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Searching for the Amobrequin

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AndyT

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Here's a little story which nicely illustrates something we all know - that the www is making obscure, specialist information (such as the history of tools from centuries past) accessible to people who don't have access to a university library or specialist historical journals or own lots of rare books.

I recently bought a really nice assortment of drilling tools for a tiny amount of money (but that's another story...) which included this shapely old brace:



One one side are these words:



I think that "L'Unique" could be a maker or a claim of uniqueness; "Brevete" means "patented" and S.G.D.G is possibly something in French along the lines of "Societe Generale de G..." so maybe that's the maker after all.

But the really mysterious bit is the word on the other side: Amobrequin



Naturally, the first thing I tried was Googling it. Google suggested I might mean "lambrequin" instead which seems to be a French word for a sort of fancy curtain which is nearly helpful, but not quite right.

Some bilingual readers may be already thinking "the French word for a brace is vilbrequin" which is significant too.

All falls into place when you look at the two places where Google has found this odd word. (It will soon find a third one!)

One is a post from way back in 2000, on the Old Tools mailing list, and now in their archive here.

A Paul Pedersen has found a matching brace and is asking for information. The picture links are dead, but it's clear from his description that we both have the same model of brace. He spots the "vilbrequin" similarity but the story goes dead. Nobody else knows. Nobody answers.

But since 2000, work of digitising thousands of old books has gone ahead, and Google has indexed them. It finds this particular strange needle in the mega-haystack. It's in a 1913 Michelin motorist's guide to the British Isles.



This link should take you to the right page if you want to read along. Michelin are listing the tyres and tyre-fitting accessories that the handy pre-war motorist needs. In doing so, they seem to have decided not to use boring part numbers. Instead, they have given everything they sell its own special made-up name - just like Ikea do now with the Billy bookcases and Lak tables - and not a bad idea for an international company. The names are logically grouped, so all the bits for fitting tyres with detachable rims have names starting with 'amo' and a "Brace and box spanner" is an Amobrequin. The similarity to vilbrequin would make sense to a French speaker and make the special name easier to remember.

A few pages further on and the neatly-cuffed chauffeur's arm is visible, using the brace to undo the nuts:



and here's the whole thing:



So I now know that what have is not really a woodworker's tool, but an early motorist's tool, before such things became crude lumps of metal at minimum cost. I can (very roughly) date it. And if Paul Pedersen is out there reading this, I've solved that little nagging question you've been wondering about for 12 years!

I think that's rather fun.
 

AndyT

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Wow, thanks for that Giuliano! I promise not to sue Francois Hollande if my amobrequin breaks!

(Nice blog btw., esp the wacky planes with the cap iron on top of the wedge!)
 

bugbear

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AndyT":3s1l3dwb said:
So I now know that what have is not really a woodworker's tool, but an early motorist's tool, before such things became crude lumps of metal at minimum cost. I can (very roughly) date it. And if Paul Pedersen is out there reading this, I've solved that little nagging question you've been wondering about for 12 years!

I think that's rather fun.
Quite superb!! Well done! =D> =D>

BugBear
 

Corneel

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What a wonderfull story. Really like it a lot.
I have a brace just like that, but mine doesn't have any inscriptions, and the handle in the middle is a round shape instead of your elongated oone. Maybe it has been something similar. Braces where used in a lot of trades. You can fit a drill bit in the "chuck" and it works pretty well, but the bit isn't quite as tight as in a real drill chuck.
 

Cheshirechappie

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Andy, I think you could have part of the earliest socket set known to man!

It is fascinating, though. It's from an era when traditional wheelwrighting techniques were being developed for automotive use, and there are elements of both paths evident in both tool and literature - the wheel in the picture above has a distinct feel of 'horseless carriage' about it.
 

AndyT

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Corneel, your brace is maybe like this one -



which is the common English pattern, sometimes called a 'sixpenny brace' - presumably because it was cheap - and not always sturdy enough to undo nuts with.

The one other feature of the amobrequin is that the socket is shaped to take British style square tapered shank bits and also has a broad flat slot in it, to suit the tabbed end used on continental bits.

One more snippet - the 1925 Melhuish catalogue at Toolemera (see http://toolemera.com/Trade Catalogs/tradecatalogs192.html shows (page 40) a brace with a nut socket on the end (Whitworth sizes only) described as 'for taking nuts off car wheels etc.' so the idea was not unique to Michelin. I can't show it here as the pdf is protected, but it's well worth the download!)

I'd also recommend a browse through the Michelin guidebook as an illustration of how much diy maintenance work was expected of early drivers - something I'm happy not to have to do.
 

Corneel

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AndyT":2apjk5jm said:
Corneel, your brace is maybe like this one -



which is the common English pattern, sometimes called a 'sixpenny brace' - presumably because it was cheap - and not always sturdy enough to undo nuts with.

The one other feature of the amobrequin is that the socket is shaped to take British style square tapered shank bits and also has a broad flat slot in it, to suit the tabbed end used on continental bits.

One more snippet - the 1925 Melhuish catalogue at Toolemera (see http://toolemera.com/Trade Catalogs/tradecatalogs192.html shows (page 40) a brace with a nut socket on the end (Whitworth sizes only) described as 'for taking nuts off car wheels etc.' so the idea was not unique to Michelin. I can't show it here as the pdf is protected, but it's well worth the download!)

I'd also recommend a browse through the Michelin guidebook as an illustration of how much diy maintenance work was expected of early drivers - something I'm happy not to have to do.

Yes, mine very much looks like that one!
We only had square tapered shank bits. Never seen the bits with a tabbed end, despite the fact that The Netherlands are on the continent.
The square ended bits fit nicely but they have a bit of play from left to right because of that broad slot.
 

AndyT

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Corneel":3sypjzbn said:
We only had square tapered shank bits. Never seen the bits with a tabbed end, despite the fact that The Netherlands are on the continent.
I'm probably generalising too much - sorry!
There was a discussion about them in this thread where Wolfgang Jordan came up with this picture, which makes it all clear:

 
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