Tools for sale 

A Brief History of the Brace

Reg Eaton (Author of “The Ultimate Brace”)

The Romans and Ancient Egyptians possessed quite a large range of woodworking tools, however the brace as we know it today (being a double crank imparting continuous rotary motion) was a very late development. Somewhat surprisingly there is little or no evidence of its existence before appearing in paintings of the early 15th century.

The first – somewhat crude specimens- were found in the English flagship the Mary Rose and can be dated prior to her sinking in 1545. The ill fated Dutch expedition wrecked in 1596 at Novaya Zemlya had a more sophisticated example, with turned head and interchangeable pads, in fact very similar to those made in Holland until quite recently.

Today’s collector however, is more likely to encounter braces first developed (in any quantity) from London and Birmingham during the second half of the 18th century. These had the advantage of a metal pad (chuck), that could accommodate a wide variety of cutting tools.

By the 1820s the tool business, although long established in Sheffield, became the centre of the trade. 1844 saw the first registered designs granted to any tool maker for “Improved Carpenter’s Brace Heads” firstly to THOMAS MOULSON and then HENRY BROWN. This appears to have opened the floodgates of invention, as the brace makers vied with each other to devise patents and registered designs either real, imagined or completely spurious. By the late 1850s this creativity seems to have waned, and it would not be long before the mechanically superior American iron brace came to dominate, and signal the demise of the domestic market.

Appeared 1995 – Toolshop Auctions Catalogue

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