This Tool Earns its Place in the Kit

My mother and my mother-in-law both settled in to new homes this summer. Because of this, I find myself working on more home repair projects than before. Coincidentally, my cordless drill gave out early this year. All of this is leading me to think more about an essential around-the-house toolkit, and I’ve been looking for the right combination of human-powered tools so that I don’t miss the drill/driver.

One tool that earns its spot in the rotation is my Yankee screwdriver. (See what I did there?)


The Yankee screwdriver is not a tool I expected to love. It almost seems like too much of a marketing gimmick. Far from it, in fact. It’s surprisingly responsive, allowing me to control turning speed with more finesse than any battery-powered drill/driver I’ve owned (but then, mine have all been crappy, so what do I know?) Because of the mechanical advantage of the spiral, and the fact that I’m using larger muscle groups to do the work, I can summon a fair amount of torque.

I didn’t always love this tool. For a while, I saw it as a sloppy tool, prone to jumping out of screws and scratching workpieces. A Yankee screwdriver can be a risk to your projects, but it turns out that a slight adjustment in the way I used it took much of the risk out of it.

The Yankee screwdriver is best used with two hands: one hand is on the handle, providing the thrust and twist; the other hand is holding the free-spinning sleeve. (You know, that knurled tube that slides back to release the bit?)

My Yankee screwdriver of choice is the 130A; mine was manufactured after North Bros. was acquired by Stanley. I’m not sure if I can say with any confidence why I like it best. It’s in good condition, and a good size for the toolbox. I have an assortment of bits for it, unlike my 31A and 131A examples; I only have two bits between them. I have a 135H with a Phillips bit that comes in handy, but it didn’t like to let go of bits (WD-40 fixed that), so I haven’t used it as often. (I should order replacement bits from Lee Valley for the 131A and the 135H to be able to say for sure, right?)

I’m of two minds when it comes to the spring action. Using it one handed, the spring return was almost a necessity, so I didn’t even consider using the 31A. Now that I’ve figured out to hold the sleeve to keep the driver bit in place, the return motion is much more natural, regardless of the spring.

All in all, I don’t find myself wishing for a cordless drill that much. The bit brace, eggbeater drill, and the Yankee screwdriver work nicely together, and never need recharging.

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