A secondhand swing brace should last a lifetime if it has been well looked after. We recommend buying a swing brace secondhand as there are lots available which are not worn down, they are also much less expensive than buying new. Stanley has proven to be a good quality brace so look out for them when buying secondhand.
You can get different sizes of brace, Paul recommends a 10 inch swing. This refers to the radius that the handle swings round in, if the brace is described at 10 inches, the depth of the handle will be 5 inches, and the radius it swings in will be 10.
If you are buying secondhand bits, check that the pointed snail (the smaller spiralled tip on the end which pulls the bit into the wood) and the spurs (the cutting edges either side of the bit) are sharp and protrude past the cutting edge so you get a clean cut. Machine bits made for electric drills can also work in a hand brace, however they do not lock in as well as the tang type, square taper traditional bit, however they will work. The main difference is that the machine type has a hexagonal shank designed for a three-jaw chuck. When searching for these use the terms ‘brace bits’ and ‘auger bits’.
Paul suggests spending no more than £50 on a new brace and between £5-10 on a secondhand one.
We purchased this for £13.95 from eBay with £3.50 delivery.
To read more on the brace, we recommend the following from Paul’s blog: