose so that hole can be a little oversized and slightly off. And your other end where the auger bit goes will be trimmed up/straightened by hand with a chisel or a reamer.

bob’s your uncle. or not 😉

be well



Dangerous Edges

twas a dark and stormy night…

Well, not really. But unprotected cutting edges in a tool box can be a bit of a scary story.

Way back when I was young and rocks were soft I signed up to take a chair making class at the Windsor Institute.

Among the many tools listed as being needed for chair making was an inshave. So I bought one, and it didn’t work right so I returned it…

I had a box full of damaged drawknives, handles missing, backs bent and mushroomed out from being pounded on with a hammer to split kindling wood (angry face for the bad words person who hits tools with hammers that are not supposed to be hit).

And I had a small farriers forge, a busted anvil, and some hammers…

so I lit a fire and “fixed” one of the wreaked drawknives by turning it into an Inshave! new handles. and it was a chrm to work with, I still use it!


BUT it sits in my tool box with a rag wrapped around it that doesn’t always stay where it belongs! So it’s like a shark waiting in the depths of my tool box, is it going to bite me today or is it satiated already?…

I got this great book by Peter Galbert, “Chairmaker’s Notebook”, last year, and in it (and on his blog) is a picture of this elegant little sheath or case that he keeps a drawknife in…

inspired by it I made a case for the inshave..


a thick block of wood @ 1/2″ thicker than the depth of the blade, this is slightly spalted soft maple. then I cut 1/4″ or more off the bottom, I drew an outline of the blade on the thick part, and bandsawed that to fit the blade into it. then I glued the bottom back on.

Then I layed out the dovetailed recess sawed down the sides (hand saw) and cleared it out with my hand router.

then I made a lid from White Oak, @ 3/8″ thick. to fit once I got it into place nicely (contact all along the edges) it was too far into the slot so I cut 2 strips of ebony (waste from another project long ago to “shim” it.

a nut insert and a brass thumb screw secure the lid. a bit of sanding and a coat of finish and it will be protecting my fingers for years to come.


be well