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Thread: Advice on Drill Bits

  1. #1

    Advice on Drill Bits

    I'm looking to order a hand brace and drill bits from finetools to take to the Philippines. I will be learning woodworking on hardwoods like coco lumber since it is very cheap. I'm interested in make furniture and tables. I don't know anything about drill bits and was wondering if I needed to get drill bits specifically for hardwoods. I noticed there is an option for softwoods, hardwoods, and multipurpose. What are your thoughts on what I should get, What sizes would I need mostly and is it better to get a 3 vs 4 chuck?

  2. #2
    The 3 shank chucks work better with modern drill bits that have a hexagonal shaft. The 2 and 4 shank chucks work better with the old style bits that were made for hand braces. They'll have a tapered square block on the shaft that goes into the chuck. So which brace to get will depend on which bits you get, and vice versa. You can interchange them, but they typically don't work very well when you do.

    I'm not seeing any bits made for hand braces on finetools. Typically, with a hand brace, you want auger bits with a snail tip (threaded like a screw to help drive the bit into the wood) and dual cutters. Most auger bits you find today will have either a brad point instead of a snail tip or a single cutter. They're not really designed for hand braces, so usually if you go with a hand brace, you want to find vintage bits. And that means you'll usually want the 2 or 4 shank chuck.

    However, there are a ton of different kind of vintage bits you can use with a hand brace beyond auger bits, and it's not impossible to use modern bits with them either. Hence why they sell the three shank chucks these days. And Wood Owl supposedly makes some very nice auger bits (tri cut, I think they call them) that'll work great in hand braces, so long as you have either a 3 shank chuck or an adapter, because they have the hexagonal shaft. And there's at least one maker of vintage style auger bits with the tapered square shaft, but they charge a LOT of money for their bits.

    So, for most people, they'll buy a vintage brace and vintage bits, since that's usually the cheapest route, and then use a modern drill and modern bits for anything else. And really, there's nothing you can't do with a good modern drill that you can do with a hand brace. Though the old hand brace does have a few advantages, like you can get a lot more torque with one than with most power drills. And some people just prefer using them, as there also isn't much you can do with a modern drill that you can't do with a brace.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Connecticut Shoreline
    Unless I had a whole lot of money I think I would buy a decent set of small brad point bits and a 3-jaw eggbeater drill. This will do small holes (up to 1/4-inch) for lead holes for hinge screws and starter holes for coping saw blades for pierced work. If you need larger holes, then a brace is fine and you can get adaptors for modern hex shanked bits (look up Taylor Tools). If money is not an issue then Tools for Working Woods sells Jennings Pattern Augur bits, but a full set will run you ~$50/bit. You can often find full boxed sets of antique Augur bits in decent condition for $150 - $250 from the premium used tool vendors, half that if they're in a roll instead of the fancy box. Pick up a file if you go that route.

    Honestly, for most furniture, I can't really think of too many requirements for a lot of large drills.


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    twomiles from the "peak of Ohio
    West Liberty Fest 23, Unrolled.JPG
    West Liberty Fest 23, another roll-up.JPG
    Rolls up nicely....3/16" to 16/16"
    West Liberty Fest 23, price tag.JPG
    And..what I paid for it....$5

    Shop Saturday, Upper Left cabinet.JPGShop Saturday, Upper Right side.JPG
    Most common size Brace is between 8" and 10" sweep......and can go from 6" up to 14" sweep. "Sweep" is how wide a circle you need to do a full rotation of the handle..

    Most 2 jaw braces will not only hold the tapered square ended shanks...they also can hold round twist drill shanks, and Hex shanked pits
    Most 3 jaw chucks mainly grab onto round shanks like the chuck of a Power drill...and will hold hex shank bit the same way
    A Planer? I'm the Planer, and this is what I use

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Longview WA
    Blog Entries
    Hi Paul and welcome to the Creek.

    Here is an old post about auger bits >

    Some of the links are no longer correct.

    There are a few different sets in my shop put together over the years.

    For hardwood a good Russell Jennings set is hard to beat. My set bought on ebay needed only the 1/4" bit replaced.

    There are also other kinds of bits you may want.

    If you will be using screws in your work (who doesn't?) you may want a set like this >

    They are easier to use with a power drill but can be used with an eggbeater style drill or brace.

    If you are in a good rust hunting location and have time, search the second hand, antique and junk stores. There is a lot of good usable items at bargain prices available.

    You may find it handy to have more than one brace. It is also to have spare bits in the most used sizes, just in case.

    There are also twist style bits made to be used with a brace.

    Twist Bits for Brace.jpg

    For these is helps to have a brace with a 6 or 8 inch swing. Notice theses are usually sharpened to a more acute point for drilling wood instead of the wider angle more commonly used for drilling metal.

    As said previously, many of the 2 jaw chucks on the later braces were made to be able to use straight shanked drill bits. Though not all were made to use the more modern bits.

    Hope this has been more helpful than confusing.

    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Peoria, IL
    I'd be looking on Facebook Marketplace for a hand brace. Probably get a very good working brace for $10 or less.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2020
    Camarillo, CA
    I use drill bits 1/4” and smaller the vast majority of the time. My only power tool is an electric drill, and that’s what I use. A little eggbeater drill would be the other option. This is all you need for most types of furniture.

    I have a brace with a few Wood Owl bits. I use these from time to time for stools and other things that take wooden pegs or legs. If you don’t plan to make things with 1/2” or larger holes, a brace isn’t necessary.

    My brace has a 2-jaw chuck. A different one would work better with the hex-shanked bits I use, but I’m getting by fine with what I have.

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