Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The Ubiquitous Millers Falls No 2 hand drills

This past Sunday on our way to help a friend with his house projects, we stopped at my usual Sunday morning flea market in Wilmot.

The same vendor keep coming up with brace and hand drills, good stuff, good prices. So I picked up a PSW&Co brace and this MF hand drill No 2

Both are in amazing condition as found, very little rust, and paint in good condition, but all original.

I own already two No 5 and one No 5A, so why another one? Silly question if you asked me...  Because... there it was! :-)

From L to R, an illustrative sizes differences
MF No 12 breast drill, No 2 , No 5, and No 1 hand drill

Most one gear hand drills suffer the same problem, under tension the gears tend to want to separate slightly (unmesh) making it bind.
I have long been partial to the two gears arrangements such as found in the No 5, but I must admit that the little wheel idea keeping the gears engaged is a brilliant idea. Less friction, spins easily and boy does it work great. Strangely, no one else ever duplicated that idler roller idea, G&P came close by using a wiper instead, but this is far superior. George Langford coined the term LRRCW for it

That roller is mounted on an offset shaft so you can adjust its 
clearances then set it by a locking screw

 The other thing that surprised me is its size, it is bigger than the No 5, including a bigger gear wheel giving it more power to handle bigger bits and or harder woods. I can now understand why Chris Schwarz love his so much :-)

Often with braces and handrill, there could be problems with the chuck
Frozen parts, worn, missing or damaged springs etc.

This one open and close smoothly as found and close tight



So its definitely a keeper and my new favorite. The diminutive No1 normally resides in my carving box and I used it for piercing for using my fret saw. It has a big wheel for its size and does great with small bits in hardwoods.

Back to the No2, it was a long time favourite of many back in the days.... Now I understand why... It even feature a flat top so it could be used as a breast drill in a pinch. Now, it wont provided the same torque but it does pack plenty for its size.

Way back the term "mechanics" referred to woodworkers also

The obvious question is just how old is my example?

Probably the most comprehensive type study on these is from George Langford
At http://www.georgesbasement.com/

his No 2 handrill type study is here
I will admit that it is a lot more confusing than the numerous Stanley type studies, but it is very well documented with lots of pics.

Less confusing perhaps is the one from Old tool heaven

There are a few pointers on the cast frame, the chuck, the model No stamped with logo and of course the shape of the handles.

It featured the Star logo, later replaced by the Triangular version.
start in 1910 or 1911 until 1921. Type E and F in George type study

That was starting in 1929

The way the handle is attached to the rear boss and the stepped ferule.
Start at Type H in George study

The chuck pattern, 3 jaws
This one is Type F

The shape of the side handle (mushroom, not quite the Chef cap) and the elongated crank handle. 

So everything seems to point to a relatively short period between 1910 and 1920

As is often the case, the small ferrules are cracked. 
That is due to the cold work hardening of the brass.
The fix later on was to tempered the metal after working it to prevent this.
If yours are not cracked, they are either replacement or newer model were they started using the ''fix''. These defects BTW do not impair its performance. And that is why you often see shiny brass or copper ones (replacement) the original were nickel plated.

Here is how I go about fixing that when required. Pics from an earlier restoration on a 1935 No 5 hand drill

That one was found with a wobbly handle secured with electrical tape.

The handle was broken and barely holding on

This is the side handle not the main one.
You can use a piece of copper pipe or...


A nice brass ferule from LV, they comes in various sizes

I uses the 0.625 size

The shaft is ribbed to help prevent rotation and the brass ferule is often pinned.
This view gives you an idea of how long the shaft goes into the handle.

The final look after re-gluing the broken piece with epoxy, 
installed the ferule with a smear of epoxy further consolidating the broken area.
If it was pinned, I would drill and put in a small finish nail.
Solid as new, ready for years of work


It will need a quick clean up and would be ready for my upcoming boring till.
Now I better get on with that because at this rate it will soon be too small already :-)

Bob, having a lazy morning. Tonite I'm doing dinner and a movie with a friend




1 comment:

  1. Thanx for the ferrule link to LV. I didn't know that they sold these.

    ReplyDelete