BRACE YOURSELF - A HAND TOOL OUT PERFORMS A POWER TOOL ... AGAIN!

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 7, 2010 AT 6:50PM


The other day I was installing the new Veritas quick-release tail vise onto my work bench. I’ve been waiting for an excuse to make my bench a bit smaller since I moved into my home studio a couple of years ago. After ripping the old dog hole strip off, replacing the apron and installing the vise (which only took a few hours BTW) I was left with the task of drilling the new holes for the dogs. I know what you’re thinking, why didn’t I do that before I attached everything using the drill press. At the moment my drill press is the smallest drill press offered by Mastercraft and I was fairly certain that the weight of the apron would have crushed the poor thing ... *note – buy a decent drill press.

So I chucked up a 3/4” brad point bit into my 1/2” hammer drill and started drilling the dog holes. About half way through the first hole the bit started to smoke, I mean seriously smoke. So much smoke that I had to haul the smoke detector down and beat it senseless with a scrap of ash to get it to stop warning me of the impending inferno. Now before my comment box fills up with advice, I know what the problem was – I was spinning the bit way too fast. In a drill press I would have set the speed to about 450 RPM or slower and drilled the holes without difficulty.

That not being an option at this point, I went back to old reliable – my brace and bits. I touched up the bit before I started with an auger file.


An auger file has two safe edges on one side and two safe faces on the other. This configuration of edges and faces are necessary for sharpening auger bits. I took me about two minutes and a substantial amount of elbow grease to get through each hole but in the end the job was done and as with most hand tool operations, I really felt like I got something accomplished.  To finish the holes off I used a large counter sink bit to chamfer the hole entrances to ease the installation of bench dogs and various other bench paraphernalia.

The key to balancing hand and power tools is to know when one will be more effective than the other. I could have kept going with the power drill until smoke inhalation would have been deemed my COD, or I could switch to the brace and live to use the new vise. Carrying on with the power drill probably would have taken longer in the end with time wasted letting the bit cool and having to air out the shop ... Score another one for the hand tools.

V