For more information on brace and bit, see our beginner site Common Woodworking.
One of my more senior apprentices was boring a 1″ hole every few inches as he made one aspect of a dog-leg element of a staircase string to receive some fanned out stair treads that went into the newel post. The posts were oak and George caught a glimpse of Ian struggling to get the bit to work on one or two intermittent occasions.
“Hey, Ian! Seems like you’re making hard work of that!” George tossed out. Ian persevered and muscled the brace harder. Each staircase had half a dozen such holes 5/8″ deep. After a while George threw down the gauntlet. “Get some oak together 1″ thick. I challenge you to duel of brace and 1″ bit in the morning at 8am. Fastest through wins and slowest buys in the cream cakes.” Ian rose to the challenge, “You’re on.”he said.
“George!” I said, “That’s a lot of cream cakes if you lose. Cost you a bomb!” I said.
“No, it’s to teach him a lessen he should have learned and one `i am going to teach you now.”
When Ian left George pulled out his 1″ bit. It was clean and seemed sharp. He also pulled out a fine saw file. The finest I had seen. Positioning the bit at an angle on a block George taught me the basics of auger bit sharpening using the saw file. The bit cut into oak like butter. Amazing. I thought that we were done but George said, “Hold on. We’re not done yet.” From under his bench he pulled out some fine abrasive emery paper. He placed the emery paper onto a flat stick of oak 1/4″ wide and wet the two so that the emery stuck to the stick. A few strokes polished the four cutting elements. He used three levels of abrasive and they glistened. This was honing at its best.
Ian was there on time as were all of the men. George rolled up his sleeves and at the toss of a coin Ian won. With all of his confidence boosted by his boring holes in the newels Ian went to task. Best of three holes was agreed on. Ian broke out into a sweat as he swung that bracer handle. The holes were clean and fast and I wondered if George hadn’t bit off more than he could chew.
But my confidence in George was ever present. George took up his brace and swung into action with great attention. The first hole clipped of two seconds off Ian’s best time and the second and third were even better. Needless to say Ian lost and with lunch came cream cakes all round.
George kept his method between me and him. He equipped me for a boring life with every bit finely honed and tuned to cut pristinely. It’s all about accuracy you see.