Brace Bit Birdcage Awl (also known as BBBA)


Once again on Saturday morning I curtailed my current bench building activities briefly in order to produce a so called Birdcage Awl. I found an old Marples & Sons brace bit that had most of it’s business end missing in action. The square tang of the bit that fits in the brace made me think that it could masquerade successfully as a Birdcage Awl without too much fuss. The steel is obviously top notch as the bit is probably more than a hundred years old.


The bit comes from my father’s collection. I tried to take a photo showing the Marples & sons stamp, but I probably need a macro lens for that. The small block of Witpeer was left over from another project and had the ideal dimensions for me to turn the handle from.


… as so.



I first did the bulk of the shaping with the bench grinder and then run through 80, 100, 120, 180, 240, 360, 400, 600 and finally 1200 grit wet-and-dry sandpaper on glass.




The handle received a copper ferrule …


… before I drilled a tapering hole with several different diameter drill bits to accept the shank of the brace bit. It was only tapped home (much like the way one would seat a rasp), as one would need to be able to remove the bit for future sharpening.


Finally, it received the usual treatment with successive layers of Tung oil/Ballistol and Wooddock. This is an excellent awl for making holes to accept wood screws in softer wood where pilot holes are not needed. The square edges cuts the wood fibers to open up the hole as apposed to a round point awl that only separates the fibers.




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