TOOL A DA WEEK - Yankee Screwdriver

Kicking off this series with one of my favorite oddities – the yankee screwdriver! I first saw one of these guys back in high school while striking a theatre set. It was peculiar to see its operator going to town unscrewing plywood while others around him all had power drills. Almost like some kind of techie John Henry (no, said operator did not mortally succumb to exhaustion). It stuck in my memory for years and when I had the opportunity I had to get one for myself.
When I lived in Seattle, there was a family owned hardware store called Hardwick's that was always a fun place to peruse. They offered a wide variety of old antique specialty tools that you’d never see at Home Depot. When I first popped in, I knew I had to seek out a yankee screwdriver. And here she is - an original North Bros. No. 30 model from the 1920s. It’s basically a screwgun from before there were screwguns. Toggle the switch into forward or reverse, grasp the chuck and ratchet the thing in and out while keeping the bit firmly nestled into the screw. And watch out so as not to get grease all over your hands.
Have I used this thing in any sort of practical capacity? No. But it looks cool on my work bench, has a great patina to it, and is a little piece of history. Sure, I called it an oddity, which it is now. But back in the day it was just another tool that tradespeople used all the time without a thought. Maybe someday I’ll find a way to work it into my act. Tools have lives, you know? It’s gotta be pretty depressed just sitting there as a decoration. I better find a job for it soon…!

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