Patented and Distinctive Bit Braces, a Research Study
George Langford, Sc.D.
Updated January 22, 2006
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Previously unknown Albert Goodell brace bearing the US Patent date December 27, 1892.
The wrist handle shown at upper right below has this patent's conical collars, but the quill is marked Ball Bearing (the balls are no longer evident, and the present arrangement follows Samuel Sawyer's August 15, 1871 patent, which had long since expired by the time this brace was made).  The totally enclosed ratchet mechanism shown at lower right is not in Ron Pearson's The American Patented Brace 1829-1924, nor has it been patented, yet the outside appearance of the ratchet selector is superficially the same as in Goodell's US Patent No. 488,691.  The series of images at lower left illustrates the operation of the ratchet's direction selector; note that I have surmised the shape of the pawl spring, as the original spring was not present when I disassembled the brace.  Putting the brace back together will be quite a challenge, as everything has to go back in through the spindle hole.  You may be able to see a tiny hole at the rear end of one of the pawls; that is for a retaining wire that was apparently used to hold the pawls in their proper positions on that missing spring while placing the assembly inside the brace.  A very slender wire was loosely attached to these pawls when I took the brace apart, but it escaped.  Here's how the ratchet mechanism works: The directional selector has a flat in the middle of its shaft, formed by milling away half the diameter.  When the selector is rotated to the left, as in the illustration at lower left, the edge of this flat presses against the shelf on the back side of the left pawl, rotating it out of engagement with the spindle teeth.  The right pawl, which is always free to move to the right, then stays engaged with the spindle's teeth for rotations in the same direction as the selector lever was swung but pivots out of the way for opposite rotations.  The pivot shaft of the driving pawl is all there is to support the drilling force applied to this brace.  This is the brace's fundamental weakness; it has a failed design.  The bulge shown at lower right formed when the right-hand pawl collapsed and went over center as a result of the bending of its pivot shaft.  The pawl's bore hole is distorted as well.  This failure can be reproduced with the wooden mock-up illustrated at lower left.  However, this brace contains an innovation which has not been repeated in any other brace to my knowledge: A shoulder screw is used to retain the spindle.  The cylindrical portion of the shoulder screw acts as the upper of two separate journals upon which the spindle turns.  In other braces where the spindle is retained by a screw, there is but one, long journal, and that is interrupted by the ratchet teeth.  The present design relieves the tips of the ratchet teeth from any duty as a journal.  In most braces the spindle is retained by the ratchet wheel, which in turn is pinned to the spindle.  The present jaws are replacements apparently salvaged from an H.V. Smith's July 9, 1895 patent ball bearing chuck (of Peck, Stow & Wilcox manufacture).  It could very well be that the present chuck once held the Goodell patent's double-spring jaws.  Sandy Moss has a couple of braces that bear Goodell's December 27, 1892 patent date, but which similarly do not follow all of the features of that patent.
Below: Albert Goodell's brace shown partially disassembled.
Exploded mug shotBelow: Mockup of ratchet mechanism, showing how it works.
Ratchet mechanism explained

CaptionPatent number (488,691) and date (Dec,. 27, 1892)Partial patent drawing, showing the missing jaw designSignatures of the witnesses, inventor, and attorneyThe missing jaws probably looked like those in the patent drawing above.
Below: Wrist handle has conical ferrules.
Wrist handle

Pad hub is marked Ball Bearing, but no balls are present.
Pad hub marked "ball bearing"

Patent date:
DEC. 27, 1892.
Ratchet housing and spindle retaining screwAbove: Bulged housing is the result of a collapsed ratchet pawl. Above that is the shoulder screw that holds the spindle in place; not seen in any other brace.