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Woodworking with Will Myers


 
  Re-casting Rings on a John Fray (Spofford) Brace 1 of 3  

 

The Spofford style brace is by far my favorite bit brace.

 

They are so simple yet so perfect. You can change bits with a quick twist of the wing nut, Spofford’s are also lighter weight than most braces.

The Spofford chuck was patented in 1859. John S. Fray & Company started making these braces the same year, Stanley bought out Fray in 1920 and continued to produce them into the 1940’s.

Being as simple as they are there is no too much to go wrong with them. One problem I have noticed on a lot of them is the pewter rings that hold the handle halves together are either loose or broken. I think the rings are a nice detail on these braces and decided to figure out a way to fix them. I had a couple of braces that needed the rings repaired; here is what I came up with.

I have no idea how these rings were done originally, what research I have done has yielded nothing on the subject.

The brace I worked on here the rings were gone completely and the two halves had been glued back together.

I pried the handle halves apart and removed them from the brace. Using a flat block of wood with piece of adhesive backed sand paper attached I flattened the mating surfaces of the two pieces. With two halves flat I added a small amount of glue to the edges and re installed them on the brace, aligned then and clamped in place.

You don’t have to glue these but it makes it much easier to keep the halves in place and lined up during the rest of the process. Next I used a file that was a shade wider than the ring groves and filed around both ring grooves to square up the shoulders.

Over time the shoulders seem to get rounded over, especially if the rings have been missing for a while. If they are not square the rings will have a wavy edge when you get done.

I tried several was of making form or mold to pour the pewter into. My first attempt was to use a piece of leather wrapped around the handle with a gap at the top to pour into. The leather I had was too thick and pressed into the ring groves when I got it tight enough not to leak. After pouring the pewter was too far below the surface of the wood to file down flush. I think the leather idea is a good one but the leather would need to be thinner than what I had on hand.

Next I tried aluminum foil. I crashed and burned on this idea as well, the foil acted like a radiator and the pewter would solidify before the ring grove was filled leaving gaps. The foil was also hard to keep from pressing into the ring grove.

While scratching my head trying to figure out what to try next I noticed some jack plane shavings under the bench, light bulb went on!


 
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