The wonders of the yankee screwdriver

So, a coupe of years ago I picked up a yankee screwdriver at a garage sale for $0.25, and it was absolutely brilliant.  These things have been around since the 1860s and they’re still a staple of the tool chest if I have anything to say about it.  The basic principle of this screwdriver is the same as that of a ratcheting screwdriver; the handle can be turned while the tip stays firmly in the screw.  The special thing about this screwdriver, however, is that if you unlock it then it extends and can convert linear motion (like leaning on it) into rotary motion as ti gets pushed back down.  The mechanism inside of mine allows it to turn in either direction, or close for simple ratcheting or even just for use as a regular screwdriver.  I hear that these screwdrivers are often fitted with a spring that automatically extends them so they can be used one-handed, but mine does not have that.

The thing about these screwdrivers is their tips are a bit hard to come by. They use a special type of tip that can be removed by pulling back on a spring loaded collar and sliding it out (much like an air coupler).  The fix for this is to buy an adapter that lets you use standard 1/4″ hex tips in it; I bought mine from here.

That’s not all it can do, however.  Now that you have a standard bit on there you can put any modern adapters you want on there.  I have a chuck for mine so I can use it as a hand drill when I either need to be quiet or have no convenient power sources.  I also have some screwdriver to socket adapters, because now that this is essentially an ‘armstrong’ power driver you can really speed up the bolt removal process.

I had to go to Ace to get these, Sears had no idea what I was on about when I asked for them.

This type of screwdriver has been seen in Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and most famously (in my mind) Blues Brothers.  I absolutely adore it and consider it an essential in my toolbox.

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One Response to “The wonders of the yankee screwdriver”

  1. Don’t throw that away: how to stay sharp and be productive | Evan's Techie-Blog Says:

    […] will admit to picking up some tools that I ended up not having a use for.  I got into yankee screwdrivers and basically never got out again.  I love them, the ease of use, the speed without power tools. […]

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