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What are the parts of a brace?

What are the parts of a brace?

Shop for Hand Drills and Braces

Labelled parts of a brace, Chuck, Ratchet, Sweep handle, Frame, Head, Ball bearing cup


The frame of a brace is a U shaped piece of steel that the other parts are attached to. The frame of a brace is shaped like the letter U.

It will often have a surface finish, such as nickel or chrome plating, to protect it from corrosion.

Sweep handle

The sweep handle of a brace rotates around the frame as the brace is turned this prevents sores from forming on the users hand as was a problem with early braces The sweep or crank handle on modern braces is made of a different material to the frame, and spins around the frame as the brace is turned.

On older braces, the sweep handle may not have rotated or simply been part of the frame resulting in sores or blisters forming on the user’s hand from prolonged use.


The head of a brace is used to apply downward pressure onto the drill bit and stabilise the brace whilst turning the handle The head is the circular handle at the end of the frame. It is used to apply pressure through the brace to the drill bit, with the palm of your hand.


Some braces have a ratchet positioned behind the chuck. On an exposed ratchet you will be able to see the pawl and gear of the ratchet mechanism Some braces are fitted with a ratchet just behind the chuck. The ratchet mechanism allows the sweep handle to be turned in one direction without it turning the drill bit.

This enables the sweep handle to be moved back and forth in a confined area where there is not enough room for the sweep handle to make a complete rotation, turning the drill bit only when the sweep handle is moved in the correct direction.

Braces with an exposed ratchet mechanism have the gear and pawl visible, where as ones with an enclosed ratchet have a casing that conceals the mechanism Braces can have either an exposed ratchet or an enclosed ratchet.

Enclosed ratchets prevent dirt and wood shavings from clogging up the ratchet mechanism. This feature is normally seen on better quality braces.


The chuck is the means by which the drill bit is secured to the brace.

Braces can be fitted with several different types of chuck. The most common type used on braces today is a four jaw chuck, designed to hold both square and round/parallel drill bit shanks.

For more information see our page What is a chuck and how does it work?

Ball bearing cup

Braces with ball bearing mounted heads will turn smoother and be easier to operate Better quality braces will have a ball bearing cup which reduces friction, allowing the braces to rotate more smoothly, which makes drilling easier.

The brace head is mounted to the ball bearing cup, meaning braces will often be described as having a ball bearing mounted head.

Other possible parts

Braces with ball bearing mounted heads will often have an oil hole to keep the bearings lubricated.

Oil holes

Oil holes may be positioned on the ratchet mechanism and ball bearing cup.

They allow lubricating oil to be applied to the ratchet mechanism and ball bearing cup, which enables the brace to operate smoothly and reduces wear within these parts by minimising the friction within them. For more information see our page: Hand drills and braces maintenance and care

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