Yankee Screwdriver Maintenance





Introduction: Yankee Screwdriver Maintenance

Yankee Screwdriver cleaning and repair


The Yankee screwdriver, as it is most commonly known, is my favorite tool. I wanted to write this because instructions on how to clean or even disassemble one of these are hard to find in anything other than bits and pieces online. In books? Maybe, but... it's more fun to figure it out yourself!

A brief history:
The spiral-rachet screwdriver has been around since at least 1860. The North Bros. Manufacturing company patented their design on December 11, 1923 and marketed it under their "Yankee" line of screwdrivers. Despite the fact that North Bros.' "Yankee" line included racheting and even regular screwdrivers, the name became synonymous with the spiral-rachet design. After WW2, Stanley bought North Bros. Stanley continued to produce "Yankee" spiral-rachet screwdrivers in the USA, then later in the UK until production finally stopped a few years ago. (I don't know the exact date, but I assume it to be >2000.) Later, a German tool company by the name of Schroeder purchased the design from Stanley (I think) and is currently producing "Yankee" spiral-rachet screwdrivers with both standard chucks or built-in hex chucks.

Why a Yankee? This and the hand drill are pretty much the original hand-held power tools. But they don't require electricity, last pretty much forever (as evidenced by these antiques from the 1920s, 30s and 40s) and cost a fraction of what modern power tools do (if bought used). They're also really versitle: Put a standard hex chuck adapter on it and it can fasten/unfasten any screw you can find. Plus, there are hex drill bits, too! Or you can put a 1/4" socket drive adaptor in the hex chuck and now all your sockets will work, too! So head out to your local flea market or antique mall and find one today!

Note: This article is based on a North Bros. model 130A "Yankee" spiral-rachet screwdriver. It should, however, be largely trasferrable to other models from North Bros., Stanley and Schroeder.

Note2: This article is unfortunately, NOT based on a complete tear-down, because I haven't figured out how to remove that one washer. More on that later.

Step 1: Safety

Safety first! The model 130 and all other models starting with a 1 are spring-loaded. Make sure to follow the directions when removing this to minimize risk of it shooting out of the barral. Also, we'll be using some chemical lubricants, so make sure you have plenty of ventallation and keep them off of your skin, clothes AND THE FLOOR! Read all instructions both here and on any chemicals before using!

Step 2: Materials

Here's what we'll need: Yankee screwdriver, 3mm slotted screwdriver, 8mm slotted screwdriver, disposable gloves, paper towels, cotton swabs, lubrication/grease (I chose lithium grease), degreaser (I chose Simple Green), water, cups/bowls for the water and degreaser, spray paint (I chose Valspar Satin red wine color #465-65012-76. It's very close to the original.).

Step 3: Parts Explosion

Scroll to page 15 for a drawing from the 1967 Stanley Repair Parts Catalog, downloaded from Rose Tools.

Step 4: Step 1 - Remove the Bit and Spring

If you were lucky enough to get a bit with your Yankee, remove it now. If you don't know how, just pull down on the chuck and lift the bit out.

On the opposite end of the screwdriver is, ironically, the clutch screw. Behind this, lies the return spring. Note that model 30 and its variants do not have a spring. Before you take the screw out, rotate the lock collar to release the spindle and extend the spring.

Now, carefully use your 8mm slotted screwdriver to remove the clutch screw.

Step 5: Step 2 - Remove the Handle

With the clutch screw removed, you can remove the handle. Gently pull the wooden handle away from the frame. This is difficult to do, but try to do it gently. This is optional because you don't need to take the handle off just to clean it. Benieth the handle is a slot from which you can access the spindle washer. Unfortunately, this is what's keeping me from a full tear-down. If anyone knows how to remove this without damage, I'd love to know!

Step 6: Step 3 - Remove the Sleeve Screw

Right below the shifter is a small screw. Use your 3mm screwdriver to remove it.

Step 7: Step 4 - Remove the Sleeve

The short version of this step is to rotate the sleve to the right, then pull down to expose the inner workings. Before you can move the sleeve at all, you will need to press the shifter straight down. You almost need three hands for this. The shifter will need to go under the sleeve when you rotate it.

If you look at the back of the Yankee (opposite the shifter), you will see a tab and a slot. When you rotate the sleeve, that tab will fit into that slot, then you can pull it down. Be careful to hold the Yankee with the shifter-side up, because the shifter will want to fall out when the sleeve comes off.

Step 8: Step 5 - Removing (some Of) the Internals

First to come out will be the shifter. Set it aside.

Next, the pawls, which provide the racheting action will be removed. These may adhere to the other parts by the old grease, so you may need to lift them out with a bent paper clip or something. Remember which way they go back in!

Now you can see what's beneith the pawls: the drive and draw nuts. If you move the spindle up and down, you'll see that these rotate opposite of each other.

Step 9: Step 6 - Cleaning!

To clean the internals that we're not going to take out, apply your cleaner of choice and move the spindle in and out to rotate the nuts. Here you see my Yankee soaking in Simple Green foam. To flush the cleaner out, hold the Yankee at an angle, so that the spindle side is pointing down. Pour a little water over the nuts and move the spindle to rotate them. Repeat as necessary.

The more stubborn grease can be wiped away. I used cotton swabs. A cloth would also be acceptable. Place the swab on the nut and rotate them. Be careful not to let it get pulled in or you'll be picking out cotton before you can move on.

Use your cleaner on, then wipe the remaining grease off of the pawls and shifter. Some things to note in this picture. First, make sure the copper strip on the bottom of the shifter has a good curve to it, like in the picture, maybe more even. Second, take not of the condition of the pawls. The underside of the thin part (which contacts the draw/drive nuts and provides the rachet) can wear down and become unusable. Because the pawls are the same shape and size, you can do a Scot's Staircase on them. (That is, you can turn them over and they'll work like new. Big note here: If you need to do that, you have to switch them so they go in the correct way! If you don't, your Yankee won't ratchet right and you'll have to re-disassemble it. Look at the picture in step 5b for the correct way.) These pawls are upside-down, but notice the way the thin part shines as if it has an edge. That's the wear.

Step 10: Step 7 - Grease It Back Up

I don't have any pictures of this step right now, because I got too into cleaning and forgot about taking pictures. Just apply a small amount of lubrication to the draw and drive nuts and move the spindle up and down to get it to coat everything. Be sure to wipe up any extra.

Step 11: Step 8 - Reassembly

Remember to put the pawls in the right way!

Remember that the sleeve has to fit that notch in to go back on correctly.

Put the spring and screws back in and wipe everything off.

Step 12: Optional Step - Painting

Take a look at my impromptu spray booth. Make sure you have plenty of ventilation when you spray. If you're doing it outside, stand upwind.

Step 13: Step Penultimate - Notes on a Full Tear-down

Here are some notes on a full tear-down, if it were to happen.

After you've removed the handle in step 2, there's a hole where you can access the spindle washer. Remove that and the spindle will come out the top.

With the spindle removed, use a quarter or something to remove the shell screw at the top. When removing this, keep in mind that just below is the lock collar, which houses the two ball bearings that lock the spindle. Set them aisde.

After you remove the sleeve, look at the back of the Yankee and you'll see the three stops. Pry them out somehow, maybe by sticking a screwdriver into the top of the Yankee and pressing down. With these out, the drive and draw nuts will come out. Remember which one is which!

Clean everything and put it back together.

Step 14: Step the Last - Resources



  • Sew Warm Contest 2018

    Sew Warm Contest 2018
  • Paper Contest 2018

    Paper Contest 2018
  • Epilog Challenge 9

    Epilog Challenge 9

We have a be nice policy.
Please be positive and constructive.




Thank you for an excellent Instructable. I got my first Yankee a few months ago when I lost my mum in law :( She had a long Yankee screwdriver in a drawer. This was identified by my wife as being my late father in law's screwdriver. I cleaned it up and it works perfectly. Now to bring it up to date I found a short '133' model Yankee in a junk shop just a day ago. It was priced up at 50p (UK) so it would have been illegal to not buy it. At the moment it is a bit sticky but basically works. Over the next few days it'll get stripped and cleaned. Now, for those in the UK it is very hard to get the bits to fit any size Yankee here. So, try looking on the 'Axminster' tools website. They have three sizes of adaptor that fit the three different Stanley Yankee screwdrivers and they are the cheapest I have found. They are also of very good quality too.

Hey guys, I don't know if anyone still checks this but I could use some pointers. I recently got to take over some of my great grandpa's tools, and one of them happened to be a Yankee screwdriver. Model no. 133H to be precise, so not quite the same as the one in this guide, and I'm having the same problem with removing the spindle washer.

I first tried rotating it and it does rotate a little bit, but I just can't figure out how to get it out! Are you supposed to just pull it straight out or is there some kind of trick to it?

IS there "trick" to changing the bit? i have a Great Neck 97a (GREAT NECK 8-1/2 in. Spiral Ratcheting Yankee Drill-Screwdriver Driver) or do you just pull really hard?

I have had a Yankee since the 50s - a 130a - made by Stanley's. It works fine except for the 'catch' that has broken so that I can only tighten and not loosen screws - However sometimes with a lot of jiggling I can reverse the drive. I would like to repair or get it repaired;. Is either possible?

The sleeve on the barrel can be rotated and I think that this is what sheared off the catch.

I hope you're still around to read this but I just got a model 30 a yesterday with a broken catch and I can change the lock position with a penknife if you look carefully where the catch was you'll see a copper strip with two holes in it .simply slide that up down or middle and that's the latching mechanism hope this helps

The ratchet shaft can be removed if you first remove the handle.
Proto makes a ring expander model 250 which was designed for removing malleable rings from U.S. drum brake backing plates, or transmission snap rings. It is a robust tool.
The retaining ring is malleable iron. You reach in the slot with the expander and get the jaws in the ring's slot. Expand the ring and it will stay expanded to the inside diameter of the barrel. Once you've done that, rotate the ring so the opening is away from the slot and use needle nose pliers to pull it out through the opening.
When you are done with your maintenance reverse the installation and then squeeze the ring back to its original size. If you look, you can find a new ring which is already expanded, That's it.

Re: RBWadsworth says: Apr 21, 2013. 4:32 PM. "Do you know the size and thread of the sleeve screw? I need to find a replacement.": Most of the commonly found 30A and 130A use a 4-40x1/8" screw to retain the sleeve. The latest ones have a head similar to pan head with an internal hex (similar to an Allen button head). The older ones have a custom head, like a smaller-diameter fillister head, that fits the hole in the sleeve and aligns the sleeve as a dowel or pin would. (sorry about the out of place post but the script on this page was not working for me and this was quick and easy).

Do you know the size and thread of the sleeve screw? I need to find a replacement.

Nice job on showing how to keep one of these running but my question is where to find them now? I've been looking for one basically ever since I saw Elwood Blues use one in the Blues Brothers movie. Any help in that respect would be awesome of you.

Check out Step 14 - Resources. There are links to several sites which sell newer versions, usually made by Schroder in Germany. If you want a classic, check out ebay. Or if you prefer to be completely free of modern technology, frequent your local flea markets, antique malls and garage/estate sales. I bought 5 from an antique mall and flea market. (They needed to be cleaned - hence this Instructable!)