Can you name all of these old tools? (bits for brace)

My neighbor brought over some more old tools that he has. This time a box of old bits for a brace. Some may find this interesting like me. Some may not. But I thought it would show you anyway.


  1. Hi Jay,
    I think you will find that item number 8 is a ‘Gimlett’ which is used to make lace holes in leather. I have one just like it.
    Best regards,
    Ivor Powell
    In case you were wondering, GC stands for George Cross, which was awarded by King George to the entire population of this tiny Mediterranean island for its unwaivering support to the allied war effort in World War 2. Malta suffered more concentrated bombing (from Germany and Italy) than any other country.

  2. It is indeed a gimlet but not for leather. For leather one should use a punch. A gimlet is a hand tool for drilling small holes, mainly in wood, without splitting. It was defined in Joseph Gwilt’s Architecture (1859) as “a piece of steel of a semi-cylindrical form, hollow on one side, having a cross handle at one end and a worm or screw at the other”.

  3. I agree with #9 being a plug cutter, but I do not speak from knowledge there. I thought some kind of round tenoning bit but too shallow. It would drive a castellated nut but unlikely these were made long ago…

  4. Jay,
    #8 is a gimlet, which is a general purpose hole maker/starter. You can get a set of them with wire handles on Amazon.
    #12 and #13 are “spoon” bits, which you can use to make a slanted hole (once started) for a chair rung. They are the oldest style of brace bits, I think. \
    Your friend has a nice little collection of unusual bits.

  5. Hi Jay

    I call item no.8 a Brad awl as this was the name given to it when I asked my father what it’s was and still carry one in my tool box today having recently replaced my old one which was sadly stolen

  6. I think 11 is a leather working tool. I have several braces and might be willing to part with one (or two) if you are interested. I don’t like the idea of having tools like that and just have them sit around. They were meant to be used.

  7. I believe #7 to be a reamer much like a pipe reamer. #9 is a plug cutter, you start the hole with a bit, then use the cutter so it doesn’t drift all over the board. #12 & 13 are for cutting smooth holes for dowels.

  8. #12 &#13 are called boring bits, are still being sold today for industry heavy belts and are used to punch holes to install metal fasteners.

  9. Being interested in old tools, you should check out Wranglerstar on YouTube if you haven’t already. He has a love for woodworking and old tools that you will appreciate.

  10. 1 thru 5 are center bits. They make nice, pretty, mostly shallow, holes and can be steered a little as they go down. Sharpen/file only the top of the cutter bevel.

    You are right on the countersinks and the flathead screwdriver. The round tapered slotted one is a rose countersink.

    The last two are nose augers, mostly used by chair makers of Windsor chairs. Sharpen the little top of the cutter bevel at the bottom. They have no lead screw to pull them thru but they don’t blow out the back side.

    The handled twisty bit is indeed a gimlet. It makes holes and was used in place of a drill/auger bit. You can use it to precede a screw or drill thru thin stock.

    The split point tool is probably a screwdriver for split nuts on old hand saw handles. Some makers used split nuts instead of full slotted screws.

    Have no idea about the thing with the ring handle.

    Shannon Rogers has a video on center bits on Renaissance Woidworker. Roy Underhill has and episode on boring tools on the Woidwright’s Shop (see a PBS site where many episodes are online) where he shows and discusses all these things.

  11. Jay, I do believe #4 is a spade bit, and I think you are correct on the second one you call a countersink bit. It is simply one of the early hand-forged versions, which I have run across very few times at yard sales. I own many braces, quite a few bits, and a few “egg beater” drills, including a large shoulder model.

    • I refer to #4 as the spade bit. It is surprisingly easy to built bits for a brace. I made my first bit out of a 20d nail when I was about 11 years old. Worked very well.

  12. Jay, #9 is a Spanner Wrench. This was used to remove split nuts from containers such as fluid drums, I have one that looks as though it may be the same vintage as the one you show.

  13. I suspect #9 is, as Rick said, a spanner. If, however, there are sharpened outer edges, then perhaps as suggested earlier, this is either a hole cutter or plug cutter. Spanner seems more likely, though. In addition to Rick’s split nut removal use, these could also be used to rotate/spin a paddle or vane to clear/clean enclosed fluid or semi-fluid chases without disassembling the device. The brace end would suggest something that needs done frequently, vigorously and (perhaps) in several different locations such as a branched line. Imaginations are wonderful, huh? I just killed 10 minutes visualizing this very simple yet elegant tool. :)

  14. Hey, Jay. I agree with those who’ve written … except for #9. I can’t believe it can be used as a plug cutter. Too shallow. The tabs indicate that it is used to turn something else. I’ll buy into what those have said about it being for split or castellated nuts/screws. The only problem I have with that is that it’s a lot of effort with little return for what would be for the very shallow screws or nuts holding a saw blade.

    And # 11. Probably not directly connected to the use of a brace. More likely a simple hand tool employing the wedge-end as a lever. Is the wedge end honed? Worn? Nicked?

    Been a “silent” reader of your enjoyable blog/vlog for a while. You’ve got some chutzpah. Love it. In my seventies, I unwittingly became a tool collector in my early teens. I say, unwittingly, because I never meant to collect … I simply hardly ever toss, sell or give away any tool that enters my gravity field. I just loan them out. Lost a few over the years, but not many. Does that make me a hoarder? At any rate, based on some of the comments, it’s very nice to know that there are more of you out there. I was getting lonely.

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