Friday, December 31, 2010

Millers Falls Auger Handles

After the last post about my drilling/boring tool panel upgrade, a reader (Alfred) was curious about the two auger handles visible at the top of the panel. He specifically wanted to know the range of auger sizes these handles could accommodate: "Do those handles accept the regular brace auger bits/ only the larger ones, or do they require special size bits?"

I promised to find out, and in the process my curiosity about the two handles was piqued. So here's the answer to Alfred's question and a bit more (okay, that one was not intentional ).

First up is the Millers Falls No. 2 auger handle, as described in their 1925 Catalogue:

Mine is a newer version (it has the Greenfield, Mass. address, rather than the older Millers Falls, Mass. address) but as far as I can tell it is the same as the one in the catalogue. Well, with the exception that someone seems to have gone crazy on it with some spar varnish. "Oooh! Shiny!"

This shot is the front side, with the smaller of the two square "jaws":

Here is the reverse side, with the larger opening:

It's a pretty simple device really. Just loosen the wing nuts, insert the auger, and clamp it tight, with one "jaw" holding the tapered end and the other the shank.

As their catalogue copy states, it can handle very large augers:

But it can't handle the smaller bits:

The auger in the handle is a 13/16ths, which was the smallest I could fit securely. The 4/16ths on the bench top was impossible to use in the handle.

Now on to the Millers Falls No. 4, again from the 1925 catalogue:

Mine might actually be a copy, as I can't find a single identifying mark on it, other than an owner's stamp of "Leo Putnum".

Here you can see the beefy two jaw chuck:

And from this angle you can see the ratchet control lever to the right of the auxiliary handle attachment point:

Speaking of the auxiliary handle placement - here it is:

The end part of that handle rotates on its own, much like the pad on a brace.

This is one versatile beast. It easily handles (not another one!) the biggest auger I have:

As well as the smallest:

Although, come on, that seems like using a sledge hammer to drive a 4d nail.


  1. Dan,
    Thank you for test. You answered my question and helped me make sure that I look for the right auger. Most of the times the Spofford brace that I have is just fine but occasionally I reach the limits of the brace or my strength.


  2. Dan,

    Where do you find something like this? Older ones are awesome. Would really like to have one. But if I couldn't have a old one do they make new ones like this?


  3. Alfred - You're welcome! These things do not have as "smooth" or continuous an action as braces, but they have power galore.

    Brett - If memory serves, I got the no. 2 in an antique store and the no. 4 on eBay. I'm not sure if anyone is making these today, but I'll post a comment here if I find any information.

  4. Dan,
    thank you so much for your information on the #4 ratchet handle. We are going through my Grandfathers wood working tools today and it was exciting to find out it's age and other information! we had no idea that the handle worked in two locations.

  5. Les - You're welcome! It's great that you have your Grandfather's tools!

  6. I suggest not to use it anyway just make it a collection because this days is hard to find old tools like that.

    1. The MF No.2 and No.4 are some of the easier auger handles to find. One in average condition need not be hung on the wall. I agree that scarcer ones, such as a nicer MF No.5, or a Swan ratchet auger handle, or any of the very early auger handle designs would be best traded to a collector.

  7. KB - Aah, but the tool wants to work!

  8. I just bought a No 2 handle as shown above that appears to be new and unused. Do you have a good source for bits in the 1-2 inch range? Sorry I do not have any idea how else to post this other than anonymous. I will check back for a response. Thank you

    1. I think I got my large diameter bits back east - New Hampshire maybe? You might try ebay as well, although I prefer to inspect in person. Many bits are ruined by someone sharpening on the outside of the spurs, which reduces the cutting diameter and then the bit jams...


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