The Swing Brace Guide

A traditional woodworking brace, is used to bore holes from ¼” in diameter and up in increments of 1/16” to 1 ½” which are often too big for a hand drill. They can create cleaner work than power tool versions because they operate by a screw thread and cutting edges instead of power and speed. The cutting edges can be newly sharpened with a small file when dull. They bore holes more slowly than electric drills and the spiral bits are designed with a screw-type tip (pointed snail) that pulls the bit into the wood as the handle of the brace is rotated. This makes them a safer alternative to high-speed high-powered drills.

Some braces have a ratchet which allows you to use the tool where space is limited. For example, if you were boring a hole near a wall and could not turn the handle the full circle, you could engage the ratchet and just use the half radius to continue boring. You can switch the direction of cut and withdraw the bit using the ratchet too. This give you more versatility and enable you to still use the brace in restricted areas.

Uses

The brace performs the same tasks as an electric drill, mainly to bore holes in wood. The bits can be interchanged to create different sized holes. Unlike the electric drill, the brace is fully dependent on human power, this is an advantage as it always runs on your renewable energy.

Terminology

  • Chuck – The part of the brace which grips and holds the bit and can be tightened or loosened.
  • Spurs – The sharp edges on a drill bit to cut the circumference of the hole, there can be one or two.

Other names

  • Joiner’s Brace
  • Hand Brace
  • Carpenters Brace
  • Ratchet Brace

Parts of a Swing Brace

● Bit

◎ Chuck

● Frame

● Handle

● Pad

● Ratchet Mechanism

Relevant Guides

  • Setting up and Sharpening a Swing Brace and Bit

    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…

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  • Using a Swing Brace

    Using a Swing Brace

    To use a brace, rotate the centre grip and combine hand and arm pressure to push the bit into the wood. The bit has a spiral point that assists to pull the bit into the wood with each rotation you make. The bit is held firmly within the chuck by two jaws. Turning the grip…

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  • Buying a Brace

    Buying a Brace

    A secondhand swing brace should last a lifetime if it has been well looked after. We recommend buying secondhand as there are lots available which are not worn down, they are also much less expensive than buying new. Stanley has proven to be good quality so look out for them when buying secondhand. You can…

    Read More

Further Reading

To read more on this we recommend the following from Paul’s blog:

Questions Answered on Brace and Bits

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4 Comments

    1. Hi Richard,

      Thank you for your comment.

      We have an upcoming guide on ‘Buying a Brace’ which includes what to look out for when buying secondhand or new, and also how much you can expect to pay.

      Kind Regards,
      Izzy

  1. Hi, could you provide more information on the types of auger bits used with a brace and where to buy them? I’ve seen several different styles with differences in the shape of the flutes or spiral, one or two cutting spurs, fine threads on the snail vs coarse, etc. Jennings style appears to be popular with furniture makes but they are very expensive new. Cheap ones can be found at big box hardware stores but apparently are only suitable for coarse work in softwoods for construction.

    Any info on what kind of bits to look for would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks,
    Walter

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