Getting a Handle on it

Letting whimsy get the better of me in the brake handle department

Once in a while we're all allowed to get a little goofy, when we're building things. Of course, some folks, like old Big Daddy Roth, raised goofy to a higher art form. Maybe that's who I was thinking of when I finally solved my emergency brake handle delimma.

That damn emergency brake had been dancing around the edges of my mind for a long time as I designed different types of conventional handles. In fact, I actually built one that was a tube-within-a-tube with a spring and tooth running over a crude little ratchet gate. Then I noticed my old 1/2" drive ratchet handle laying in my scrap box.

This particular handle was my very first ratchet handle. In fact, it was the one my dad gave me when I was building the car the first time. I was probably 16 years old.

In recent years the old handle (made by Crescent) had gotten a little notchy and hard to work with and I eventually ignored it since probably a half dozen other ratchet handles of different makes and models (no Snap-Ons for us poor folk, though) had wandered into my life. That night, however, I reached down and realized how much heft it had and I instantly invisioned it acting as a ratcheting brake handle.

I'd like to say I had the thing all worked out so I could just pop the old handle in there and have a functioning brake,but, truth is, I came up with four or more possibilities, but none worked better than this one did. The sequence to use is;

1-Use a socket as the mounting ferrule (I finally found a good use for a 22 mm metric socket—where DID I get a metric socket? I sure as hell didn't buy it.)

2-Make a lever arm and weld to the ratchet head to attach the emergency cable brake to.

3-weld an extension to the rotation/ratcheting part of the handle to make it easier to change direction.

While I was welding around on that handle, I was constantly aware of the heat going into the mechanism and was worried it would warp and wouldn't work. When I was all finished, however, I couldn't find any place that the ratchet system wasn't improved in terms of the wa it worked. Of course, taking it apart after 40 years of use and cleaning it probably helped too.

An overall view of the old handle with the lever fittings in place

To hold the handle on the mount, I drilled a 5/16" hole in the shaft of the handle and welded a bolt with the head cut off in place. Then I filed everything back square again. I'll use a fender washer and a chrome acorn nut from Ace Hardware to retain it so it looks finished because it will be visible in the cockpit.

I would have threaded the hole and run the bolt the other direction, which would have been a cleaner installation, but I couldn't find a drill bit the right size for a 5/16" tap. Besides, I was in too much of a hurry to get this thing done :-) FYI-the ratchet material isn't hard at all and would have tapped just fine.

Rather than putting a single arm on it, I did it like this so it would be much stiffer from side to side because the brake cable would be coming off of it at a slight angle. The wide ends are MIGged in place but the rounded end is edge welded with a good old fashion gas torch. Remember those?

I'm told this is a '37-'38 tail piece that someone bolted on my '39 box. It already had the two holes that mounted an emergency brake. The horizontal mark on the mount is the floor line, so the ratchet barely clears the floor. The socket was cut down using a cut-off wheel on my trusty Makita angle-head grinder. I ground a heavy bevel in the edges on the other side so. after I welded it, I could file/sand the surface flat which gave it a more finished appearance.

Incidentally, I had to bolt it to the inside of the trans mount to get clearance from the square tube floor structure of the body. As I am typing this, I just realized I'm going to have to notch that tubing anyway to clear the arm of the lever. Shit!

I added this little butter knife-shaped handle (made out of scrap steel) to the switching part of the ratchet which made everything work much more smoothly.

You gotta love it when something goofy actually works. I like to think of this as whimsical nostalgia. The handle will lay against the floor when not in use.