Restoring a Skinner 6” Brace

Having finished the rehab of the 10” Skinner brace, and practicing my restoration techniques on an 8” brace, it was time to move on to restoring my “new” 6” Skinner beauty.

Rather than bore you with repetitive details that you can read elsewhere, “then I removed rust by….”, I’ll focus on the before/after eye candy. I’ll also note any gotchas, or obstacles that were out of the norm.

Starting with a diamond in the rough
First things first. Andy, whose techniques I followed for this restoration, names his subjects. Here’s what I had to work with:

…and a closer look:

A name….hmmm. There’s already a Rusty…and a Dusty…ah, let’s go with Musty.

Rust removal
Musty clearly needs a makeover. And she’s decided to go with my “The Works” package, down to polished, mirrored metal. As a tool stylist, my magic begins by peeling away unsightly rust (blessed be for Evaporust). Here are some detail shots of before/after rust removal.

There. That’s a good start for Musty’s new look. Yikes. Look at what I had to work with on the chuck:

The makeover
The jaws were in decent shape, with hardly any acne scars. The chuck however, shows deep scarring. Too many late-night drinking parties in Musty’s past. But it’s amazing what a little filing and sanding can do to wash those memories away. Well, it wasn’t a “little” but it did have the desired effect.

After sanding the chuck through 150, 220,320, 400, 600 grits, I walked it over to the bench grinder to give it a good polish with white rouge. That’s the tool equivalent to tooth whitening.

Now that Musty is outfitted with a winning smile, let’s see what I can do for her wobbly handle. I don’t have to tell you how important a nice sway here, or a jiggle there, is to sex appeal.

Musty had a small, 1/16” gap between the retaining rings and her center handle. That was just enough to create some play in use. I cut that distance in half and now the handle sashays in rotary fashion in a very pleasing way. Pleasing to the eye. Pleasing to the hand.

For this step, I used the jig Andy suggests to hammer a tighter fit. But the 4” x 4” wood I used, probably Douglas fir, wasn’t up to the task. The top portion kept breaking apart on me. Finally, I used a straight piece of wood as sort of a “chisel” and pounded one side of the retaining ring, then the other, to sneak up on the desired 1/32” gap. That worked ok, but I hesitate to suggest that method to you. Perhaps making the jig out of hardwood (as Andy did) able to withstand hard taps would be a better solution.

Let’s move on to Musty’s weather-beaten and pitted body.

The only thing I did differently during this restoration than on Dusty (8” Stanley brace)  was to avoid the use of rounded and aggressive files. This reduced the amount of sanding, and time, I spent on this step.

I got some cheap sandpaper for Christmas. It kept breaking on me as I used thin strips to “belt-sand” the surfaces. So I broke down and spent the extra money on good sandpaper. Big improvement.

Note that there were some areas—the top of the chuck housing area, the ratchet assembly and underside of the top handle seating—that were very difficult to work. Hence, while I gave sanding some of these areas the college try, I kept my work here to a minimum. I would rather have an imperfect surface than one that was highly polished with looser tolerances (talking about the ratchet surfaces) that negatively affected the tool’s performance.

The reveal
[cue music…curtain moves as Musty finds her way out from behind it…]

And here’s Musty! [applause, crowd oohs and aahs]

…[camera zooms in for a closer look]

On a date
Now that Musty had a new look, it was time for her to get back into the game. On her first date, she chucked up a small auger bit and drilled a hole. On her second date, she accessorized with a quick-change ¼” drive changer to drive a screw.

A new home
Feeling better about herself than she has in years, Musty moved to a new home.

One of her neighbors is a 10” Skinner brace named Ken. Musty thinks he’s “tasty” in a Marlborough-Man sort of way. I think they make a cute couple.

What’s in store for Musty?
Musty’s 6” sweep makes for a fast-moving rotation. That’s ideal for drilling small holes, oh, say less than 3/8”, and perfect for driving screws. So her quick-change drive-bit accessory will be ever by her side.

As for Ken, well, Musty is taking things slow.


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.
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One Response to Restoring a Skinner 6” Brace

  1. Incredible transformation. I always like to see a tool brought back to life and given a second life.

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