Tools for sale 

Collecting Bits

James E. Price

Bitstocks and the tools that fit into them are fascinating specimens from our past technology. Throughout the antique tool collecting fraternity very few individuals pay much attention to the wide range of tools for use in union with bitstocks. After three decades of collecting them I have come in contact with only six individuals who have more than a passing curiosity about the wide variety of boring, drilling, reaming, tapping, and milling tools that fit in a bitstock. Sometime in the fourteenth century AD the double-crank bitstock gave man access to easily portable uninterrupted unidirectional rotary motion for the first time. From that time hence man’s ingenuity has produced literally thousands of tool types to be employed in rotary motion imparted by double-crank bitstocks.

My collection, assembled over the past thirty four years, contains over 15,000 specimens ranging from the exceedingly common to unique patent models. Aside from auger bits from around the world, the collection contains such specimens as a bit and attachment to bore the cavity for wooden pill boxes and fashion matching lids, to a large paint-grinding mortar bit, and bits that bore expanding holes as they progress into the wood. There are hollow augers, chain drills, bulletmold cherries, valve grinding bits, tree tapping bits, bore-counterbore bits, billiard table wrenches, and gunsmith ‘5 muzzle milling bits, to name a few types. The field of bitstock tools is vast. Research for my book published in 1993 reveals 721 US patents for such tools. The opportunity still remains to assemble a large collection of diverse and interesting bitstock tools in that they are still rather plentiful and do not command high prices. One could spend years just collecting different maker and dealer imprints on American auger bits. My collection contains 1140 different imprints and I regularly find unrecorded specimens.

Although bitstock tools do not as yet appeal greatly to a large number of collectors, I predict that in time more individuals will be attracted to the fascinating story of the evolution of bitstock tools and the history of the men who invented and manufactured them.

Appeared 1996 – Toolshop Auctions Catalogue

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