Single crank gimlets and auger
bits are quite rare in past woodworking technology and I wish to
introduce to you single-cranked American augers.
In a post on a
Facebook our friend, Anton Vierthaler, in Austria, posted
some photos of three single-crank gimlets that he recently
We had a good discussion of how
unusual they are and I think most people following the thread
reached an agreement that they were used to drill holes for
nails and pegs as well as to start screws. Here is a photo from
this discussion and our exchange:
When I saw this set of three, I had to get them, because I never
before saw this making – need to try these out after the
holidays. But I just can’t imagine this design being all too
practical. 99% sure they are Austrian.
James E. Price: These are
craftsman made so they probably fulfilled a need as the maker
perceived it. I call these tools “speed gimlets” because they
would bore holes much faster than T-handled counterparts.
These are operated by
unidirectional continuous uninterrupted rotary motion which is
more expedient than discontinuous interrupted rotary motion like
that exhibited by T-handled gimlets. These fall into a category
which I call “piercers” and are akin to the little braces called
“spikeboors” with fixed gimlets in Dutch woodworking technology.
I include a photo of these little boring tools from my
The smallest one in the photo is
only 5 3/4 inches long, not including the fixed gimlet. Most of
the small ones have horn ferrules on the chuck.
In Continental woodworking
technology gimlets were used to bore holes for little wooden
pegs more than for starting screws and come from a long
tradition of that practice starting far back into the distant
past. I would not call Anton’s tools braces since they do not
exhibit a double crank that is characteristic for braces.
Instead, I include all boring tools that hold a bit for boring
under a type of tool I call “bitstocks”. I view Anton’s tools
as, “single-cranked bitstocks”.'
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Single crank gimlets and auger bits
are quite rare in past woodworking technology and I wish to
introduce to you single-cranked American augers on a much larger
scale than those shared with us by Anton. These are quite large
and the cranks are fitted with augers 2 inches in diameter.
I have seen only a few of these in
over 50 years and every one exhibited a manufactured auger bit
but a hand-forged crank. I think they date between circa 1820
and 1860. They would be harder to start boring into wood than a
T-auger, but once started they would bore much faster than
This photo shows two American
single-cranked augers. Both have bits in them 2 inches in
diameter. Handles on both are approximately 14 inches in length.
The uppermost one in this photo has an “S” handle and the handle
on the bottom one is straight.