Inherited Breast Drill Restoration


This drill has literally been hanging around the work shop for at least 25 years, that's every day since purchasing 173 from the Moshers - no telling how long they had it down there.  There was a small, may 1/8" bit in the chuck, but the chuck was rusted closed, and I never took the time to fix that, so there it hung all these years.  I actually started on this restoration back on August 23, but I had to put it on hold for something much more important - we'll talk about that another time, and I finished it with about an hour's work today.  

Anatomy of a Breast Drill

Because breast drills aren't all too common these days, I thought it might help to include a diagram of the parts of a breast drill.  This will help to make this post a little more understandable.

The  breast  drill  is  made  up  of  the  following  parts:  
  1. breastplate
  2. drive handle
  3. speed shifter
  4. side handle 
  5. speed gears
  6. pinion gears
  7. chuck 
That's all well and good, but just as an FYI - mine doesn't have number 3, it's pretty much a single (how fast you can turn) speed drill.  


The drill itself was in decent shape except the rusted chuck, chipping paint and some surface rust.  Because as in so many instances, I didn't take a before picture, I had to pull this one down from the internet.  While it's not mine, this is almost an exact duplicate of the condition my drill was in...

The first thing I did was dismantle the drill, a rather simple task in this case.  

To remove the turning handle, I ground off the backside peen and punched it out of the gear assembly...

Breast drills typically exceed fifteen inches and are topped by a concave plate that provides a surface which the user can lean against when boring a hole. Sometimes referred to as "chest drills," "belly drills" or "knee drills," these tools were indispensable in the construction industry, in blacksmith shops, in factories and in shops where rail cars were fabricated. Ruggedly built, the drills are useful for boring holes in iron, steel and extremely tough wood. Designed with the expectation that a worker would be putting a fair amount of body weight into a task, the breast drills are especially effective when used in a standing position, alongside the work piece. - Kris De Decker in Low-Tech Magazine 12 Dec 2010

A Closer Look

In this shot, you can see the condition of the paint on the gear:

And here's the breast plate in similar condition...

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Here's some more tool restorations!

Paint and Other Prep

Before getting to the paint, I took the drill post to the wire wheel on my bench grinder, one of my favorite tools because of how quickly I can remove rust from tools.

In removing the rust though, I found the maker's mark.  It's difficult to read so I made a little callout here:

Interestingly, the only things I could learn about the JP Fleming company is that, like so many other tool makers at the time, they were located in Worcester Massachusetts, and were bought out by Black and Decker around 1926.  And that's pretty much it.  From there, I put the gear and breast plate in a baggie with some CitriStrip gel for about 24 hours.

After cleaning the gel off the metal parts, the tool was pretty much ready for painting!

173's Signature Red

It's funny - 173's signature color is red, but I never said what particular shade it had to be.  Oftentimes, it's Banner Red, but this time it's Regal Red.  I suppose at some point I should do a side-by-side to see the difference.

It took a couple coats, and in between each coat I baked the paint on using my shop oven overnight...

The Handles

The handles were quite dirty and worn, so I scrubbed them with acetone and was able to remove most of the grime and patina.  I didn't sand them because I wanted them to still show the years of use.  

After the cleanup, I just re-stained them with some Minwax Red Mahogany:

The Reveal!

And in an instant, this project was done!  While it was a quick and pretty simple project, I love the way it turned out!

Looking from the breastplate:

And a closeup of the gear and handle...

Yet another angle:

And I decided to chuck a countersink into the drill.  This will make for ease of access and more control in countersinking screw holes in wood projects!

Thanks for stopping by!
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