Sunday, January 10, 2010


Readers may have noticed that I am fond of "Yankee"-type semiautomatic screwdrivers (which turn a push into rotation) and ratchet drivers. Here is most of my collection of the former and a couple of the latter:Click on any image for the large version. (Looking for history links, I found a nifty Instructable on detail-stripping and cleaning a classic Stanley/North Brothers driver). The black-handled one at the bottom is a Shroeder, a spare for the one I keep in my toolbox at work -- the knurled ring that retains the (hex!) bits was "borrowed" to replace one lost from the work driver some years ago. A lot of the paint is missing from the daily-use driver and it's getting a little wobbly; but it still works after a decade of hard use. Far right is the larger model from the same maker. By the way, if you ever succumb to the urge to detail-strip a Schroeder, please note the tubular cover over the ratchet control is retained by a spring-loaded pin, which will fly away, spring and all, if you remove the cover and don't have it under control. There is, barely, enough room to tap the cavity 10-32 and use a short grubscrew to retain the cover once you have lost the pin and spring, but it looks kludgey. Um, don't ask me how I know this, please. There are three bought-new Stanley Yankees with the classic purple handles near the top, some of the very last production, as they're not made any more. The two largest must be stored "open," with the telescoping spiral section extended: the return spring is quite powerful and if opened while pointed toward yourself or others, results can be...gory. Conversely, the pair at the very top are "cabinetmaker" versions, which do not have a return spring: the fellow doing fine woodwork would be vexed if his driver were to slip from the screw with the spiral fully telescoped. The third from the bottom, with a "knobby" handle is the same. The boxed set at the left is a North Brothers set, in not-quite-new condition, with a Yankee driver, a nice set of bits including a drill adaptor and drills, and two ratchet drivers. A little gummy when I bought them, they cleaned up well. The decal on the lid of the box is intact, too.A closer look at the accessories, including straight drills and a countersink:But why list them when I can let the original label speak for itself?Yankee screwdrivers have a learning curve; careless use can make a mess. But the batteries are never flat and they're hardly ever too loud. And they're another one of the good old tools that is starting to slip away. Shroeder still makes them, as do the Japanese screwdriver wizards at Vessel. There are some plastic versions as well; Schroeder appears to make the ones Sears stores sell but as for the rest, caveat emptor. (Links are to known retail sources). Many modern versions use hex bits (and hex-shank drills!) instead of the classic D-and-notch of the original. This is a handy thing; there was little standardization between brands and models with the older system. If you happen to have an older Yankee driver, several retailers offer hex adaptors for them. Match the diameter to the bits for your driver; you may have to file another notch to get it to lock in but the results are worth it.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


On eBay, a very rare Mac "bug," (original listing is, naturally, gone) an inexpensive (at the time) semiautomatic key for the beginning -- or impoverished -- amateur.

Discontinued soon after it was introduced, the key was made mostly of stamped sheet metal, like a heavy toy. Though it was built to sell at a low price (thank you, Ted McElroy!), scarcity means they're now sought-after collector's items. The present example? "Reserve not met," at over US$500.00 bid. Have a look, it's an interesting artifact.