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[Tidbits] Before Electricity


#1

As regards last week: Pussy Galore and the Camellia And now…

Before Electricity

One day a gentleman I know presented me with a gift. The
circumstances were a bit circuitous. We have a common interest in
that we both play ping pong every week and we discovered we are or
were both diamond setters. He was a high level craftsman and we
became friends. The gift he presented me was a drill.

Ah… but this was no ordinary drill. This was a hand pumped drill
powered by string dating back to who knows when. I don’t know if it’s
an original antique or not… or if it’s a modified antique… as it
has a chuck at the end to hold drill-bits and burs.

All that aside… this drill is an attestation to man’s ingenuity. I
had done an article some time ago about a drill such as this one…
but I never had one in my hands … let alone owned one.

Here’s how it works. A metal spindle is inserted into a wooden bar.
Each end of the bar has string attached which is fastened to the top
of the spindle. The lower part of the spindle is weighted. The tip is
mounted with the chuck into which is inserted a drill. I imagine in
it’s original form the tip was a diamond or a hard gem of some sort.

The string is twirled around the spindle and the wooden bar is then
forced downward. The unraveling of the string causes the spindle to
spin clockwise and as it spins the speed of the rotation forces the
string to wind around the spindle in the opposite direction…
bringing the wooden bar back up–which–when forced down again causes
the spindle to now rotate in the opposite direction. Re:
counter-clockwise. I use a little cap of my own on top to hold the
spindle in place while it’s rotating.

I have an image of the device for all to see. The arms and hands
holding the device belong to none other than moi. Humbleness… thy
name is not Benjamin.

For those of you who are new to this thing called Tidbits…may I
direct you to my home page at http://www.tyler-adam.com where you
will scroll down the left side menu till you get to the area that
says Current Tidbits… click it… and you will see represented on
our pages an image of an old old drill representing the ingenuity of
man regardless of the tools he has at his disposal.

And there ya have it.
That’s it for this week folks.
Catch you all next week.
Benjamin Mark


#2

Hi Ben,

but this was no ordinary drill. This was a hand pumped drill
powered by string dating back to who knows when. I don't know if
it's an original antique or not... or if it's a modified antique...
as it has a chuck at the end to hold drill-bits and burs. 

Bow drills like that are fun, and indeed date way way back in
design. But whether your’s is very old or not is hard to tell. You
can still buy these newly manufactured, looking pretty much like
yours, though of course of new clean wood and all. I don’t see them
sold much in the U.S., though both Otto Frei and Allcraft have
carried them at times, more as a curiosity I think than anything
else. But I have met jewelers, usually european trained, who
actually prefer these for some work, and at one point, many years
ago, I spent just enough time with one to figure it out, though not
to develop great skill. They take a gentle touch, but once that’s
figured out, are delicate and nimble tools capable of many of the
things a flex shaft can do. One key, if you’re still trying to
figure these out, to easy use is the drill bits themselves. While
ordinary twist drills work, they don’t work well. Better is to make
your own from straight steel stock. Grind or forge the working end to
a flat, so you end up with a spade bit, not a twist. Somewhat similar
to commercially made flat pearl drills, except the tip has the same
angled top and cutting edges as a twist drill with one exception. But
cutting edges are relieved from the same side of the bit, so that one
whole side of the bit cuts, the other does not. What that does is
mean that one edge (what would be a flute on a twist drill) cuts on
the clockwise revolution, while the other one cuts on the
counterclockwise revolution. Only one edge is cutting at a time, so
they’re a bit slower than standard twist drills, but this way, at
least one edge is cutting at all times. It works surprisingly well
once you get the hang of it. The fellow I knew who enjoyed using
these instead of his flex shaft generally made his own drills from
sewing needles.

I’m unclear about the function of your cap. The back end of the
spindle does not need to be held. Gravity holds the shaft down on the
work whenever there’s some slack, though since you’re not pushing
down on the rewind part of the cycle (the bar is moving back up),
pressure on the bit is reduced, but the tip stays in the hole well
enough. You “steer” the drill with the crossbar, not holding the
spindle in any way, at least so far as I recall…

Cheers
Peter Rowe


#3
I'm unclear about the function of your cap. The back end of the
spindle does not need to be held. Gravity holds the shaft down on
the work whenever there's some slack, though since you're not
pushing down on the rewind part of the cycle (the bar is moving
back up), pressure on the bit is reduced, but the tip stays in the
hole well enough. You "steer" the drill with the crossbar, not
holding the spindle in any way, at least so far as I recall... 

Alas Peter–and if one knows me one knows how much it pains me to
say this–but you are right on the cap thing and I am wrong. When I
first got this in my hand I extrapolated the methodology of how to
use the drill… and only after I sent out Tidbits did some “kind
hearted” people show me the error of my ways and the correct way of
holding the mechanism. Please forgive me if I leave now… I have
this splitting headache which suddenly came upon me I know not from
where.

Thanks.
Benjamin