The 1897 edition of the Chas. A. Strelinger & Co.
catalog praises the automatic screwdrivers as the next best thing to sliced bread (okay, this expression didn’t exist until at least 1928 when the bread slicer was first introduced into the US). What they said exactly was, "The spiral screw driver ranks among the most wonderful labor-saving tools ever invented." They still are! The cordless screw drill is also a great thing - I use mine all the time - but a ratchet screwdriver is just lighter and more convenient then a big drill, even more so now that the cordless drills everyone has are 18+ volt and huge. When I was a kid all the carpenters carried spiral screwdrivers around, but with the advent of cordless drills, they began disappearing. Stanley stopped making their Yankee screwdrivers a few years ago. I first found out about their continuing utility when a cabinetmaker I know pulled one out for an installation. He explained that as a professional in a shop, he sometimes found himself using three or four cordless drills at once, but in the field, it was a lot easier to always have an ratchet screwdriver in the tool bag then to schlep one or two cordless drills. And of course he didn’t have to worry about a charger, so the ratchet screwdriver makes a great emergency backup.
So I got one. I now own a cordless drill, which I use for drilling, and I use the ratchet screwdriver for putting in the screws. The torque is great, it’s easy on the wrist and it’s fast! And of course it doesn’t take up a lot of space in my tool bag, so every time I have to fix something it’s always the screwdriver I reach for first. My first customer for one of these guys was a cabinetmaker from across the street who was visting my shop and saw the samples on my desk.
The full name for this tool is a bit of a mouthful, but it describes the function well: "Spiral" because of the long spiral that makes the bit turn; "Ratchet" so it can slip in either direction; and "Automatic Return" so you don’t have to hold the bit on the screw and you can operate the tool with one hand.
I’ve had really good compliments on the smoothness of the screwdriver’s mechanism. It’s a quality machine with great action. It comes with three double-ended bits with three sizes of straight and Phillips screwdrivers. The chuck is a 1/4" hex socket with a twist clamp. Originally I thought that was a mistake and they should have copied the old Yankee detent system. But then I realized that with the hex system you can stick any standard hex shank tool in the screwdriver and it will work just fine. So you can easily get bits for Robertson and torq screws. The screwdriver comes in two sizes, each with an advantage: the larger one has a longer stoke so it works faster, and the smaller will fit better in the tool bag. Made in Germany.