Rehabbing an English Brace—Before and after eye candy for a 10” Skinner hand drill

Yes Virginia, there IS a Santa Claus. Soon after finishing my restoration of “Dusty” an 8” Stanley brace—based on Andy’s superb “Humble Hand Brace” series—Christmas came early to my doorstep.

My buddy Andy was kind enough to hook me up with two Skinner braces (10” and 6”). He was tireless in his pursuit, even stopping at a Dutch rest stop to bid on Ebay UK for me while driving home from a consulting gig.

The 10” Skinner arrived in decent shape so I chose to rehab it rather than restore it. I named him Ken.

The 6” Skinner, however, was in pretty rough shape…which makes it PERFECT to be my next restoration subject.

The rehab
The first order of business was to break down the brace. Overall, the piece was in pretty good shape. The chuck jaws had the faintest signs of scoring. And while the chuck showed some pitting, the metal surfaces were in pretty good order. Don’t let the prairie-wind-swept look of the wood fool you. They cleaned up very well.

There were some rust spots, so I soaked the metal pieces overnight in Evaporust, then used a brass brush and/or green scouring pad to clean up the surfaces.

For the wood, I followed Andy’s instructions closely, sanding through 150, 220 and 320 grits. I followed this up by buffing the wood parts on my buffing wheel (not in Andy’s tutorial but I’ve come to like this step). I bought a clean cloth pad, removing the one I use to polish metal so as not to impregnate (i.e. color) the wood with tiny gray, metal particles.

I followed this with several coats of BLO and three coats of wipe-on varnish. To that I added three coats of paste wax using 0000 steel wool. This last tip from Andy really made the wood warm and inviting to the touch.

Here it is post-rehab and ready for assembly.

And here is my Skinner pal after reassembly (post -Evaporust/wood finish):

…and some detail shots:

Overall, I’m pleased with the rehab. Choosing not to polish steel gives Ken a rugged, serviceable look. A square jaw, ruffled hair, 5-oclock shadow.

Testing Ken and adding him to my tool kit
I chucked up an auger bit and was pleased with how tightly the chuck cinched it up. Then I vised a 2″ x 4″ and bored a hole. Man is Ken smooth. All the oiling Andy suggests makes him rotate effortlessly with nary a sound.

Here’s Ken at work:

And here he is in his new home, an honored place next to my Stanley brace. Note that they’re both 10″ braces but the Skinner looks and feels more compact.

There he sits, waiting patiently for work on my next project. He won’t have to wait long. But I fear that the Stanley will become jealous of the new guy I’ll be using to put bit to wood. There’s nothing worse than a brace suspicious that you’re two-timing, uh, two-boring her. The last thing I need is more drama in my shop.

I need to find Ken a girlfriend.


About The Write Biz

By day, I'm a mild-mannered copywriter who harnesses frontal-lobe creativity (right brain) to help B2B marketers generate leads and sales. By night I pick up hand tools to create wooden masterpieces...and give my black lab Bella the "red dot" laser to chase after.
This entry was posted in Braces, Rehab, Tools and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Rehabbing an English Brace—Before and after eye candy for a 10” Skinner hand drill

  1. Just found your blog. Interesting blog entry on Ken. I can’t wait to read how his brother fairs or am I assuming here?

  2. Rob says:

    I have an old Skinner 10 inch sweep brace very similar to yours, ex-post office, dated 1967. It’s well built and does a good job. I might have to smarten it up a bit after reading this!

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