Screw Gun Alternative





Introduction: Screw Gun Alternative

About: Tim Anderson is the author of the "Heirloom Technology" column in Make Magazine. He is co-founder of, manufacturers of "3D Printer" output devices. His detailed drawings of traditional Pacific...

I had a screw-off with the famous Don Montague the other day.
We squared off across a crate that had too much stuff attached to it with drywall screws.
We would vie to see who could extract them most rapidly.
He had his trusty sidearm, the Dewalt battery drill.
I used my old failthful brace and bit with a screwdriver bit.
He pulled ahead at first, zipping the screws out as fast as they would come.
I wasn't far behind. Once a screw got started, I'd swich to one-handed, gripping the top knob and swinging the handle around like a flywheel so the screws were coming out almost as fast as with a drill.

Then we started swapping yarns and the brace really shone. It was so quiet I didn't have to stop working to talk. The battery drill though was loud enough Don had to syncopate his work to let the tales flow.
So I started to catch up. Unfortunately we ran out of screws to pull.
When the smoke cleared Don was the winner.
Due to his skill and indomitable spirit more than the equipment of course.

We were both surprised how well the thousand year old tool had done.
The basic old brace and bit you never use. Pick it up again and try it with a screwdriver bit.
It's got no batteries to charge or cord to trip over, it's quiet, and you can even drop it in the water a couple of times without hurting it or electrocuting yourself. It's a whole lot faster than you'd expect, and you won't split your wood or break screws as much as before.

Step 1: Video Demonstration



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    I have several of these. Love them!



    In the house I grew up in in a house where all the necessary tolls were of the Armstrong variety. My favorite screwdriver was [and is] a Stanley Yankee which is currently tasked to putting together the frame for my new outrigger.

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    there is one of those somewhere in my dads house

    I got a few of these Yankee screwdrivers, just no phillips bits that fit in them! And yes, I hardly ever think to reach for it over one of my cordless drills. Probably over the inability to get bits for it I suppose. That, and cordless drivers are just so sexy!

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    One of the links at the bottom is for an adapter that fits Yankee screwdrivers and accepts 1/4" insert bits. Drive to your heart's content!


    The tool of which you speak is also (and originally) known as a "Yankee" driver. Stanley bought out the Yankee brand name at some point and has subsequently diluted it by selling non-push-style screwdrivers under the Yankee name. These are great tools and for many applications are better than a brace and bit, since they do not need room for the handle to swing and they come in a couple different sizes. The first time I saw one of these as a kid, De Niro was brandishing one in the movie Brazil (it's also a great example of the tool's speed and ease of use.) At first I thought it was some fictitious movie-magic tool until a little later when I saw Roy Underhill with one on the Woodwright's Shop. While building and tearing down stage sets in college I never had to worry about the tool walking off either, since everyone else was too busy fighting over the last charged battery pack to learn how to use it. If I were the author, I'd get my hands on one of these and challenge Don Montague again. If your race was close at all with the brace and bit, a little practice with a Yankee driver and you should beat him handily.

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    This guy sells lots of old relatively indestructable "Yankee" -type tools. No, I'm not affiliated. Several others on Ebay do the same. I also have an affinity for the small jeweler's drills that act either on a screw/spring mechanism or else a bow and string. There is a very organic quality to the process I find appealing.

    Yes, a great tool, but don't forget the Stanley screw drivers (working with the spiral-grooved shaft). The Stanley push drill was also great for drilling (not sure if it had screwdriver attachments). I loved it so much that my proto-ex-wife stole it from my toolbox for punishment, and a severe punishment it was.