Nouveau Heirloom Gimlet

Often, I find myself inventing tools. Not original tools, per sé, but some combination of existing tools and other items allowing me to perform routine tasks efficiently. Here’s an account of one such attempt that worked well.

Pin Vise and Bits

Schroder pin vise and Milwaukee bits

I like traditional auger gimlets, because I like the idea of drilling small pilot holes by hand, especially in tight spots where a power drill just won’t fit, or where the pilot needs to be drilled carefully. I’ve never owned a set of gimlets, but I’ve often used a hand spinner or multi-bit screw driver with 1/4″ hex-shank bits to accomplish the same thing. However, these tools often don’t hold hex shanks very tightly, so the bits tend to wobble during use.

Three Jaw Chuck of Pin Vise

This pin vise has a three jaw chuck

Not too long ago, though, I discovered this very nice pin vise by Robert Schroder. What’s great about it is that it has a small key-less chuck with three jaws, so it can tightly hold both hex- and round-shank drill bits. No more wobble! I was suddenly the proud possessor of the modern equivalent of a gimlet set.


Drilling small pilot holes in a baseboard before mounting a BITS Smart Strip

However, a complication arose in how to keep a small set of bits handy. Most of my drill bits are in plastic boxes — fine for storage, but not for keeping on one’s person. Sure, I can always carry the one or two or three I think I’ll need in my shirt pocket, and … arghh!

Pin Vise with Bit

Schroder pin vise with a 3/32 hex bit

But relief finally came when I discovered that Occidental Leather had just created a driver/bit wallet that stores up to six bits, and folds nicely flat. Is it ponderous to store a few drill bits and drivers in a small, black leather wallet? Of course it is. (Though perhaps not nearly as ponderous as to write about it). But I’d found the ideal carrier, and also invented an heirloom quality tool (sort of) in the process.

Bit and Driver Wallet

Occidental's driver/bit wallet makes for a convenient, compact carrier

The pin vise and wallet fit nicely together, side-by-side, in my Occidental Leather pocket caddy, where they tend to spend most of their time. Furthermore, keeping one or two driver bits handy often makes carrying larger screw drivers unnecessary.

Pocke Tool Caddy

How to stuff a power drill in your back pocket...(almost)

So, I’ve found my Schroder pin vise, together with a small set of bits and drivers, really convenient to have on hand when doing simple jobs, or smaller scale, precision work. They don’t take much room, are a bit more versatile than a traditional gimlet set, and are a lot easier to carry around than a power drill (did I mention no electricity is required to use them? :) ).

Tool Caddy in Use

My improvised gimlet set is compact, and far lighter than a cordless drill

In forthcoming posts, I’ll write more about traditional hand tools, and their modern equivalents, that I find convenient, effective, and fun to use, like braces, hand planes, Yankee screw drivers, and such. So stay tuned!

About John Poole

My interests include historic homes, architectural preservation and restoration, improving the energy performance of old houses, and traditional timber frames.
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4 Responses to Nouveau Heirloom Gimlet

  1. West Coast John [L.] Poole says:

    I prefer the pin-point precision of the augur ones, especially if I have had a real gimlet: 1 1/2 jiggers gin, 1 jigger Roses ™ Lime Juice, juice 1/2 lime, shaken with crushed ice for 1 minute or more.

    • John Poole says:

      Thanks you, my esteemed West Coast brother-man! I’ve no accuracy issues as long as I mark the hole first with a small punch. But duly noted that the traditional gimlets still can’t be beat. The auger gimlets, as well! :-D Thanks for the recipe!

      [And for those other readers of mine in Napa or other parts of northern California, you might be interested in the Napa Porch Fest musical festival that my cousin John L. Poole, an accomplished musician, woodworker, and software guy, and his wife Juliana, a preservation architect whom some of you may know from Home Energy Pros, are currently promoting. Check it out! Facebook, Twitter, website. ]

  2. John Poole says:

    Hey! You’re supposed to read the article. Not just gawk at the photos! :-D

  3. John Poole says:

    Wrong article! There are no signatures here! :-)