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What are hand drills and braces made of?

Shop for Hand Drills and Braces

Handles

Wood, plastic, and rubber are all used to make the handles of hand drills and braces The handles of hand drills and braces can be made of either wood, plastic or hard rubber.
Hard woods are used to make the handles of some hand drills and braces

Wood

Wooden-handled hand drills and braces have been around the longest and wood is still used to make some handles today.

The wooden handles and heads of hand drills and braces are made of hardwoods such as mahogany, ash, birch, elm, oak, rosewood and cocobolo.

Hardwood trees produce flowers or blossom, they have broad leaves and are often deciduous.

Hardwood

Hardwood is produced from the wood of angiosperm trees, which produce flowers. They usually have broad leaves and are often deciduous (lose their leaves during winter) although they can be evergreen in the tropic and subtropic regions.

Hardwood swatch displaying: White Oak, Ash, Beach, Black Walnut, Cherry and Maple Generally, the wood fibres of hardwoods are densely packed, which makes the wood harder.

However the range of hardwoods includes wood such as balsa which is much softer than softwoods, as well as others that are much harder than softwoods. Common hardwoods include: ash, aspen, birch, cherry, elm, mahogany, maple, oak, teak and walnut.

The wood used on a hand drill or brace will depend on supply, price and colour Mahogany and oak were the most common wood used to make handles, however these days the type of wood a manufacturer will choose to make a handle or head from will depend on the availability and cost of the wood, and the colour and appearance that it has.
Wooden handles are now most commonly seen on more expensive better quality hand drills The manufacturing of wooden handles is more expensive than plastic or rubber ones, so wooden handles are now generally found on more expensive and better quality hand drills and braces.
Advantages and disadvantages of wooden handle on hand drills and braces

ADVANTAGES

 

DISADVANTAGES

  • Can be sanded to shape to provide a more comfortable grip
  • Replacement handles can be bought or made
  • Will not become brittle over time or with exposure to UV light
  • Can splinter
  • Will rot if left untreated and exposed to moisture
  • Will require varnishing/painting or treating with boiled linseed oil to prevent it drying out and cracking or splintering
Both braces and hand drills can be bought with plastic handles

Plastic

Hand drills and braces with plastic handles, typically have handles made of polypropylene. This type of plastic is normally tough and relatively flexible.

The main advantage of plastic handles is they do not rot if they become exposed to moisture and will not form splinters.

Plastic handles are often seen on cheap hand drills Plastic handles are also cheaper to produce than other handle types. This means they are most commonly found on more affordable hand drills.
Vinyl records break easily as they are made of a brittle material However, polypropylene can lose its flexibility and become brittle if exposed to UV (ultraviolet) light for extended periods of time.
Advantages and disadvantages of plastic handles on hand drills and braces

ADVANTAGES

 

DISADVANTAGES

  • Will not splinter
  • Braces and hand drills with them cost less
  • Will not rot if exposed to moisture
  • Requires no special maintenance
  • Cannot be reshaped
  • Can become brittle if left exposed to UV light for extended periods of time
  • Replacement handles are not available
Other products that are also made of thermoplastic rubber are; car mats, bicycle hand grips and shoe soles

Rubber

Some braces and hand drills feature hard TPR (thermoplastic rubber) composite handles and heads.

This material is also used to make many other commonly used items such as car mats, bicycle hand grips and the soles of shoes.

Old rubber brace and hand drill handles can become split or cracked Rubber handles provide a better grip and are softer than plastic, they are also less likely to break than plastic or wooden handles. However, the rubber can lose some of its flexibility over time and this can lead to it splitting.
Advantages and disadvantages of rubber handles on hand drills and braces

ADVANTAGES

 

DISADVANTAGES

  • Provides a softer better grip than other handles
  • Will not splinter
  • Will not rot if exposed to moisture
  • Cannot be reshaped
  • Can split or crack over time
  • Replacement handles are not available
Choosing the type of handle material on a hand drill or brace is not an easy decision as the drill with the features you require may not be available with the handle type you want.

Which handle material should you choose and why?

This is not an easy question to answer as it depends on both personal preference as to what feels most comfortable, and what handle material is available on the drill or brace that has the features you require. Vintage drills and braces were only available with wooden handles, but sometimes had more features than modern hand drills or braces.

On modern hand drills and braces rubber handles are likely to be the most comfortable to use but should they split then replacements are not available. While plastic handles require less maintenance than wooden ones they are usually found on less expensive hand drills and braces so may not have the features you require.

Drive wheel

Hand drill drive wheels can be made of aluminium, steel or iron Nowadays, the drive wheel of a hand drill is usually made of an aluminium alloy although older hand drills often had iron or steel drive gears. Aluminium has a couple of key advantages over the old iron or steel drive wheels.
Aluminium hand drill drive wheels are lighter than steel or iron ones It is lighter meaning the tool will weigh less, and be less tiring to carry and use.

Also aluminium and aluminium alloy does not rust, so does not require chrome or nickel plating to prevent this.

Drive wheels on some older hand drills had spokes instead of being a solid piece of metal to reduce their weight Older hand drill drive wheels had spokes instead of being one solid gear in an attempt to reduce the weight of the drive wheel and overall weight of the hand drill.

Frame

Brace frames are made of steel and plated with nickel or chrome The frame of a brace is made of steel and is usually plated with either nickel or chrome to protect against corrosion.
Hand drill frames can be made of aluminium ally or steel Hand drill frames can also be made of steel, but aluminium alloy is also very common on modern hand drills.
Aluminium hand drill frames are lighter than steel or iron ones Aluminium alloy is lighter than steel, meaning the hand drill will not weigh as much. If you are doing a lot of drilling above your head, then having the lightest drill possible is a real advantage.
Aluminium does not rust Aluminium does not rust unlike steel, so does not require chrome or nickel plating, it is however often painted to improve the appearance of the tool.