The Stanley Rule & Level Co. entered the brace business fairly early in its history, with the manufacture for one year (1870) of its "No. 2 Patented Improved Brace" (see article by Jim Schoenky, "Stanley's First Brace" Fine Tool Journal, Vol 51(10:16, 2001)  that featured a spring tang catch chuck patented by Augustus Stanley in 1869.  This came several years after the 1865 manufacture of Barber's patent chuck and jaws, and two years after Amidon's "Barber's Improved" jaws made their appearance, empowering Millers Falls.  Stanley didn't have a chance, and wisely retreated from the brace business until they began buying brace companies in the early 1900s. 

The most comprehensive history of Stanley's subsequent brace business can be found in a series of three articles* published by Walter Jacobs in the Chronicle of the EAIA in 1999 - 2000*.  This history features the acquisition of the Bartholomew business in 1903 and then the Fray company in 1909, leading to the development of an extensive line of braces that developed through the 1920s and 30s.

Because my brace collection features pre-1900 patents, I've not been too interested in Stanley braces, except for those that have apparent rarity or unusual marks.  For example, I own one ratchet brace that is a Stanley No. 903 with a 6" sweep.  The brace has a sweetheart logo, dating it to the 1920s.  But unlike the usual No. 903, this brace has a cocobolo wrist handle, with inserted pewter ring, like the wrist handles found on Fray, and later, Stanley Spofford braces.  This is a bit unusual, and not described in Walter's Guide*.  Moreover, this brace has another mark that is unusual.  While North Bros and later Yankee braces are often found with "Bell System" stamps, this is the first brace (or other tool) that I've seen with a "WU Tel.Co." stamp.  I interpret this to be for the Western Union Telegraph Co.

Another interesting brace is a model that is not too uncommon, numbered,  "X - 3."  These braces seem to be found only in 6" sweeps, and seem not to have been listed in any Stanley catalogue.  A number of these have passed through my hands.  Both of the ones pictured below have pre-1920 Stanley logos, and both have ebonized hardwood handles, rather than cocobolo.  One of these is marked "O D USA," presumably for "Ordinance Dept, U.S. Army" and may date to the WWI era.

Another group of Stanley braces were fitted with aluminum handles for a short period of time between 1926 and 1934.  They are interesting, different, and objects of collectors.  These include the No. 903A (changed to No. 923A in 1934) and the No. 929.  Jacob* suggests that these were used by plumbers.  However, it seems logical to think that Stanley might have marketed them to vocational and trade schools, like they did with their aluminum-handled jack planes.  Below are three examples of these aluminum handled braces.

One of these, an 8" No 929, is marked on the upper bow with a small "Ford" in script.  My supposition is that this brace was marked by Ford because it was used in one of the technical schools operated by the Ford Motor Company.  Pictures of similar braces in use can be found in the Ford manuals.

Another interesting Stanley brace is an older one that is not marked with a model number on the bow--only the Stanley Rule & Level mark on the chuck shell.  This one is a simple sleeve brace, almost identical to Fray's bottom of the line, No. 08, and has stained hardwood handles.  What is unusual about the brace is that the cup handle is stamped, "Damaged" on the top.  The only damage that I can find is a large charred area on one side of this handle.  This raises the notion that there might have been a fire in the Stanley (Fray) factory, and it was marked before leaving the facility.

Still another "different" Stanley brace in my collection is one clearly stamped, "No. 925 - 10 IN".  There is no such model listed in Walter's Guide*, nor can I find any catalogue description of one.  The chuck shell is a nine-sided one, which again is missing from Stanley catalogues, that is marked with a 1920s Sweetheart logo.  The brace is a latch pawl ratchet model with cocobolo handles, and is a quality brace.

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* - Jacobs, Walter.  1999 - 2000.  "Brace up for a Bit of Stanley History. I, II, & II."  The Chonicle of the EAIA.  Vol  52(4); Vol 53(1) & Vol 53(2).


* - Walter, John.  1996.  Stanley Tools.  Guide to Identity & Value.  2nd Ed.  (The Tool Merchant, Marietta, Ohio).  885 pp.