Full Chisel Blog

June 24, 2013

Restoring a Coach-maker’s Brace

I have a few coachmaker’s braces, those with wooden knobs and handles and iron bodies, I also have one all metal Fray&Pigg brace, they are called coachmaker’s braces as they don’t break when you step on them.  Frequently coach shops floors were covered with shavings and stepping on a wooden brace hidden in the shavings would indeed break.  That is the story, sounds good to me.

This particular brace is made of iron and cherry, there is a brass bearing between the head and the iron body.  It has seen enough use that the inside of the handle had been rind out making it fit poorly on the metal body.

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I used a fine blade in a jeweler’s fret saw to cut the glue joint and unfortunately one of the iron pins added for additional strength to the split handle.  It is necessary for the center handle to be split in order to attach it to the iron drill body.  The center section had some rust and pitting and was quite rough.  I used a file and some emery cloth to remove the rust and smooth out the metal to prevent it from further rinding out the wooden handle.

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Using a sharp gouge, rasp, file and small tombstone scraper I smoothed out the center that had been rind out in order to make the replacement wood fit properly so it could be glued into place.  Holding an egg shaped object in the hand while using sharp gouges was a dangerous operation, I paid close attention.  When using the round rasp I did manage to rasp myself.

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Making the replacement part I had a couple of failures; my first was that the drill drifted following the grain of the cherry.  The next one split the minute the pilot screw entered the wood.  I then double clamped a piece and got a good hole through the end grain of the new piece of cherry.

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Once I had it apart I had to use my small prick to excavate the iron pins, one from one side the end and the other pin from the through pin.  I then had to add material into the excavation, I chose to make a small square mortise on one side and after that tedious process I did the other side with a round bung plug.

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I then had to cut the new bearing in half in order to glue it into the two halves of the handle.  I used a clear plastic block and a wooden clamp to get them in the correct position and allowed the Fish Glue to dry overnight.  The next day I used a toothing plane to smooth the surfaces flat prior to gluing it back together.

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With a round rasp and round file I made the wood fit the metal then glued it together and clamped the egg shaped handle with an upholstery spring clamp and allowed to dry overnight.  I then made new iron pins, flattening them out on the end like the original.

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A coat of Moses T’s Gunstocker’s finish and a bit of black iron oxide dry powdered pigment I got the filing marks that smoothed the wood to match the un-filed surface.

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Stephen

 

3 Comments »

  1. Very cool looking collection of braces. Glad you included the gnomon so we know you have normal sized fingers.

    Comment by Jim B — June 24, 2013 @ 7:12 pm

  2. Stephen,

    What a coincidence. I just picked one of these up the other day in the same condition. I plan to restore it as well. I figured the four dollars was a deal. Thanks for sharing your work.

    Comment by Joshua Klein — July 1, 2013 @ 5:21 am

  3. I appreciated the post especially since I also recently acquired one that needs a similar restoration. Nice work and I also like the wooden brace in the picture. It’s one my list of tool projects.

    Comment by Jim Paulson — August 16, 2013 @ 1:32 pm

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