Setting up and Sharpening a Swing Brace and Bit

If you have purchased your brace secondhand, ensure all the parts move freely without friction, if not you can oil these parts to ease up the friction. There is usually an oil hole where the neck connects to the pad, only one or two drops are needed. The chuck and the chuck thread may also need oiling from time to time to stop them seizing up.

Oiling Gallery:


To sharpen the Auger bits, use a small saw file on the inside of the cutting edge of the large spiral. Do not use the file on the outer side of the spiral as this will warp the cutting shape. Even if you have bought your bit new, it still may need sharpening.

Tip: If you have purchased your brace brand new, it is always good practice to check the moving of the parts before use. To see how to sharpen a secondhand brace bit, click here.

Sharpening a New Bit Gallery:


Sharpening a Secondhand Bit

When sharpening a secondhand brace bit, look out for the spurs (semi-circular outer face) and ensure they are taller than the cutting edge. If they are shorter, the spurs won’t reach and will not score the diameter of the hole which may result in unwanted splitting if used.


The spurs should be free from extensive damage, however some damage is repairable. In the picture below, the spur damage is from when the bit has been used to bore a hole and it has hit a nail or a screw when doing so. When it is sharpened this misshapen metal will be abraded away and a good sharp edge is formed.


Don’t worry if your secondhand bits are rusty, the naturally abrasive properties of wood will wear this away over time.

Another thing to look out for is the snail, one is blunt and one is sharp. If you come across a blunt one, you can sharpen this in a similar shape to a square awl, to a pyramid point retaining as much of the thread as possible. This can be done using a saw file.


Sharpening the Spurs Gallery:


Sharpening the Cutting Edge Gallery:

Once you have sharpened the spurs, cutting edge and the pointed snail (if it needs sharpening) your bit should work as normal, test it on a scrap piece of wood.

Further Reading:

If you want to read more about the brace, we recommend the following from Paul's blog:

Questions Answered on Brace and Bits


  1. Orestis on 3 October 2019 at 8:03 am

    Good guide. Any advice for setting up and sharpening an expansive bit? i bought a used one recently and have a hard time achieving a straight clean hole with it.

    • Izzy BergerTeam Member on 8 October 2019 at 2:30 pm


      Paul says:
      It’s all the same technique so I don’t think I would do something specific for an expansive bit.

      Kind Regards,

  2. João Borges on 19 February 2020 at 7:58 am


    Due to prohibitive price of working vintage auger bits I’m thinking about buying new ones. Can new modern auger bits (with only one spur and more suitable for power drills) be sharpened?

    Thanks in advance

    • Izzy BergerTeam Member on 26 February 2020 at 3:10 pm

      Hi João,

      Paul says:
      Yes they can and they work fine in an auger brace.

      Kind Regards,

  3. Jim Staton on 9 May 2020 at 2:29 pm

    I bought some random auger bits after giving them a look over. They all appeared to be in good shape. The snails looked good as in not broken. My question is when I try to use some of them they quit cutting once the spurs start to dig in. I’ve given them a few strokes with a file but nothing changed. Any suggestions?

    • Izzy BergerTeam Member on 14 May 2020 at 3:27 pm

      Hi Jim,

      Unfortunately Paul cannot answer this as there are so many variables that could affect the answer he would give. I’m sorry we could not be of more help!

      Kind Regards,

  4. Clearthur Hollingsworth on 16 May 2020 at 8:06 pm

    Is it worth the effort to try and restore an old brace? They are a bit rusted and very neglected.


    • Izzy BergerTeam Member on 22 May 2020 at 2:08 pm

      Hi Cle,

      Paul says:

      In my view no, because you can find really good quality braces online secondhand.

      Kind Regards,

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