Before drills and braces, T-shaped augers were used to poke holes into wood, while smaller gimlets were used to start them. Auger handles were usually made of a piece of hardwood that was sanded, rounded, or even contoured to give the user a firm grip. Bits on spoon augers essentially carved a hole in the piece of wood, and had to be periodically removed to clear the chips. Spiral-bit augers were precursors to modern drills, whose bits cleared the hole of chips as the user drilled.

A significant advance on the auger was the brace, which was originally designed with a single, permanently fixed bit at its end. Eventually, though, braces were designed with sophisticated chucks to accommodate replacement bits, as well as bits of different sizes and for various purposes. Chucks were patented as vigorously as the braces themselves; the Barber chuck, for example, was widely used on Millers Falls braces of the late 19th century. The braces themselves also evolved for particular trades, from furniture makers to surgeons.

As for drills, they have been around since at least the time of the ancient Egyptians, who used bow drills to bore holes. Archimedean drills resembled what many people know today as Yankee screwdrivers, while hand drills were often called eggbeater drills for their similarity to that common kitchen tool.


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