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Restoring an Antique Hand Drill

rusty antique hand drill

I love old hand tools. These antique tools were made to last. No plastic disposable parts that wear out in a few years. They are solid metal and wood remnants of a time before the replacement generation ruled the world.

When I’m browsing eBay or yard sales every once in a while I find a hidden treasure and this old hand drill technically called a “hand brace” jumped out at me for only $2. I snatched it up and it sat in my shop for a few months until I got around to restoring it.

I’ll walk you through the process I used so you can go save an old tool too. I promise you that taking old things like this and bringing them back to life is one of the most satisfying experiences, and it’s not terribly complicated either. The average DIYer can definitely tackle this.

Krylon sponsored this post and really played a huge role in making this happen. Without their inspiration and products this hand drill would likely still be sitting in my shop collecting dust.

Dealing With Rust & Dust

The two biggest problems this hand drill was facing were rust and dust. Fortunately, it still operated when cranked, but very slowly and with great effort. I blew off the dust with some compressed air and had a closer look.

I noticed that all the rust seemed to be only skin deep, meaning it was surface rust and it had not compromised the structure and strength of the metal. This was great news because if it had been more serious I might have needed to use some steel epoxy or find replacement parts. With surface rust, once you remove it you should be able to get back to smooth operation and a shiny surface.

After soaking in EvapoRust the rust had been completely eliminated

When I get things like this with moving parts I prefer a good soak in a rust remover like EvapoRust to get into all the little nooks and crannies. Sometimes a few hours is enough, but in this case I left the hand drill soaking for a full 24 hrs before rinsing it off.

Polishing Vintage Metal

Once the rust had been dealt with it was time to polish that metal up to bring out that vintage shine. In my restorations I don’t care about dings and scratches, those are character in my book, but shine and smooth function are a must.

For this I started with a coarse wire wheel on my bench grinder hitting every surface until I get a smooth surface free of any of the roughness that remained from the corrosion.

Polishing all the metal parts by hand brought back the shine

20 minutes later everything is smooth and starting to shine again. Time for the final polishing with your metal polish of choice. This last step for the metal really brings out the shine and can protect the metal from tarnish in the future.

Restoring the Wood

With the metal parts fully restored it was time to focus on the old wooden parts of my vintage hand drill. While I love the look of natural wood, some woods are not as pretty as others. Sorry to say, but it’s true.

Krylon Fusion Max worked great for a durable finish

That was the case with this wood. After sanding it down I could tell it was fairly soft and there didn’t seem to be any recognizable grain that shouted old-growth lumber to me despite its age, so I opted for a hard working paint rather than going the varnish route.

I grabbed a can of Krylon Fusion All-In-One spray paint for the job because this was going to be a working hand drill, not just a showpiece. I needed something with extraordinary adhesion since the wooden parts of this vintage drill were going to take the brunt of the damage when I use it as an auger.

Krylon Fusion All-In-One offers 5X stronger adhesion than traditional spray spray paint and also offers a “No Peel” guarantee so this was the right choice for a hardworking tool like my vintage drill. I hate rework and I only wanted to paint this one time. Find a Krylon retailer near you.

I really fought through the color options which were pretty extensive and settled on Krylon Fusion All-In-One Gloss Black. I actually wanted a satin finish but I knew that with old wood like this I would be burnishing down the painted finish with some 0000 steel wool to make a crazy smooth surface that felt like butter in my hands. With that burnishing I would transform the gloss into a satin finish and it did just that.

For $2 I doubt I could have found a better tool to buy and restore. Life’s too short for buying cheap things. I far prefer to surround myself with quality built things, and taking an old hand drill like this and bringing it back to life is way better than anything I can buy off the shelf today. All it takes is a little patience and you can uncover the treasures hiding beneath all that rust and dust.

Visit their site to learn more about the products that Krylon has to make your restoration and home projects stand out and get noticed!

restored hand drill
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4 thoughts on “Restoring an Antique Hand Drill

  1. Thank you for the article. Too often these tools are discarded for the convenience of power tools. I have found my grand children are less afraid of hand tools and more likely to make memories.

  2. But..but…but…
    Did your soak the wooden bits also in the Evaporust?
    If not, how did you remove them?
    If you did not remove the wooden bits, how did you mask the metal bits during painting?
    How do you suggest getting an even coat of spray paint on round surfaces?

  3. Scott,
    I too love old tools. All my tools are from the 50s and 60s or before. I even have a 1898 lathe that spent 4 months underwater in the great Nebraska flood a few years ago. As for your drill, beautiful job. You might want to check out the Old Woodworking Tools forum (owwm). We all are old tool lovers and the work some members do is nothing short of artistry.
    I think the real name of your drill is a Bit Brace, not a Hand Brace. I could be wrong and maybe the names are different in different parts of the country, but I’ve always heard them refered to as Bit Braces.
    Thanks for your great work and for preserving the heritage of American Craftsman!

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