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Millers Falls No. 2 Drill Type Study

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This is an evolving type study from Tom Cap, building on the research of George Langford and Randy Roeder.

Type Study

This a rough guide to design and production changes found on the Millers Falls No.2 hand drill.

The table below contains a lot of detail that will mostly be of interest to tool collectors.

If you want to answer a simple question like "What do I have?" or "Which drill would be best to use?", here is some quick info:

The vast majority of the No.2 (including 2A 2-A, 2-AG, 2B, etc.) drills were manufactured after World War 1. Most of the drills found today in good usable condition were made after WW2 (types 2.20 and later in the table below). These later drills have stronger parts than the early types and typically are found with much less wear. Hand drills such as the No.2 and its Craftsman cousin were widely sold between about 1945-67 and some saw little use due to the rapidly increasing popularity of consumer-grade power tools after WW2.

If you plan to use the tool, the most important consideration is condition. Look for one with little wear, rust or damage. The drive gear and spindle were both carefully fit to the frame when new. Find a tool without any wiggle in the rotating parts. Verify that the chuck operates smoothly and the chuck jaws are aligned. That's it.

All of these later drills have more or less the same mature design, and are more practical than any older No.2 drill. Do not worry about whether the frame is iron or die-cast alloy, or whether the tool has two pinion gears or one pinion and a roller guide. The later drills (from about types 2.20 or 2.21 in the table) will have two pinions, a stronger drive gear and more durable crank knobs. After about 1968, the Ryther-patent protected-spring chuck was replaced with a generic design similar to the chucks found on most other brands, including all Goodell-Pratt drills and many Stanley models. Unless you (or a previous owner) are careless when chucking bits (e.g. round shank drills), you should not worry about it much. The older protected-spring chucks can usually be retrofit onto the later hand drills but it's more likely you will find an entire hand drill with a Ryther chuck before you come across a good spare chuck.

If you are trying to identify which type or estimate how old your drill is, remember that later types are much more common than earlier ones. It may be faster to skip to the bottom of the table and work your way up. Drills with one pinion date to approximately before WW2. The Model 2B has a solid main handle made from domestic hardwood. All other models in the No.2 family have a hollow storage handle with a wood cap that screws off/on.

For selected catalog info about the various models, see this page in Randy Roeder's history of Millers Falls Co., oldtoolheaven.com.[1]

With the earlier drills, do not be surprised or disappointed if you find a tool that does not exactly match any type described here.

The designation of types derives mostly from observations and comparisons of actual tools but can require a decision or two. The types here are not arbitrary but may also not be a complete guide - the map is not the territory.

The type descriptions in the table below generally include only the changes from the previous type. Blank entries indicate either no change from previous or no information available.

As a convenience and cross-reference, George Langford's type names are included for those who may be familiar with them. There is not a 1:1 correspondence between the two lists of types, and I have not included all of the earliest or latest types on George's list.

Because there are so many examples of the No.2 extant, and many of these tools may have been repaired or modified, this study is based as much as possible on multiple examples of each type that appear to have all original parts (e.g. tools in original boxes).

Occasionally, unmodified original tools may have attributes of two consecutive types. This is most probable in three ranges in this type study:

First, from types 2.1 to 2.10, where design changes were frequent and a smaller population of quality examples results in a less complete portrait of the era. There are also some minor differences which may be due to foundry or manufacturing variances rather than intentional design changes. (For example, George Langford's types K1 and K2 differ only in the arched shape of the handle end of the frame.) The drills from this time period are most likely not completely typed. New examples often appear to be a mix of the listed 'types'.

Second, there is some overlap between types 2.11 and 2.12 (the "Star logo" types), and the designations includes some arbitrary decisions. Examples of both 'types' are commonly found with a mix of features and parts that were used throughout the ca.1910 to 1921 era when these tools were produced. Perhaps the Star logo drills could be divided into as many as six types but most of the changes were minor and so are bundled together into just two basically similar types. Read the descriptions for more detail.

Please also remember that most hand drills from the 2.1 to 2.12 period were heavily used and are typically found in Good- or worse condition, sometimes with obvious repairs and replaced parts. Finding an older No.2 with a mix of parts from several different drills is not uncommon.

Third, from types 2.17 to 2.19, which span the period where a second pinion replaces the gear roller guide, and the finishes and handle materials varied several times due to presumed unavailability. The US government restricted and controlled the usage of some materials, including nickel, during WW2. Many drills manufactured without nickel plating have a single pinion with a drive gear rim guide roller even though Millers Falls catalogs introduced a second pinion in 1938. These drills with guide rollers and black finishes may have been produced in the 1930s - perhaps MF substituted oxide or Parkerized finishes for nickel plating to reduce costs during the Great Depression. This also appears to be the period when MF exhausted their supply of cocobolo and substituted tigerwood (Goncalo alves sp.).

This type study is inevitably incomplete, especially after type 2.18, as I am more interested in the earlier tools.

Millers Falls' model designations are a bit confusing after about type 2.19 (e.g. No.2, No.2-A No.2A, No.2-AG No.2-01).

For more information about the later versions of the No.2 made by Millers Falls or SoGard, SoJo and Brookstone versions, see George Langford's page at George's Basement.[2]

There is one known type of No.2 built with 2 pinions and a roller gear guide (LRRCW). George Langford lists this as type 'DC'. It is referred to as DC here also, as it does not readily fit into the sequence of numbered types. The DC may have never been a regular production drill but likely dates to around 1930, more or less. It is most similar to types 2.13 and 2.14 but has the 16-tooth pinion gear, not otherwise found before type 2.16, and the second (idler) pinion first used in type 2.18. This was the first departure from the 17-tooth pinion gear since the introduction of the No.2 in the 1870s, and results in the highest gear ratio of any No.2, unique to the DC. I have seen only 2 examples of the DC - and one of those likely does not have the drive gear it was built with. See George Langford's Type DC page at George's Basement'. [3]

Several hand drills have been found that have that are similar to the earliest types listed in the table below. Most of these drills are unique. Some may be early tools made by MF. Some may have been made by other toolmakers or pattern/machine shops. Sorting tools and designating types requires decisions, and this list is made up of mostly conservative decisions.

Types M, N, O and P in George Langford's type study are not included here but there are several interesting and valuable pages about them at George's site. [4]

For more information about the No.2 and a wide range topics relating to Millers Falls Company history, see Randy Roeder's site, oldtoolheaven.com.[5]

Notation:

L.v.: Lignum vitae

LRRCW: "Little Rail Road Car Wheel", George Langford's term for the drive gear rim guide roller introduced on the first ladder frame No.2 (type 2.1 in the table below).

Date Type Langford Type Markings/Logo Frame Main Handle Side Handle Chuck Crank Crank Knob Gear Ratio Drive Gear Pinion Spindle Thrust Bearing
ca.1878 1.1 L0 chuck:MILLERS FALLS CO. PAT'D AUG 14 1877 wraparound iron frame, nickel plated, japanned rosewood solid handle w/ brass ferrule no side handle Pratt 2-jaw chuck, US194109[6], Pat'd Aug 14 1877, 1/16-1/4 inch capacity. iron crank pinned to drive shaft rosewood knob w/ brass ferrule attached to crank by steel pin peened over flat washer 78/17 4.59:1 78 machined teeth, cast iron, plain rim and back, japanned. Fixed to shaft by setscrew. 17 machined teeth, steel Conical end of spindle bears against countersunk recess in iron frame.
ca. 1880 1.2 L0 rosewood hollow handle w/ screw-on L.v. cap & decorative incised beads nickel plated drive gear, japanned
1.3 L0, L' L.v. or rosewood cap, may not have decorative incised beads nickel plated drive gear, painted red
1.4 L no decorative incised beads knob attached to crank by headed pin raised ring cast on back of drive gear rim, nickel plated, painted red
1.5 L2 longer main handle w/ L.v. or rosewood cap
before 1895 2.1 K1, K2 Ladder frame w/ decorative point at main handle boss, flanged guide roller at drive gear rim. Frame is nickel plated, japanned. 5/8" dia. ferrule (1/2" - 1" long) crank stamped from steel plate, width tapers towards knob end Flat end of spindle bears against steel rod. The rod's position is adjustable in frame via setscrew
ca. 1895 2.2 K3 chuck:MILLERS FALLS CO. MILLERS FALLS, MASS first model with side handle. teardrop, hardwood Lanfair-type 3-jaw chuck, US544411[7], reeded shell, 1/4 inch capacity
ca. 1896 2.3 K4 chuck:MILLERS FALLS CO. PAT. APPL'D FOR long teardrop side handle, domestic hardwood McCoy 3-jaw chuck, US568539[8], reeded shell, Pat. Appl'd For, 17/64 inch capacity
ca. 1896 2.4 K4 chuck:MILLERS FALLS CO. PAT. SEPT 29 1896 long teardrop side handle, domestic hardwood McCoy 3-jaw chuck, US568539[9], reeded shell, Pat. Sept 29 1896, 17/64 inch capacity
by 1899 2.5 K5 chuck:MILLERS FALLS CO. PAT. SEPT. 29 1896 less-pronounced decorative point at frame boss for main handle main handle cap has flat top egg-shaped, rosewood McCoy 3-jaw chuck, US568539[10], diamond-knurled shell, Pat. Sept. 29 1896, 17/64 inch capacity Ball thrust bearing. Non-adjustable.
2.6 J thick crank? (see next type) cast shoulder on gear spoke crank-mounting pad. (wide groove? see next type)
2.7 I Larger diameter, shorter frame boss at main handle, but boss still has a smooth continuously curved shape from shoulder to point. Main handle is thicker at connection to frame. Longer, larger-diameter straight ferrule, 23/32" dia., (7/8" long). crank is stamped from thicker steel plate 76/17 4.47:1 76 machined teeth. Annular groove in gear hub is wider to locate end of thicker crank.
2.8 H thicker main handle, larger stepped-diameter ferrule, 3/4" & 7/8" dia., (1" long) egg-shaped rosewood side handle, or later "doorknob" domestic hardwood w/ brass ferrule
2.9 H Frame has deeper/longer main handle boss. Now a cylinder w/ a truncated conic point.
2.10 G chuck:MILLERS FALLS CO. PAT. OCT. 23 1900. Frame: Some are stamped No.2 on spindle housing. Star 3-jaw, protected-spring chuck, Parsons US660121[11], Pat. Oct. 23 1900, 3/8 inch capacity Some/later examples have no shoulder on gear spoke crank-mounting pad. One late example with crank attached by knurled thumbscrew and long knob. See next type.
2.11 F "Star logo" on crank:MILLERS FALLS CO. MILLERS FALLS, MASS. No.2, though some examples have no markings on crank. Chuck is no longer marked. Frame: Some are stamped No.2 on spindle housing. Frame may be nickel plated. Star 3-jaw, protected-spring chuck, Parsons US660121[12], 3/8 inch capacity long rosewood knob w/ ferrule. Crank attached w/ knurled thumbscrew.
2.12 E Frame: No longer stamped No.2 on spindle housing. Crank:Some tools produced in 1921 may have a "blank Star logo": the star is redacted after Clemson Bros. Co. ended business w/ MF and dis-allowed the Star trademark. Frame is typically not nickel plated. main handle can be rosewood or cocobolo w/ rosewood cap Early examples have knurled thumbscrew attaching crank. Most cranks are attached w/ an oval head machine screw.
1922 2.13 E' "Triangle logo" on crank:MILLERS FALLS CO. MILLERS FALLS, MASS. SINCE 1868 No.2 Frame is japanned only, not nickel plated. main handle is typically cocobolo Ryther 3-jaw, protected-spring chuck, US1470197[13], early Ryther chucks may have a lock screw in the chuck shell, resembling a Parsons chuck. Some early examples may have a Parsons chuck. crank knob can be rosewood or cocobolo
2.14 E' Malleable iron frame has cast-in-place steel insert (drive gear axle & mounting hole for side handle). Rear spindle bore is connected to cast boss for drive gear/side handle w/ tapered section. Spindle housing has larger outside diameter. "doorknob" or "hot air balloon" side handle, domestic hardwood Some late examples: crank has parallel sides.
ca. 1930? DC DC "Triangle logo" on crank:MILLERS FALLS CO. MILLERS FALLS, MASS. SINCE 1868 No.2 Malleable iron frame has cast-in-place steel insert (drive gear axle & mounting hole for side handle). Rear spindle bore is connected to cast boss for drive gear/side handle w/ tapered section. Spindle housing has larger outside diameter. Main handle is polished rosewood. "hot air balloon" side handle, domestic hardwood, dark lacquer finish, which may have originally been mahogany-colored Crank has parallel sides. long crank knob w/ ferrule, cocobolo w/ clear lacquer 76/16 4.75:1 16 machined teeth, steel
2.15 E' Main handle is cocobolo "hot air balloon" side handle, domestic hardwood Crank has parallel sides. Long crank knob w/ no ferrule. 76/17 4.47:1 17 machined teeth, steel
ca. 1931 2.16 E' "Triangle logo" on crank:MILLERS FALLS CO. GREENFIELD, MASS. SINCE 1868 No.2
2.17 D main handle is cocobolo with clear or orange-tinted lacquer 73/16 4.56:1 73 machined teeth, heavier gear w/ thicker spokes & rim 16 machined teeth, steel
2.18 D crank:vertical No.2, MILLERS FALLS CO. GREENFIELD, MASS. SINCE 1868 No.2. Main handle may have "Triangle logo" decal. main handle is cocobolo or tigerwood or mahogany-stained domestic hardwood w/ orange-tinted lacquer, ferrule may be steel w/ black oxide "Chef's cap" side handle, domestic hardwood. Steel ferrule may be nickel plated or black oxide. chuck may be nickel plated or black oxide crank can be nickel plated or black oxide crank knob can be cocobolo or tigerwood or mahogany-stained domestic hardwood Drive gear may not be nickel plated.
2.19 C main handle may have "Triangle logo" decal Two pinion gears. No drive gear guide roller. Rear spindle bore connection to boss for drive gear/side handle is a cylindrical post not tapered. main handle is tigerwood or domestic hardwood w/ mahogany stain Idler pinion replaces drive gear guide roller.
2.20 B No.2 and No.2-A and 2-AG. Main handle may have "Triangle logo" decal Short, larger-diameter crank knob.
2.21 B, A No.2 and No.2-A and No.2A. Main handle may have "Triangle logo" decal Frame is die-cast. main handle is tigerwood or domestic hardwood w/ mahogany stain
2.22 A No.2-A and No.2A and No.2-01 and No.2-AG. Main handle may have "Triangle logo" decal main handle is tigerwood or domestic hardwood w/ mahogany stain Generic-design 3-jaw chuck (shorter body, coil springs between jaws).
2.23 A -See George Langford's page for a wealth of info on the later drills. [14]) SoJo, SoGard, Brookstone Generic 3-jaw chuck. Shorter. Coil springs between jaws. Later production has a smaller diameter spindle thread.