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A Cabinetmaker’s Toolchest part eight

Roto hinges

Roto hinges

Monday morning update- part eight of the Cabinetmaker’s Toolchest series. This video is all about drilling the holes in the various components of the toolchest carcase. I had a few people wondering about the bits I use and if my traditional brace was a two or three jaw chuck with additional questions (over on my YouTube channel) about whether the Forstner bits I use are made for braces etc..

First off, let me say that this brace is your typical run-of-the-mill brace made by Millers Falls in Greenfield, Mass. sometime between 1935 and 1949. The model is a No. 1710. It has a two-jaw chuck and you can still find them at flea markets and tool auctions quit regularly.  I’ve been using this one on an almost daily basis for the last 10 years or more and it’s one of my favorite tools here in the woodshop.

The auger bits I’m using for the 3/4-in. holes drilled in the front panel as well as the lid, are an old set manufactured by The Irwin Auger Bit Company in Wilmington, Ohio. My set has 13 bits ranging from a #4 which is 1/4-in. up to a #16, a 1-in. size. These ones are a great example of their boxed sets and I was lucky to find them in such good condition a few years ago.

So , why the 3/4-in. holes in the toolchest?

The 3/4-in. holes are for any clamping jobs you may want to do while on a job site. Used with a Veritas surface clamp, the holes turn the toolchest into a make-shift workbench. You’ll see more information on that in my book with some photos showing a few work holding options. The surface clamps are really a great work shop accessory making any 3/4-in. hole a useful clamping location.

As for the Forstner bits, they’re modern, off the shelf, HSS (high speed steel)  bits and work great in this vintage brace. The two jaws on the chuck hold them in place and again, I use them on a daily basis. I also use brad point bits and my Miller Dowels, stepped bits in this brace. Basically, all of my drilling needs are taken care of with this one brace. I have a couple of egg beater drills and use them for small drilling applications but find the brace easier and faster for most of my drilling needs.

You’ll see in the video, when I’m boring through the carcase panels using an auger bit, I drill down until the lead screw pokes through the opposite side of the panel and then turn the work piece over and finish drilling in from the other side. Less chance of blowing out the fibers that way. For the lid, I changed from the auger bit to a 3/4-in. Forstner bit to finish. The Forstner bits make a cleaner hole but are much slower in use.

The holes for the Roto hinges, in the end grain of the lid, are also made with a Forstner bit. Again, less chance of damaging or splitting the work. The lid is held in my front shoulder vise with a wooden hand screw attached on the top. This will hold the work piece tight while preventing any chance of splitting while I’m drilling out the holes.  The depth is checked with my dial calipers- I make sure the depth is a little deeper than required and the Roto hinges are glued in place with liquid hide glue after a light coat of oil/varnish is applied.

I enjoy using Roto hinges for different furniture applications. This tool chest lid is one and I have a great project in my new book which also uses them. (You’ll have to wait until September to see that one!)

I’ve been using a hand brace for a decade here in my wood shop and can honestly say I don’t miss a powered drill one bit. The feedback you get from a hand tool far outweighs the speed of a powered drill.

Until next time…



Here are some links to a few of the products used in this video:

Roto Hinges

Old Brown Glue

Forstner Bits

Wooden Handscrews

Veritas Surface Clamp



  1. Posted by stephen melhuish on Mar 4th, 2013

    Ah yes there is something so very satisfying about drilling down through wood fibers by hand with a brace and bit with all of its deliberate careful ease….none of your whizz bang, oh no i’ve gone too far of an electric drill…it kind of defines the gentle pace of the hand tool shop.

    That reminds me i just don’t have enough Irwin auger bits, must try and find a few more.
    Tom…a question here, how do you sharpen such a drill bit?… not that i’ve particularly had to, but none the less 2nd hand bits can be a tad dull at times and just wondered if you could throw some experienced light upon this area of sharpening.

  2. Posted by tom on Mar 4th, 2013

    Thanks for the comments and question Steve,
    the obvious answer is of course with a bit file but there’s a little more to it than that. I sharpen my bits fairly often and your question is the kick I needed to post something about the topic specifically. I’ll put something together when I can- thanks for the suggestion.


  3. Posted by tom on Mar 4th, 2013

    Steve- in the meantime, here’s a link to an auger file.

    stay tuned…

  4. Posted by David Gendron on Mar 5th, 2013

    Tom again a great video!! I really like them. Maybe a dvd regrouping them all… Just an idea. You are quite the achieve woodworker/artist, good for you!

    Take care and keep them coming, you are a great inspiration!


  5. Posted by Benjamin on Mar 5th, 2013

    Hi Tom, are you able to fit 1/2 inch shafts in your brace? Like on some bigger forstner and brad points.

    Thanks for the videos. Keep sharing!


  6. Posted by tom on Mar 6th, 2013

    Thanks David,

    a DVD? seems like most people I talk to are looking at those like 8-tracks! I agree with you and would like to have them all together. For that matter, the dozens of unpublished video’s I have waiting in the wings for when the new book comes out would also be nice to put on a disc. Maybe one of these days if enough interest is there. who knows.


  7. Posted by tom on Mar 6th, 2013

    Hey Benjamin, thanks for the comments and great question.
    That raises a good point for people looking to buy vintage braces- to answer- yes, this model will open up to accept the largest bits I own, both auger, Forstner, brad points, etc…
    on the flip side,and along this same train of thought, when I purchased my re-vamped egg beater drill a few years back I didn’t consider the chuck size. It narrow and won’t take anything over 1/4-in. disappointing. I use my old German egg beater for larger bits that require the egg beater but truth be told, I find myself using the brace more and more, even for smaller drilling jobs I used to only attempt with the egg beaters. I suppose once you get used to using them, the size of the drilling job becomes irrelevant.

    thanks for the question and all the best


  8. Posted by Kevin on Mar 6th, 2013

    Hi Tom,

    Thanks very much for your site and this series on your toolbox.

    Sorry for the silly question, but from the plans, the sliding lid shows a 1/2″ wide dado, so does that mean you use the 1/2″ diameter roto hinges? I just want to make sure I order the right size! 1/2″ sure doesn’t give you much margin for error when drilling in the 3/4″ board, but I guess that’s where the clamp and the forstner come in handy.

    Thanks again and cheers,


  9. Posted by tom on Mar 6th, 2013

    thanks for the comment and question. You’re spot on- the 1/2-in. Roto hinge is the one you’re looking for and you’re right about not having much margin for error! ; ) practice on some scrap wood first~ ha!
    The wooden handscrew clamped on the lid as well as the Forstner bit keeps the wood from splitting while drilling. Auger bits have lead screws and I think it would surely split the lid while drilling the hinge hole.

    I made my first toolchest like this one for my first book, Made by Hand, in late 2007 and it’s been used weekly since that time with no issues of splitting or movement. The Roto hinges work extremely well for this application.


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