I've seen hand drills that look like egg-beaters and I've seen hand drills that look like whirly-gig-a-thingys. Are there others?

What are the main different types of "hand drills"?


The drills you refer to as looking like egg beaters are in fact called eggbeaters by some people (precisely because of the resemblance). They are sometimes plainly called hand drills, as well as wheel braces.

Here's a Millers Falls hand drill (restored), revered as one of the best of its kind and still much sought after by woodworkers as well as by collectors:

Miller's Falls eggbeater

These are only suitable for drilling holes up to a fairly limited diameter, e.g 1/4" or 6mm, and sometimes not in particularly hard or tough woods.

The other type you refer to is probably the brace or more fully the swing brace. These started out as all-wood affairs, then wood with brass or iron/steel banding and eventually evolved into the all-steel versions with a ratchet mechanism we're more familiar with today. Here's a fairly typical-looking modern one:

Larson swing brace

Note: unlike all other drills mentioned in this Answer that accept multiple bits, the swing brace can be the only one that can't be used with modern round-shaft bits. More modern braces can effectively grip a round shank, but traditionally the jaws in the chuck were made to grip a characteristic tapered-square enlargement at the base of the shaft, see illustration in previous Question.

There is also the breast drill, some of which are like larger versions of the eggbeater with exposed wheels, but with two handles and breastplate. Others have enclosed mechanisms such as here:

Breast drill

The enclosed mechanism on breast drills is sometimes merely the same wheel and pinions as on a hand drill, just protected from dust, but can on other models be something more complex and sophisticated, allowing more torque and multiple speeds.

Additional hand-powered drills that are still sometimes seen include the Archimedean drill, which developed into the push drill (sometimes generically referred to as the Yankee drill) which often has a reversing mechanism:

Archimedean drill and push drill

There are other small drills as well which have no mechanism at all and are just a bit of some sort set into a wooden handle, or held in a chuck of some type. Most drills like this are intended for small, shallow holes and are not commonly used in woodworking (in the West) but do have a place, e.g. in box making where the hinges can be fixed with very small screws.

  • Millers Falls style drills are used in primary schools here. They don't like the idea of giving power-drills to children (but apparently are not worried about them getting hurt with a hard-to-operate-for-a-novice manual tool).
    – Damon
    Feb 26 '16 at 12:48
  • @Damon, the possibility of minor injury from a wheel brace may be a touch higher (pinching skin in the gear is particularly painful) but the possibility of more serious harm is much less.
    – Chris H
    Feb 26 '16 at 15:55
  • @Graphus (in the UK) the swing brace is also called a "carpenter's brace" or sometimes "brace and bit".
    – Chris H
    Feb 26 '16 at 15:56
  • @Damon, I think in fairness the potential for an injury — a real injury, not an owie :-) — with a hand drill is acceptably low!
    – Graphus
    Feb 26 '16 at 18:02
  • Granted. However, I remember breaking a dozen bits back when, as child, wiggling around trying to drill a hole with one of those unwieldy weird things. Whereas with a power drill that's running perfectly smooth and calm, I've maybe broken two bits in my entire life (and those were 1mm ones, which is kind of... slim). I'm not sure if the risk of injury is much smaller when operating with considerable force (which you have to, being a child and thus not exceedingly strong) and breaking a bit.
    – Damon
    Feb 26 '16 at 19:23

My guess is the "whirly-gig-a-thing" you refer to is a Brace https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brace_(tool)

  • 2
    Could you fill out your answer some more? As it is, this is more a comment.
    – bowlturner
    Feb 26 '16 at 14:15
  • 1
    @bowlTurner. I disagree. This is an answer, not a comment. Agreed, it's not as good as some of the other answers, but it is still an answer, and not a request for clarification. Feb 26 '16 at 18:42
  • 1
    Thanks for the needless down vote. Next time I won't bother
    – micmcg
    Feb 26 '16 at 20:10

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