Wednesday, September 22, 2010

In A Spin

It's possible I've slightly slipped off the rust hunting wagon. Something followed me home this weekend:

Yes, yes, so I may already have one or two hand drills (or wheel braces, or eggbeaters, or call them what you will). And? So? I like them, and when I see a spoked drive wheel sitting in amongst some other examples, my hand just naturally reaches for it. Can't help myself. I drew it from its resting place and noted its elegant woodwork, the fact the side handle was there at all, the fine detail on the edge of the gear wheel, the odd projection just in front of the side handle... Huh? The tapped hole in the body just in front of the main handle... What? What?

Does the main handle fit there to turn it into a pistol grip? Oh yeah.

And of course, by then, I'd turned it over and seen RECORD is rudy great big letters on the gear wheel. A Record No.124 in fact. Now I felt a tingle then, because I don't see many of them, not to say any of them. Indeed I had a nagging memory in the back of my mind that all but one of the models of Record hand drill were rather short-lived.

Anyway, I gave it the once over; spins like a sewing machine; chuck jaws a bit sticky, but they move; but fundamentally it felt right. I asked the question - of my long-time tool-dealing acquaintance in Pool Market. He recognised it was a quality drill, but give him his dues, he didn't hoick up the price to anything I couldn't justify to myself. Mind you, I was up for a lot of justification on this one; sometimes tools speak to you, not in a shiny, blingy new tool way (although that can be fun too) but just by oozing that aura of "You will thank yourself for buying me every time you use me".* When that happens, putting it down and walking away can get hard.

*With the obvious caveat that it may actually be broken but you haven't found out where yet... But hey, the risk is part of the thrill of the hunt, or so I tell myself.

So I take it home in triumph and hit the 1938 Record catalogue No.15 reprint to see what it is I have. Chuck, Gears, yadda yadda... Handle: Hollow Hardwood. What? What? I check; this one is definitely solid. Eh? Frame, Finish, etc. Then:

"All the knobs are made of Bakelite..."

Zoicks, I hadn't even noticed. So now I'm looking up how to clean Bakelite. Great. Anyway, I gather from the introduction blurb to the reprint that the hand drills appeared in catalogue No.11 in September 1932, beyond that I'm in the dark. Consulting dealer catalogues of the time didn't help either. Time to hit the 'net.

Two relevant hits, both on First one tells me that No.124 was among the models that was last listed in the 1938 catalogue. That wasn't offered for long then. Second hit is on the Rare Record Tools page. The info seems a bit contradictory on the handle hollowness or otherwise, but that's a picture of my drill. Okay, in rather better condition, but the same model and features.


I threw myself on the wisdom of the Old Tools List to see if anyone knew if I should lay off the thing then and there, for fear of causing collectors of Record Tools physical pain, but the result was indecisive. So I'm going to clean it up and take it for a spin. After all, I am principally a user...

But first I was reminded of the the only other Record hand drill I've ever seen, and had yet to clean up. A late model No.123 (It's stamped 1964). Found it at the tip and was charged 50p for it (cheek); some enthusiast had drilled a hang hole through the handle at some point, and it was almost completely seized up, but everything was there, so why not?

Confucius say many things, but probably he neglected to mention that the Galoot out of practice in removing rust is advised to get their eye on something less vital before attacking a rather nicer drill. But if it had occurred to him, I'm sure he'd have considered it good advice. I certainly do, so it seemed like a good moment to finally bring that No.123 back into the land of the drilling before embarking on the 124.

As is my custom, I took it apart as much as possible; chuck, drive wheel, etc, and surveyed the damage. Some pretty crusty rust in a couple of key spots - on the chuck jaws:

Inside the chuck shell, and on the threaded area of the drive spindle:

If I couldn't get those working smoothly, the chuck would never work correctly, so I decided to take the risk and punch out the pin holding the drive pinion on the spindle. Thus I could get the latter out and dump the threaded end of it in some Hot'n'Strong (TM) citric acid solution much more readily. Leaving that, I nicked this excellent tip from Andy Seaman to clean the inside of the shell with some abrasive-inna-dowel-inna-drill. I felt a fool for not thinking of it myself, and cursed the time I've spent previously doing it by hand. Oh well. Anyway, the chuck shell came up like new, except for one area where there'd been particularly heavy rust. No matter, it was now smooth, which is the essential thing.

Stopping to check the spindle in the Hot'n'Strong, I moved to cleaning the jaws, conical washer doodah and play that game of patience known as "Cleaning Chuck Knurling". It's not perfect even now, but it's a lot better. The result was so much better better in fact, that I even viewed the three-handed juggling necessary to get the whole thing back together with something approaching equanimity.

After that, everything else is easy. A suitable awl to push the gunk from the gear wheel teeth; dunk the whole body with the idler pinion in some meths to loosen the latter up (works a treat and minimal effort); some non-woven abrasive to clean up the rust where the paint and plating has given up the ghost, and so forth. I even plugged the hang hole in the handle and refinished all the woodwork. The chuck got the lightest smear of grease inside and on the threads, all bare metal was waxed, oil where appropriate, and the result is a drill good for another 45 years I reckon.

Just what I needed; another hand drill. Well I find having to change drill bits such a bore, don't you...?

ETA: Should have included a shot of the spindle post-citric acid bath. As you can see, it dealt with that crusty area of rust just dandy.


  1. Great find, Alf. You'll look like Quick-Draw McGraw with that pistol grip :-)

    Can't beat a good hand drill.

    Cheers ;-)

    Paul Chapman

  2. Lovely find, and great restoration!

    What wax did you use to protect the bare metal? I'm restoring (well, making usable anyway) a couple of old backsaws at the moment and want to stop them going rusty again.


  3. Fastest Hand Drill in the West, eh, Paul? :)

    Ro, I use Renaissance Wax. Not cheap, but a little goes a long way.

  4. Good save, Alf.

    Care to share any detail on your knurling clean-up technique? I've got a couple of projects on the to-do list (at least one of them in brass).

  5. .................

    lovely bit of rust food, but, er, fess up!

    would you care to asy how many beer tokens were expended????????

  6. Pete, I tend to use a brass panel pin to force out the worst of the crud (and why does that so often include glass-hard Cascamite?!), followed by a brass brush of the tooth brush-stylee variety going with the the direction of the grooves, then non-woven abrasive. If the plating's gone AWOL, I might bring fine-ish wet'n'dry into play with some meths or white spirit. I suspect a brass wire brush and some electrickery powered device might be a bit quicker and achieve closer to "like new", but I err on the side of caution. Brass, being softer, obviously calls for even more care.

    Anon, you fess up your identity, and I'll fess up the beer token damage ;)

  7. Just caught up with your latest "rust rescue", Alf. Excellent example and beautifully restored, if I may say so.

    Hand drills are such useful tools but, I suspect, are underestimated by those who've never tried a good one.


  8. I have a Record 123 and it has an identical "hang hole" to yours.

    I actually think the hole is there to insert a bar of some sort to help to unscrewing the back half of handle to access the cavity therein which should be storing some drill bits.

    At least I'm told there is a cavity and I can see a hairline join around the handle- but I can't budge it.



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