Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Yankee Spiral screwdrivers family, the original cordless screwdrivers

Recently, Gerhard at the Je ne sais quoi woodworking blog, asked my help for dating various specimen of this iconic tool.  I thought it would make a good post explaining how I go about establishing some sort of timelines for any tools.
Unless your tool happens to have a serial nos on it, we can rarely pin point an exact date, but we can certainly dated them within a given time period based on the features, patent Nos, boxes or other paraphernalia that originally came with them. Most paper products, leaflets and boxes did not survived, were often toss out, hence why tools are much more valuable when found complete in their packaging with manuals etc.

And doing some research on line, I noticed some confusion with regards to the spring returns models and the A and B series. So lets hopefully set the record straight.

Although mostly associated with Stanley, the name Yankee was registered to the North Brothers Manufacturing Co of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 1880-1946, commonly known as North Bros for short.
That is because Stanley acquired the company in 1946 and kept production of many of their tools for a long period of time.  Some will says that the quality degraded somewhat when Stanley took over, but we are getting ahead of ourselves.

First, a SHORT HISTORY OF THE TOOL IN QUESTION

The origins of this tool, goes back to a Maine inventor, Zachary T. Furbish who received a patent on April 16 1895 and had his invention produced by the Forest City Screwdriver Co.
That company screwdrivers first appeared in announcements and advertising in 1896.

Forest City Screwdriver Co 
Patented April 16 1895


Zachary was not the first one, there is another form of spiral screwdriver that came earlier from Christopher H. Olson of the Decatur Coffin Co .
But his was inside out, the spiral was inside the surface of the casing where as North Bros design has the spiral on the rotating shaft.

North Bros who was in the foundry business, entered the tool manufacturing business by purchasing Forest City Screwdriver Co in 1897, enticed Zachary to move to Philadelphia in 1898 and began marketing their spiral and ratcheting screwdrivers the same year. They had started to expand their product offerings, but their "Name" was built on Yankee screwdrivers. By 1910, their familiarity with the ratchet mechanism let them expand their line of drills: Push drills, egg beater drills and breast drills, most with ratcheting mechanism.
To this day they remained the most technically sound and mechanically innovative designs. With this experience the next logical development for North Bros was the ratchet bit braces. They excel at it and produced some of the best design, which became used exclusively by telephone linemen working for the Bell System. A testament to their excellent design.

Take a look inside a Yankee Handyman spiral screwdriver to see how the mechanism work. Simple, rugged and elegant, and a reminder you are looking at the cheaper Handyman model...

LOOKING AT RELEVANT PATENTS

Whenever patents Nos or date are to be found on a tool, it gives us a starting point. Here are some of the patents dates found on these spiral screwdrivers
Keep in mind that these patents are on the average good for 20 years and are often stamped for many years after being granted (often 5 or so years).
Patents Nos were not laser etched they were stamped or cast at the foundry, they wanted their money worth :-)
List is not all inclusive, but these are the ones I see most often on these tools.
Looking them up by year in DATAMP we find:

Nov 2 1897 Ratchet mechanism
Sep 5 1899 Chuck
Oct 9 1900 Ratchet mechanism
Jun 6 1905 Spiral push screwdrivers or drills
Nov 3 1908 Locking mechanism for ratchet
May 4 1915 Chuck
Dec 11 1923  Securing the mechanism to the casing, the 'A' models

I found 427 patents on screwdrivers alone, of which 110 are for spiral screwdrivers. (Click image to expand as usual)

Or if looking at patents issued to North Bros we get, 132 patents.
That by the way, is the beauty of looking at patents thru DATAMP first.
It was designed by tool collectors for tool collectors, it is a pretty comprehensive
Data Base of all the US Patents related to tools, so if it is about a woodworking tools, it's in there!

Most industrial countries have their own patents database which you can access for free. The other ones I visit often in my research are the Canadian and the British ones.
Keep in mind not every patents issued was ever put into production and the resulting article may differ slightly from the patent drawings.
Then in both Canada and the UK there is such as thing as Registered Design (RD) which are not patents but are protecting a specific "design" look from being copied.

Within DATAMP you can look at it by patent date or numbers, or by category, or by inventor or manufacturers and etc.
Once you have the patent number you are looking for you can then look at it via Google patents or the official US patent site.
Some plug-in may be required to see the pictures (on the USPTO site), but DATAMP is a great online resource.

One last thing about patents on tools:
Why is there a seemingless numbers of patents on what appears to be very simple tools to begin with, and why do they keep tinkering with the designs?
Answer in one word; For competitiveness.
Everyone has to find ways to market similar product, the best way to demarked themselves from the competition is to come up with some gimmick or real improvements. There are no shortage of either...
Also as the patents expired and everybody else start making similar tools (A good example are the countless Bailey No 4 plane designs), you need more than a different colour on your tools to stand out.
That is one reasons Stanley keeps re-inventing itself and why it dominated the hand tools market for so long. And if they could not outdo the competition, they just bought them outright.  Stanley, the tool box of the world, or the Microsoft of its days :-)

Sometimes they get the jump on it and simply mark their tools with "Patent applied for" or "Patent pending" probably as a warning to other would be copy cat :-)
Industrial espionage and copying successful designs is nothing new and today it is still alive and well...

I have yet to figured out when the Quick return feature was introduced...
All I know so far, is that it predate the model improved 'A', so pre 1924.
I have seen on line someone claims 1912 as the date, but I have yet to confirm it anywhere else.
I DID NOT go thru all the relevant patents...yet :-)
I will update this post when I figured it out.


A SHORT LIST OF YANKEE MODELS Nos

Nos 35, 135
Nos 30, 30A, 130, 130A
Nos 31, 31A, 131, 131A, 131B, 1310

From top to bottom
No 135A Quick return, Light model
No 130A Quick return, Standard model 
No 131A Quick return, Heavy pattern

The Nos 30 series were produced in three sizes;
The smallest being the No 35, the next size No 30 and the largest heavy duty version No 31. There are a few more variations of these tools and Models Nos but they ALL share the same three size bits.

The sizes of these screwdrivers varied slightly throughout the years
Sizes measured with the screwdriver bit in the chuck and screwdriver  fully extended

No 135 343 mm (13 in 1/2)
No 130 508 mm (20 in)
No 131 Before 2002 712 mm (28 in 1/32)
             After 2002    672 mm (26 in 29/64)


They came in a cardboard box with 3 flat or common screwdriver blades

For a fairly complete list of various North Bros tools look here

THE 'A' SERIES

Starting in 1924 the Suffix A was added to the models Nos, E.G. 35A, 30A and 31A

The 'A' denoting the changes to the means of securing the mechanism to the casing, patent date Dec 11 1923. The New, Improved Yankee.

Top the older pattern
Bottom the new pattern, 'A' model

From 1926 North Bros catalog


These No 3Xs series DO NOT have a return spring inside the handle, and NEVER had.

THE 13X SERIES, THE SPRING LOADED VERSIONS

The similar tool Nos 13Xs series (130, 131, 135) have a return spring inside the handle. The quick return spring facilitate one hand operation, and keep applying pressure on the screw head, but the return motion can be sudden (keep it under control) and cause the bit to slip marring the surrounding surfaces of the screw being driven. Without the return spring you mostly uses two hands and having a hand holding near the bit you are less likely to slip, but you have to keep supplying the pressure on the fastener. Once proficient with it, you quickly realize how much of a time saver this can be, having the quick return feature.

From 1926 North Bros catalog

 In addition, you should always store these spring loaded tools with the driver fully extended, spring uncompressed. It is better for the spring and the No 131 especially, pack quite a punch when suddenly released into the hands of the unwary. Try it at home if you have one, then marvel at the simplicity of the Yankee bit design while the bit stay solidly attached. Now try one of these Hex 1/4 in adapters with no other means to hold the bit than a magnet, and watch as the Yankee tool launch the unsuspecting bit across the shop! Hours of fun looking for that bit... if you find it!
I think you can appreciate the value of a good locking collet mechanism on these adapter thingy. Just saying, says Bob still looking @@#?#$.

Size of the spring in the No 131, at 12 in long 
it pack quite a punch...

Yankee extended

Yankee collapsed & locked 

The 13X series is characterized by a big screw on top of the handle to insert the spring.

Screw at the top of the handle denote 13X series 
with a return spring. 


Very often they are shown collapsed and locked to fit inside tool bag, boxes what have you, but leaving the spring uncompressed in storage is a wise thing.

And in case you ever wondered; NO you CANNOT add a spring inside the handle cavity of the 3X series, not enough room

THE 'H' SERIES

Handyman is often associated with Stanley, but in this case, North Bros did used the trade-name Handyman, while Stanley was using Four-Square.
Hence the first H models were made by North Bros prior to Stanley's resurrecting the name Handyman in 1959.
The Yankee Handyman spiral screwdriver models they made were the 133H, 233H, 433H and the 633H
Ad from North Bros 1939

Box from No 233H, clear plastic handle.

No 233H


They used the same sizes bits as their full fledged brothers

In the early 60s Stanley re-introduced a line of lower cost tools destined for the homeowners, The Handyman line.  It was preceded in the late 20s and 40s by the similar Defiance and Four Square lines.
YANKEE and HANDYMAN was often marked on the tools.
The Yankee spiral screwdriver models they made were the 133H, 233H, and the 433H, 46
Later Stanley models had a "1" in front of the equivalent model nos such as 1131 (No 131) or a "0" at the end such as 1310 (no 131).

Later Stanley Handyman No 46 with plastic handle and 
provision in handle to store bits

THE 'B' SERIES

Generally 'B' is the newer version with a plastic handle,  although near the end of their production they are fitted again with wooden handles. They were
mostly made overseas including England, Germany and near the very end of production years in Japan. The 'B' have metric internal measurements and the chuck are slightly bigger internally.

The last version from Stanley came in a plastic pouch, no more boxes.
They still come with 3 spare tips, but no longer all common (slot), now Phillips (N.A. Market) or Pozidriv (European market) in addition to one common (slot).

When the packaging is present, we can further gleams some infos by the listing of an address which contains a Zip code (USA) or Postal code E.G. B0P 1R0 (mine in Canada), place of manufacture, price paid and nowadays by the addition of a UPC code etc.

The last Stanley version made, wood handle.
Still come  with 3 bits but, 2 sizes of Phillips (or Pozidriv) and a common (flat)


MODERN VERSION

Today both the Japanese and the German produced their own version of the Stanley Yankee. Schroeder of Germany and JET in Japan
Here is one modern version with a standard 1/4 Hex bit chuck made by Schroeder in Germany, who now own the rights to the tradename 'Yankee' from Stanley. That's right the name "Yankee" was own by North Bros, then Stanley and now Schroeder

My Japanese JET SD-1300
Yankee No 130 size, takes regular Yankee bits.

Throughout the years, Goodell-Pratt , Millers-Falls and Greenlee all made similar models starting around 1920s. There were also models made for Sears (Millers-Falls) and Ward etc.

THE BITS


The 3 standard bits that came with them.

These three sizes models take different size (diameters) bits.
In addition ALL the other various models will fit one of these three sizes.
Sometimes the applicable models Nos are stamps on the bits but they can be hard to see.

5.5 mm 7/32 in ---- Nos 33, 35, 133, 135, 233
7 mm 9/32 in ---- Nos 30, 130
8 mm 5/16 in ---- Nos 31, 131

Some of my Yankee bits

Cross section inside the chuck showing how the bit engage the driving shaft and the ball detent securing the bit. It is released by pulling back on the spring loaded sleeve

Stanley discontinued production in 2007, tool and bits, but there are third party bits still being made. Spear & Jackson in the UK under the brand name Spiralux, Schroeder in Germany and another in Japan (maker unknown).
See this typical selection at Lee Valley 

You can also buy various makes of Yankee screwdrivers adapters to uses modern 1/4 hex bits. One problem with some of these adapters, is using a magnet alone to hold the bit is not sufficient, a No 131 has plenty of force in the quick return to flung the bit across the shop... This one from LV locks the bit which is then released by pulling back on the sleeve. Inexpensive and work great.
And of course they make them in all three appropriate sizes.

Yankee to 1/4 in Hex adapter from LV

The numbers of accessories and which ones included is also a clue that help us establish a probable time frame.

MAINTENANCE AND REPAIRS

See this link.

STANLEY SHORT HISTORY with regard to international operations
Ref, Stanley Tools by John Walter, Stanley official site
and Encyclopedia.com 

When a fairly new Canadian firm, The Roxton Pond Tool & Mill company, offered to sell to Stanley it was an opportunity too big to pass up, as it opened the whole Canadian market and British Commonwealth. (tariff war is nothing new)
They completed negotiations in 1907 and the following year a team of Stanley Rule & Level Co went to Canada with several carloads of machinery reorganized the factory and train the workers. By 1920 the Roxton plant in Quebec, Canada was providing to the Canadian market almost the full line of Stanley tools.

By then The Stanley Works had grown into an international company supplying hardware and steel products to markets in Canada, Germany and England.
As exports grew in importance Stanley looked for overseas manufacturing sites in order to better compete in foreign markets.
When a German manufacturer of hinges and builders hardware offered to sell, the Stanley Works quickly accepted and by 1926 Stanley was operating its Velbert, Germany plant and began cost effective production and distribution to European customers.

In 1936-7 Stanley began hand tool manufacturing operations in Sheffield, England with the purchase of a controlling interest in J.A. Chapman Ltd. During the same time Stanley was forced to reconsider the future of its Velbert plant in Germany as that country radical nationalism was encouraging government appropriation of production facilities, especially companies of Non-German ownership. While the plant stay in operation until 1939, Stanley actually removed its full $600,000 value from their balance sheet in 1936 anticipating the loss of German goodwill.        

In the post WWII period, rapid expansion of foreign industries created unprecedented competition for Stanley. In response they restored the Velbert plant in Germany and now had operations in Canada, Germany and England and expanded manufacturing facilities in the USA.

In 1946 Stanley acquired North Brothers Manufacturing Co, makers of the famous Yankee brand tools.
in 1957 Stanley introduced a new line of economy home owner tools, the Handyman line. They acquired the rights to the trade name Handyman with the purchase of North Bros.

In 1963 Stanley formed a joint venture Stanley-Titan Pty Ltd for production of hand tools for the Australian market.
In the 60s-70s Stanley formed sales companies in France, Holland, Italy and New Zealand.
In 1970 Stanley-Titan acquired Turner Tools in Melbourne Australia.

In 1984 Stanley closed down the Stanley Co manufacturing plant in Roxton Pond Qc, which had been running since 1907. By then most hand tools production had been moved from the US and Canada to England.
In 1986 Stanley sold its South-African interest to local management.
In 1986 Stanley move into the pacific Rim with its acquisition of Taiwan based, Chiro Tools manufacturing corporation.
In 1991 Stanley negotiated a a joint venture agreement creating Stanley Tools Poland Ltd, for the manufacturing of carpenters tools. The new plant in Krakow, was the first for Stanley in Eastern Europe.

Between 2005-7 Stanley discontinued production of these Yankee tools and sent the tooling to Stanley Works, Japan.

The 'Yankee' name continued to be used by Stanley up until the early 2000s before they sold it to Schroeder tool company. To this day Schroeder of Germany continue to sell 'Yankee' brand push drill and screwdrivers

ESTABLISHING A TIME LINE AND DATING GERHARD'S YANKEE TOOLS

We should now have enough information in order to establish a probable time frame for his tools.

Gerhard's tools From L to R
(1) YANKEE NO 131A, Stanley Works (GB) Ltd Sheffield England
(2) YANKEE NO 1310, Germany, plastic handle
(3) YANKEE NO 131B, Germany, beech handle
(4) YANKEE NO 131A, Stanley Works (GB) Ltd Sheffield England
(5) YANKEE NO 131A, Stanley tools, 
(6) YANKEE NO 135, made in USA

And that would be our next post, I still need time to analyse the pictures he sent me...

Bob, the tool historian


11 comments:

  1. Dear Bob

    Now that is a Tour de Force, if I've ever seen one! That is a riveting read for anyone interested in these brilliant tools. I cannot wait for the next post.

    Clearly the "Tool Historian" is in top form.
    Gerhard, I'm not worthy.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Bob,
    man, that is perfect search work. I've actually tried to do something like that and have noticed how much work it is and how difficult it can be to get permissions for publishing rights.
    Great job!
    And beside that I will be prepared now for the next flea market season.
    Cheers,
    Stefan

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi Gerhard, not to worry you are worthy my friend :-)
    Lots had been previously written on line about these tools, but there are some conflicting stuff out there, I just try to put it all in the right perspective. And besides I like sharing my knowledge and love of tools :-)

    Bob, the humble historian

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi Stefan
    Yes it is a lot of detective work (the fun part) but I still got some some details unanswered and missing pieces.
    Perhaps you could help, since you live in Germany. Do you know anything about the Velbert operation? Does not look like it is still going and they probably moved to a different factory, but Stanley is still making tools in Germany I believe?

    Cheers
    Bob

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hi Bob,
    would a pleasure for me. Let me see if I could find something about this. The funny thing is that my hometown is perhaps 30 kilometers away from Velbert and I didn't know that Stanley was producing there in the past.
    The region is known for it's metal production and further processing.

    Stefan, who now runs private investigations. :-)

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  6. My 131 has a handle that is turning when pressure is applied, I have had it for about 50 years, what is the solution?

    ReplyDelete
  7. Is it an original Yankee or a clone?
    The handle should be pinned to the shaft, sound like it is broken, or more likely someone took it apart and did not reassemble correctly?

    Bob

    ReplyDelete
  8. After a recent move, an old wooden toolbox of my fathers got surrounded by moving boxes. The other day I was redoing the door handles on a display case to be used for some nice belt buckles I have. It was then I remembered the tool box and dug it out. I found the bit and brace, but not the egg beater drill I wanted for the project. What I did find was a Yankee Handiman/Northbrothers/Stanley #433H in rather good shape. All of these tools are from the 60's I think and in need of a good cleaning and lube only. I will be looking for some extra bits for it.
    The other interesting item was a Rollis hand driver with the bits in the handle. Haven't done any research on it but will very soon.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Well Hello Capt Redbeard
    If you are looking for Yankee bits for your driver check out Garret Wades or Lee Valley, they both carry the same bits and adapters for them
    Cheers
    Bob

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Robert. Lee Valley had what I needed. Now on to buying a decent draw knife. I would like to get a folding one but wonder if they would hold up. Not stripping bark on felled trees for a cabin, just making some walking sticks from fallen branches. I would think most 8" ones would do the job. Off to Ebay for a quick search.

      Delete
  10. Great and you are welcome.

    Cheers

    Bob and Rudy

    ReplyDelete