With the evident success and advantages of the Spofford
split chuck it should not be surprising that competing patents were applied for
and granted. The most successful of these was granted to
Gardiner L. Holt
of Springfield, Mass on Dec 14, 1880 (#235532). This was
for a clam shell type chuck that featured a bulbous expansion of the "clam." G.L.
Holt was a tool manufacturer (Holt Mfg Co) who apparently did business in both
Hartford, Ct. and Springfield, Mass. Tools marked by Holt are invariably of the
highest quality and are designed for good looks as well as functionality. The Holt Spofford-style braces are
distinctive for their cylindrical wrist handles with delicate turned decoration.
These braces are not common and received a "B" rating from Ron Pearson.
On the left are three Holt braces with 8", 10", and 12" sweeps. All are marked with the
1880 patent date. The outside braces are marked "Holt Mfg. Co. / Hartford,
Conn." while the middle brace is marked, "Holt Mfg. Co. / Springfield, Mass."
The right picture shows two view of the Holt patent chuck.
Gardiner Holt also held a patent for a ratchet brace. This was
#468911, issued on February 16, 1892 (Pearson "A"). Not often found, this
brace is noteworthy for its very fine ratchet teeth as seen below.
Holt also used the frame of this ratchet brace in a
non-ratcheting "sleeve" brace. An example is here:
I have not before seen a
non-ratcheting Holt brace aside from the bulbous chuck model, so it was
surprising to find this example of an 8” sleeve brace built on the frame of
their ratcheting brace. It is numbered only “No. 8” (for the sweep, I
suppose). The two jaws are captive –they can’t be removed without
loosening a set screw at the top of the chuck. This example is in great
shape, with no rust or pitting. It is marked with the Hartford location.
This brace is marked on the handle thimble (just below the oil hole) “Pat. Appl’d
For.” I’ve not noticed this mark before, and have no idea of what patent
might be in question here. This is a nice brace, in great shape, and
little bit of a rarity.
Another example of this "fine tool ratchet" patent is shown
below on a ratchet corner brace. This brace is unusual for having ebony
handles. It is the only American production brace that I can remember seeing
with ebony handles.
An even rarer Holt brace is one that incorporates and threaded chuck shell that
accepts special bits. This reflects a patent issued to
Henry V. Smith of
Hartford, CT for a "Tool Holder" on July 11, 1993 (#501110, Pearson "A").
I don't have this brace in my collection, but Jim Price kindly sent me pictures
of one from his collection (below).
Holt also incorporated this patented chuck in a ratchet brace that included
another of Smith's patents--Sept. 26, 1893 (#505611, Pearson "A")--for
the ratchet. The
mechanism includes a push button selector that presaged the selector
on the later North Bros braces. This brace was
featured in an article by Clarence Blanchard in The Fine Tool Journal (Vol
51:17) in 2001. I've located another example of the Smith, 1893 patent
in a Holt ratchet brace, but one with the standard holt chuck with knurled
sleeve and pair of alligator jaws.
It is interesting that the ratchet in this brace with a 1893 patent has gone
back to the coarser tool ratchet in Holt's vogue before the 1892 patent for the
fine tooth variety. Interestingly, Henry Smith, after establishing the
idea of a push button ratchet selector, also created the earliest "hold
everything" chuck that became the mainstay of the P.S.& W. Samson Chuck, the
Millers Falls Lion Chuck, and the chuck used in North Bros. braces. This
was his 1895 patent first incorpor
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