Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Drilling and fastening selection

Tools used to put stuff together, and sometimes to take it apart.


There are a variety of choices as far as mallet used to strike chisels are concerned, but they should be kind to your chisels. That is why my favorite chisel basher is a traditional wooden carpenter mallet. 16-20 Oz is big enough to drive your biggest mortise chisel.

They come in a variety of sizes, 
use one appropriate to your work

Another one I like is the Veritas brass carpenter mallet. I like the heft of it and the fact that it has replaceable wood striking faces

Veritas Cabinet makers mallet

Another good choice would be the traditional wooden carving mallet, which you could turn if you have access to a lathe, or know someone with one.

From L-R 
The newer polyurethane lined carving mallet, 
and the traditional turned wood mallet


Claw hammer

Typical Claw hammer

Not so typical Ripping hammer

A good old claw hammer 16 oz would serve you right and you probably have one of these already. Wood , metal or fiberglass handle? Totally up to you.
These three variations on the handles are all for the same reasons: How to prevent the handle from breaking and how best to absorb vibrations.
I prefer a wooden handle follow by a good fiberglass one. Word of caution, not all hammers in these three styles are created equal. Get a good one.

If you already have one, use it until you are ready to upgrade to a 21st century magnesium one with built in laser so you know exactly where you are about to strike :-)  But on second thoughts, keep the one you have until you break it.

Warrington Hammer

Feature a wide tapered peen. Also makes a good plane's hammer.

This design allow you to sneak the peen between your fingers when you hold something small like a pin or small brad. When I first read that, I thought, yeah right, I'm going to smash my fingers. But lo and behold it does not take long to get accustomed to it and it works as advertised. Perhaps not necessary, but very handy.

Ball Peen hammer

Ball peen and Warrington patterns both comes in a variety of head weight.
Start with one in 8-12 oz range and add as your needs dictate.

Also called a mechanic hammer. Even if we are woodworkers and not metal bashers, there is a multitude of tasks around the shop where it comes handy.
Eventually, you will need to perform the odd metal working jobs as you start to make your own tools and it is the right kind of hammer to drive pins in and out on tools and machinery.


Stanley nail set

I shown two types, the regular set most of us a familiar with and a new comer on our scene, the Japanese type. It is very handy as a small anvil to straighten nails and etc. Also take a look at the head, it allows you to reach inside assemblies such as carcass. Very clever simple design and oh, it also work great to countersink nails :-)

Inexpensive but very handy Japanese nail set

Next I would add a small anvil unless you happen to have already a mechanic vise with a built in anvil surface.

Small portable anvil, very handy.

My Record No 100 does not have an anvil surface. 
DO NOT use the rear movable piece as an anvil

My Record Autovise No 74 has a small anvil in the back


Technically a end cutter as opposed to the common side cutters.
These are used to pull nails or to cut them almost flush with the wood surface.
Easily modified on a bench grinder into a flush cutter or tapering one side for easier reach on the nail head.

A pair of cheap (Cheep for Ken) end cutter used as a nail pincer.
You want a rounded head to be able to rock the nails out

Typical side cutters


The majority of us probably own various sizes and types of screwdrivers so why specify this type? Because in woodworking, the common screw still reign supreme and to be able to drive it down below the surface, without damaging the surrounding surface, you need parallel edge and a non taper end will seat better in the screw slot and prevent cam out. So regardless of how big your collection of screwdrivers is, I urge you to get a proper set of screwdrivers for woodworkers.

For some reasons I could never figured out, the classic British pattern has always been expensive, even more so on the vintage market.

Marples set in 4, 6, 8, and 10 in. There is also a 3 and 5 in 

 But there are lots of alternatives, even as a set of 1/4 in hex drive replaceable tip sets. What you want is a parallel tip, not flared out

Moores & Wright ratchet screwdriver, parallel tip 

The type to avoid, the common variety with flared end tips


Making holes in the fabric of time... Huh? Well Yah, you try to make a hole without these tools and see how long it takes you :-)

A good brace, a handrill and a reaming awl, will handles the majority of your holes making needs. Again size is everything, if you are into making post and beam construction, then a post beam drill should be a priority, if not, you will probably never use one.


Your typical ratchet brace with a Barber chuck, Millers-Falls

Most braces will be found with a 2 jaws chuck, just what 
you need to hold securely the tapered shank bits.
Not so good with round shanks.

Some braces have a three or four jaws chuck, 
which hold regular round shanks much better

Even a non-ratchet brace would be a good buy.

When you start using brace and bits, you quickly realize that there were no standard for the tapering shanks, as a results some brace hold their bits better than some others. The Spofford or Fray brace excel at holding them all due to its unique construction. Pretty well bomb proof construction also...

Stanley Spofford (yes, Stanley bought them) brace

The unique split case held by a large thumbscrew 
can hold every tapered bits I can throw at it

And of course how good is a brace without the bits...
The most common and popular bits are the IRWIN and the JENNINGS types.
Although I very much like my center bits, Irwins are a lot much easier to come across.

Irwin bits, solid core. More sturdy than Jennings

Jennings bit, bit is twisted around its axis to form the flutes.
Because the flutes are closer together than on Jennings, they tend to bore truer

Which ones you get is strictly a personal preference and depends on what is available to you. Brace bits are normally sized in 16th of an inch. Thus a bit stamped No 4 is 4/16 or 1/4 in, up to 16/16 = 1 inch.
What you want then is preferably a complete set of 13 bits, No 4 to 16.


For smaller holes, a hand drill or a push drill is what you need.
Of both types, the handrill is much more plentiful owning to the fact that practically every household in North America had one in the days prior to the advent of the electric drill.

The iconic No 5 from Millers-Falls is probably the most plentiful out there followed by the No 2.

Typical No 5 as found in the wild. Not so typical is the fact that 
the often missing side knob is present on that one.

Not having a side knob is no deal breaker but should be reflected in the price.

These takes your every days round shank's bits. Their chucks usually take up to a 1/4 in or 3/8 in for the bigger models. 
I keep on hand a small set of LV brad point bits, 12 bits from 5/64 to 1/4. Not cheap about $60 but well worth the price. Of course regular twist bits will work just fine.


For smaller holes, these three types of tools are what it is called for.

I did not listed the push drill but it is a very handy tool to add to your arsenal.
My favs are the Millers-Falls Buck Rogers No 100 and the Stanley No 41 variety. They both came with a set of 8 bits. Note that they are both also using proprietary bit shanks design, you cannot interchanges them. Keep that in mind as you look for a vintage one.


Although the Square awls make small holes effortlessly, I was surprise at the small size of the Veritas chisel point awl  Work great for those small screws for some hardware, but so small I'm almost scare to break it.
I would then recommend a small set of gimlets in addition or instead of  that square awl.
Note that they do make bigger stronger square awls.

Gimlets comes in slightly different forms but all works the same

My Veritas small drilling awl

 Later additions

A good depth stop is handy, although at the speed we are drilling by hands, the piece of tape trick work great and is in no danger of being damaged by drilling too fast :-) 

There are various patented design to work on brace bits, 
this is the one I used.

 A good set of cordless drill and impact driver is very handy... and they are still a cordless tools :-)
Stay away from NiCad battery technology go with Li-Ion and go with a 18-20 Volt range. Compact and more than powerful enough. If money is still plentiful try the new Brush less technology.

Bob, making holes in people theory since 1956


  1. I didn't know that difference in the Irwin and Jennings bits. I've always gone with the Irwin bits because they look more substantial then the Jennings.

  2. I have inherited from my grand father a two jaws-chuck brace with two screw blades. The screw blades have two business-ends wich look like the screwdriver of picture 2 of your blog dated January 3, 2016. (symetrical around the waist). They fit in the brace.
    It gives you a lot of torque which is handy when you have to un-suspend a door in an old house.
    Speaking about torque, there are adaptators which allow you to use modern screw bits with a brace.
    see bottom of this page:
    see also:
    For screw bits, I have a ratchet with a kind of pistol handle which permit to apply a lot of torque also.

  3. Hi Bob, good stuff, as usual. About the awl - I made myself a square (birdcage) awl a year or two ago, but I don't think I used the right steel stock. It was 1/4" square and I don't think I tapered to the end properly. It gets too fat too quickly, though I still use it to start holes. Can you tell me what is the size of the steel used in your awls and how long the taper is?

  4. HI Matt
    The size of my LV drilling awl is quite small, so much that im always affraid of breaking it. Definitively for small screws and such on hardware. If you look at their site, check the one from Czeck edge,41306,41329&ap=1
    that one is more like yours I think, dimensions and etc


    1. Thanks for that, Bob. I realize now that I made mine from steel that was too big. One of these days I'll try again with smaller stock.

  5. My understanding of the difference between Jennings and Irwin style auger bits is that the Jennings, without the central shaft, are better at removing materials; hence better for cabinetry. I have found just as many bent Irwin as Jennings style bits> I don't think the Irwin is any stronger. The advantage seems to have been that it is easier to manufacture.

  6. Well hello Mr Hough (?)
    You are right Jennings are better at removing material, as far as strength goes, ill give the nod to Irwin because of the central shaft, but yes they can be found bent in both style, go figure!
    The other difference is found in their lead in screws. Both can be found in two or three thread style From coarse to medium and fine for various wood hardness, the harder ones benefit from a slower advance (fine thread) The only big advantage for Jennigs is that their twist body having their flute tighter have less tendency to wobble inside the hole and are thus said to be truer, but in my experiences, it is also easily compensate by proper drilling techniques.