This is another post that almost got lost in the drafts section of my site’s dashboard. I was reminded of it as a result of discussing the merits of various types of breast drills (for the metal-like qualities of the wood I work with) with the famous Bob Demers (aka The Valley Woodworker). One of my all-time favourite tool manufacturers is North Brothers. Despite that I have never been able to find a true North Brothers tool, only Stanley made versions of their tools. So when I ordered my second Eggbeater from Wiktor Kuc I went for the legendary North Brothers no. 1530.
It so happened that he had one that was halve way through the restoration process already so I was in luck, because my previous order took a very long time. That is of course because Wiktor is so good at what he does that everyone wants drills restored by him, which means that you have to be patient.
Anyway while Wiktor was busy finishing the 1530, I realised that what I really need is a drill with a low gear that would work better in the hardwoods. The Miller’s Falls no. 2 (circa 1938) he restored for me previously works fine for drill bits up to maybe 5 mm in hardwood, but is difficult to turn smoothly using something bigger. As luck would have it, I happened to stumble across a Goodell Pratt no. 5½B on Jim Bode’s site at that exact time. I have never given Goodell Pratt any thought, but it seemed to fit my needs perfectly at an price I could afford (back then, before Jacob Zuma’s well documented indiscretions). So I quickly checked with Wiktor who agreed for me to get it sent to him so he can ship it together with the 1530, which saved me a fair bit of dough. Thank you Wiktor.
A few months later the duo arrived in the Land of the Brave (quite literally sometimes). The Wiktor Kuc restored no. 1530 was as expected top drawer work. It is one of my favourite tools and I am so glad I bought it when I did because I probably will never be able to afford it again. Thank you Mr. Zuma.
That said, the Goodell Pratt was a real surprise packet. It is just one of those tools you bond with immediately. Like love at first sight. It clearly does not have the pristine beauty of the 1530, but boy is it a great tool. I now do most of my work with it and Goodell Pratt has shot up in my estimation as one of the best manufacturers known to man. It works particularly well in the hard stuff in it’s low gear, so that is where I leave the setting.
Here is some information I found on the Old Tool Heaven website for those who wants to know a bit more:
No. 5 1/2B
- 1898— malleable iron frame; hardwood head and handles, head with mushroom-shaped top; detachable, elongated side handle; non-adjustable gear guide; spindle runs on hardened steel cone bearing; speeds adjusted by turning shifter knob on frame; three-jaw chuck adjustable 0 to 3/8 inch. Frame enamelled black; drive gear painted red, bright parts are nickel plated.
- 1911 — as above, but detachable chef’s cap side handle; ball bearing spindle.
- 1926 — as above, but mahogany-finished hardwood head and handles.
Manufactured by Millers Falls as of 1931.
Illustration from 1903 catalog.
Mine was therefore clearly made after 1911 and before 1931.
Here you can see where they all found a happy home on my Hovering Skeleton Chest.
As mentioned before, I had another delightful exchange with Uncle Bob concerning my preferred choice for a breast drill. He had the following to say:
Now as far as the elusive breast drills are concerned, agreed with you that the GP model 6 would be a good one, but…
these all enclosed switch mechanism don’t seems to come out very often. ??
You need a two speed model, Goodell Pratt, or Millers Falls, or North Bros and yes Stanley
Out of these 4 you can trace their origins to either GP or North Bros before being acquired by MF or Stanley
As for using them, they can be a bit tricky for the unwary 🙂 I’ll explain later in a blog post perhaps?
The second trust bearing on the wheel or a dedicated roller/slider to support the big geared wheel makes a big difference in how smooth they can operate since less chances of binding.
That leaves us with the speed selection.
The one you shown me, has the selector mechanism all enclosed and used sliding pawls to switch gears. I have no experienced with these, but it cannot be as strong as the simpler mechanism where you simply move the wheel one hole over., such as on my Miller’s Falls No 12s
Even there, we have a few small changes thru the years as to how to release and lock the wheel.
The earliest No 12 (green) simply uses a screw that you remove and re-install on the other hole. Simple, strong, but you got potentially a loose screw to keep track of.
Later models (red) uses a captured slider that you push or pull to release/lock the spindle wheel. Nothing to loose, bonus.
And then there are a myriads of variations on this theme, some No 12 uses push buttons to release/lock the wheel and etc.
Today these types of mechanisms lives on, a testament to their rugged simplicity.
Once in a while I come across modern German made version (Schroeder, and etc) They sport an all enclosed mechanism, gearing and all..
They seems to operate smoothly, but again, no personal experiences.
I always learn so much from these exchanges that I thought it might be useful to a wider audience. He has given me permission to publish it, so relax.
Thank you Bob.