This is the first part of a series in which I restore a Millers Falls no. 5 hand drill. You can find the other posts here:
MF no. 5 hand drill restoration – part 1 of 3
MF no. 5 hand drill restoration – part 2 of 3
MF no. 5 hand drill restoration – part 3 of 3
With two small kids, I don’t have a lot of time on my hands, but I do try to keep at least one shop project going for me to turn to during my odd minutes of free time. Garage time helps keeps me sane. I just recently finished my restoration of a Goodell-Pratt no. 5 1/2 B hand drill, so I was scouting around for something to take its place. Last week, I located a(nother) Millers Falls no. 5 that will be my next restoration project. I already have one, so one of them will likely be going to make room for the other. I’ve been meaning to try restoring one and reselling it to see what I can get for one, so this might be the one I try to move. We’ll see.
When buying a hand drill based on images (like the ones below), I try to check for several flaws if possible: Are there cracks in the wheel? It’s cast metal and somewhat fragile. Ditto for the frame. Missing teeth? (Run away) Cracked, badly split, or damaged wooden parts? The problems I listed are deal breakers. They’re way too much trouble to bother fixing (if they can be fixed at all!)
Does the chuck appear to operate? It’s not the end of the world if it doesn’t, because with a soak in a penetrating oil, some wire wheel time, a little polishing, and new springs, a stuck chuck (see what I did there?) can be repaired as good as new. Always provided it arrives on your bench will all the teeth and other pieces. I also try to avoid chucks with really buggered up knurling, which I can’t fix. Ideally, the seller will indicate that the chuck opens and closes and you’re gold.
What kind of wood is the main handle made of? It looks pretty dark under there. I’m hoping for a tropical hardwood, rather than the mahogany-finished domestic hardwood, but we shall see. I’ve been wrong before.
Is the crank handle a rusty mess? They’re often plated, and while you can clean them up, they’re a focal point on drills, because the maker’s marks are usually stamped there. If the handle is ugly, even after cleaning and polishing, it will be noticed.
Is there a side handle? Side handles were removable and are frequently missing as a consequence. It’s not the end of the world (a lot of folks don’t use them), but for a complete restoration, it’s good to have one, since they’re somewhat difficult to locate individually.
The poor finish, rust, and lost paint are good things in my view. They lower the value of the drill in the casual observer’s eye, but they are relatively simple to remedy if you have the time. Really, this drill is complete, and with a good cleaning, it would probably be a functional user as-is. But I see greater things in this drill’s future.
On to the restoration…
BE AWARE: These no. 5 drills have a tiny thrust bearing in the frame where the chuck spindle terminates. When you pull the spindle free, the two bearing runs and the 4 ball bearings are free to fall out onto your floor, where they will disappear into hammerspace.
Ok, now we can proceed.
That’s all for the moment. In the next installment, the wood parts will be finished and the frame and wheel will be stripped and repainted.
Did any of this info help you out?
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Nice Job! I would like to get one already restored like that, to actually put it to use.
Are you working on any more of them?
This one sold on ebay, but I have a few more hand drills in the wings waiting on me to have time to restore them. They are great for small, precision drilling tasks! Thanks for reading!
Dear Michael. I have my Granfather’s MF (less than) 5. It has a shorter chuck with the unsprung jaws than you #5. We built a plywood dinghy back in the 60s and the original crank had to be replaced and the job was an extremely crude one. The hollow handle cap is missing and I am keen to see how I can get the shaft that holds the top pinion gear out of the frame. Is it just a push fit held in position with the threaded shaft that holds the top handle? Perhaps it just needs a thorough degreasing. I bought a MF #5 from over your way and was anticipating using the crank on my older one. Will have to see how it goes. if you have any advise on getting the top pinion gear out I would appreciate it. Regards and thanks for you inspirational posts.
Thanks for visiting and for your kind words. If you will look at No. 5 hand drill restoration #2 (part 3 of 3), I have an exploded parts photo that may clarify how the upper pinion gear is attached to the frame. There are two pins keeping the threaded rod from backing off, at the frame and the main handle. Once the pins are driven out and the threaded rod is removed, the pinion gear will be riding on a smooth rod in the frame. The photo should make it clear. Your non-No. 5 drill might be a bit different, but that is how the No. 5 will be built.
Good luck! Come back and tell us how it went!
I am working on a #5 Miller Falls hand drill. Disassembled everything except the upper pinion. I removed the top handle and the threaded stud that attaches the handle to the main frame. I see from your photo of the parts, it is a smooth short rod. Mine wont fall out, and it wont budge when I try to lever a thin knife blade in the narrow space between the pinion and the frame. I had elaborate plans of drilling and tapping the visible end of the pinion rod and then make an extractor with a long machine screw, nuts and washers. But the pinion spins freely, and I can tape the pinion and spray the frame with a new coat of paint, so I am leaving it in. Taking apart the chuck was a pain too.
Thank you for your posted photos and description. Your blog helped orient me on the little project.
Rob, I’m very sorry to just now be responding. I get a lot of spam comments, and yours got lost amongst them.
Wow, yes, sometimes they can be a real pain to get apart. Rather than break them, or driving yourself mad, sometimes your approach of just masking off what you can is all your can do. You can sometimes try soaking in oil and giving it a daily tappy-tap-tap for a few weeks, but if that rust is swelling up your clearance to the point it won’t slide free, you may just be out of luck. Glad my blog was useful to you! Sorry you had trouble with part of the disassembly.
How did you remove the pins? Punch and hammer?
That’s usually what I do. Just be sure to size the punch small enough, be aware that some pins might be peened over and not want to come out, watch for burrs (they’ll slice you), and go gentle and slow. Good luck!