Millers Falls Nos.87 & 97

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The Lords of breast drills, the only difference between these two is the Chuck.

The Nos.87 & 97 are arguably the most sophisticated breast drills ever made. Possessing a two-speed unit changed via the spherical topped selector switch at the base of the crank, this is one of the easiest systems for changing gear on any breast drill.

Millers Falls No.97

The drills also equipped with 5 ratchet modes that enabled the user to drill without complete rotation of the crank handle.

Ratchet Modes:

– Plain – Drives like a normal hand cranked drill

– R.H. Ratchet – Stands for ‘Right Hand’ Ratchet

– L.H. Ratchet – Stands for ‘Left Hand’ Ratchet

– R.H. Onward – The drill will spin clockwise (from the point of view the your using the drill) no matter which way you crank.

– L.H. Onward – The drill will spin anti-clockwise (from the point of view the your using the drill) no matter which way you crank.

Millers Falls No.97 (Ratchet)

The Nos.87 & 97 were state of the art for hand powered drills during at the time they were made, with Millers Falls proudly referred to the tools and their ratchet system as a “continuous motion” drill. Today the ratchets are somewhat redundant, with the specialised tasks that they were designed to aid with (drilling in-between the spokes of a wheel on an old car)  being a thing of the past for most people. They are mostly a fascinating point of interest rather than something your likely to need.

The crank handle can swivel 90 degrees to provide extra leverage and aid in tight spaces. The funny shape of the breast plate (not the larger auxiliary plate) is to allow more conformable hold on it with a hand, so the drill can be used at arms length (you need strong hands for that!).

The build quality of these tools is what you would expect from a premium Millers Falls drill, superb. When using it as a conventional breat drill its easy to forget your driving round twice as many gears as with a normal gear drill (the No.97 has 6 to the normal 3), indeed the ease and smoothness of drilling outclasses many much simpler premium breast drills. One weakness of the Nos.87 & 97 is with all those parts they are one of the heaviest designs for breast drills out there, however thanks to good all round ergonomics it handles immense bulk well.


Millers Falls No.87

Millers Falls No.87


Millers Falls No.97

Millers Falls No.97


  • Weight:  3.2kg (Auxiliary breast plate adds 400g)
  • Length: 445mm
  • Drive Wheel Diameter: 130mm
  • Chuck Type (No.87): 2-Jaw
  • Chuck Type (No.97): Protected Spring
  • Chuck Capacity (No.87): 12mm Brace bits
  • Chuck Capacity (No.97): 12mm
  • Chuck External Diameter (No.87): 26mm
  • Chuck External Diameter (No.97): 38mm
  • Frame: Malleable Iron
  • Handle(s): Hardwood
  • Mechanism: 4-Pinion 2-Gear Ratcheting, Ball Thrust Bearing
  • Special Features: Ratchets, 2-Gears, Adjustable handles, Auxiliary Breast plate.

Model Information

  • Dated (No.87): 1921 – 1935
  • Dated (No.97): 1922 – 1931
  • Production period (No.87): 1912 – 1935
  • Production period (No.97): 1912 – 1944
  • Patent: AUG.4.1911 AUG 6.1912
  • Made by: Millers Falls Co., Massachusetts, USA

Millers Falls No.97 (dismantled)

Millers Falls No.97 (Gear Change Mechanism)

Millers Falls No.97 (ratchet)

Notes: The original side handles have screw drivers for the screw that adjusts the positions of the breast plate, the No.87 pictured here has a replacement handle.


  • (production dates)


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