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.


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...


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.


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


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 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


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


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)


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 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.


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


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


  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.

  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.

  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

  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?


  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. :-)

  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?

  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?


  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.

  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

    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.

  10. Great and you are welcome.


    Bob and Rudy

  11. I found an off-brand of one of these in my grandfather's shed. No markings as to what model or size bits it uses and I've yet to find one. Any tips on measuring so I know which bits to buy? It's one of the smaller size drivers about 8" without a bit in it.

  12. Jacob
    There are only three sizes of bits for all models of Yankee screwdrivers and their numerous clones. Simply measure the size of the hole opening. You can buy new bits at Garret Wade and Lee Valley

  13. Dear Bob:
    First, Thank you for your wonderful research and willingness to share it.
    I am not a veteran of forums like this, don't know the protocols, and hope I am not intruding.
    I have what I assume is a very early Yankee North Brothers spiral screwdriver (11 inches non-extended).
    There is no model number stamped on it, Just "Yankee". Latest patent Nov. 1897. The unique feature is a hardwood handle that is NOT round, but instead flattened on two sides. Were there any made like this? It sure looks original but possibly an owner modification? Could send a photo, but don't know how to do that. Your thoughts?
    Dennis in NJ

  14. Hi Dennis
    No problems and you are welcome :-)
    As far as I can tell they had these flats on the handle for a long time, maybe always?
    If you look closely, i am pretty sure that you will found North Bros mfg and a model No on it. You can also quesstimate the model No by the size of the bits it take.
    As far as pics goes you can send them to me on my Email address for this blog.


  15. Thanks Bob:

    Will send a couple of photos to your email adr.
    Curiously, I had not encountered a photo of a Yankee spiral with a flattened handle, even on eBay. Guess I just didn't hit one. Seemed like every one I was had a round handle. Maybe they came later.
    The flat is a better design in my mind, since it keeps the tool from rolling off the bench.
    Thanks for your assistance on this forum.

    1. When I worked in a joinery in the late 60's- early 70's every craftsman was still using these. The shop master would make you remove the springs, and it was pretty common to put a flat or two on the handle so they wouldn't roll off the bench. I did that to my North Bros. 30A.

  16. I enjoyed reading this very much....
    Today I found my first Yankee 131a, it's a very early model.

  17. Very nice article....
    I enjoyed reading this, today I found my first Yankee Screwdriver,
    a 130a, I think it's very a very early model.
    Can't wait for more articles about tools.

  18. Hi Clifford
    Glad you enjoyed the article and i am sure you will find these Yankee screwdrivers handy


  19. Hola amigos yo tengo un destornillador stanley Handyman,Yankee No.233h echo aqui en estados unidos, USA

  20. Hi all. My 130 and 131 screwdrivers both have worn pawls (both pawls on each are worn, so flip flopping won't help). I am willing and able to cut/file/grind (or draw a CAD model and outsource to waterjet cutting) my own replacements, but want to make sure the material I use is an appropriate hardness. Do they need to be hardened tool steel, or will just about any steel work, being harder than the brass? Is there somewhere to buy these? If not, is there a market for them, I could make a batch on the waterjet and sell off the rest......
    Thanks guys!

  21. Good questions. I do not know if the pawl were hardened, but being harder than brass, it probably does not matter, or it may wear out the brass part??
    If you have well worn out pawls that tool has a heck of a lot of time in... Your replacement should outlived us all
    Not sure there would be a market for them, but unaware of the overall conditions of the specimens to be find out there??
    I would probably try a hand filing job first.


  22. Thanks for your insight for your fantastic posting. I’m glad I have taken the time to see this. Dslr camera price in pakistan

  23. I have in my possession a Lakeside Yankee Spiral Tool with Reamers in it. It has exactly the same markings as Yankee Spiral. Any thoughts who Lakeside is

  24. Hi Anita
    There is not much to be found on Lakeside tools. There is a Lakeside tool company who is a tool distributor, mostly mechanics tools. But if your tool is old, then if was probably made for and distributed by Montgomery Ward under the name Lakeside similar to Craftsman tools by Sears. In 1950 Montgomery Ward introduced the name brand Ward Masters who slowly replaced lakeside brand.

    Bob who has been under the weather most of March and slowly coming around :-(

  25. Oh i should had add, it was likely made by either Yankee or Stanley depending on vintage. Montgomery Ward just like Sears had their tools made with various makers thru the years


  26. Bob,
    I came across a vintage sale this weekend and picked up some tools all dating right to 1900. One is a Yankee screwdriver, and as best as I can read it looks like it is a model 30, but it does not seem that the bit is in a chuck, but a fixed bit. Have you seen anything like that?
    Thanks for your information, Lee

  27. Hi Lee
    As far as I know, those Yankee spiral drivers always had the chuck, as they still do. The pat on that chuck is Sep 5th 1899...
    Hard to tell without seeing the business end and the bit in question.
    I have one that has the bit solidly stuck forever in it, but it is still mounted in that chuck.

    Hope this help

  28. Fluted drill bit sets for Yankee drivers were made by Stanley. The bits were packaged in sets of 8 in sizes from 1/16 to 11/64". The bit shanks were all ~11/64" in diameter and came with an adapter for use in a particular size Yankee Driver. The 3180 adapter was included in the No. 319 bit set for a No. 31 series Yankee Driver. A No. 30 required the 3080 adapter and which came with a bit set presumably numbered 309?. I haven't seen a 309 but that's how the numbering seems to run.

  29. Hi Tom
    Thanks for the info. Did not knew that sets came with adapters.
    I used modern adapters from LV which allows me to use regular 1/4 in hex bits. I have 3 sizes to fit all models.


  30. Hello Bob
    Your knowledge of the Yankee screwdriver is extremely helpful. But I have a question: I have a Yankee No. 30A with a pattern date of Dec 11 23. It is not spring loaded BUT there is a screw at the to of the handle. If I read you web page right you said the 13x could be identified by this screw. The handle hasn't been swapped because the shaft and handle tube is threaded for the screw. Where some of the "A" made with this screw with the idea the owner could upgrade the tool? I have a number of Yankee's and Handyman that got from flea markets. Does not make a difference if I already a particular model I'll save it. I picked up 3 screw drivers and a Yankee 41 for a buck a piece. Most time I only get one bit, but I'll save anyways. Your help will greatly appreciated. Wayne

  31. If its stamped "A" after the model No, it HAD the original spring.
    Yours is somehow MIA. NO such thing as user upgrades, they did (A) or did not (original)

    Hope this answer your question

  32. Hello, great info' thanks for posting all this.
    Can I just ask, i've just bought an early U.S. made Stanley 131A (it's not arrived yet), will the later metric 131B bits fit it ok?
    Many thanks - Dave

  33. Guessing it will not be a great fit?? let us know when you get it

  34. Ok will do.

  35. Hi, metric bits do fit in it as do adaptors - thankfully !
    One thing though, i'd thought it was a Stanley Yankee but when it came it's a 131A North Brothers Yankee. I assume that's rarer?
    Cheers Dave

  36. Thanks for the feedback.
    Being North Bros that makes it prior to 1941. Not really rarer, but to some the quality went down after purchased by Stanley and production moved. But honestly, not much difference....

    Bob, back from funeral home

  37. Oups meant 1946, NOT 1941
    Bob, brain dead from shoveling snow :-)

  38. Hello Bob
    That's great thanks for the info. I do like these old Yankees. I must admit I do find the larger ones somehow easier to use/work better.
    I hope you've got all the snow cleared now :-)

  39. Hello Bob
    Do you have any idea what type of wood the handles are made of? I have a No 31 that someone has jammed the handle about 1" past the snap ring. I am having a heck of a time getting the handle off. Should pull off I know, but it is really jammed.

  40. Most likely Beech wood was used. If handle was driven down 1 inch it likely causes some serious damages, ouch. You may have to split the handle to remove it. Trying to cut it could cause more damages. Not sure it is worth salvaging ??


  41. Dear Bob
    Congratulations for the excellent research material on spiral ratchet screwdriver.
    I won a Stanley Yankee No. 130B and since its mechanism is broken and parts are missing, I would like to fix it. Would you like to publish the parts manual for this spiral ratchet screwdriver?

    Grateful for any information and attention.

    Edison David
    São Paulo Brazil

  42. Hello Bob,
    I got that stuck handle off without cutting. I soaked the handle in water over night. I had a piece of 2 x 6 with a 1.25 hole in it. I beveled one side of the hole. One good pull and off it came. now to let it dry out and see what damage was done inside the handle. Thank you for your help.

  43. HI David. Not sure if I have a breakdown of it, but ill look. In the mean time did you look at that first link under the headline MAINTENANCE AND REPAIRS? There is a pretty good tutorial on breakdown and repairs. Here is the link im talking about in this blog post

  44. I found a North Bros Yankee No 131A, pat Dec 11 1923. it has the letters U.S. on the handle. Was this an Army issue?

  45. Could be. North Bros, Stanley, Millers Falls all made tools under contract for the US military.


  46. Insanely comprehensive :)

    Thank you so much,
    Now I have something to read during the holidays. This will take a while but well worth it like always
    You can read another one here DiYsBest

  47. I have a 130a who would like to buy

  48. Does anyone know how to disassemble the chuck on a 131A ? I have a broken pin in there that needs replacing. it's jamming it up and i can't insert a bit. Who would i contact or is there a youtube video? thanks.

    1. there is a good video on youtube if you look https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A0NgYvYhNEw&t=919s

  49. Thanks for all the information. You mention that the 3X series never had springs in the handle and that the 13X series had a large screw in the handle to insert the spring. I have a 30A model that has a large screw in the handle. If there was never a spring, what is the purpose of the screw? The cylinder case is brass and the lock-collar is broken, missing a piece. Under the lock-collar there is a wire, do you know more about the lock-collar and this wire underneath? I would like to try to repair this gorgeous tool but am not sure how to approach the broken lock-collar. I also cannot remove the bit. Does this relate to the broken lock-collar? On my more recent Handyman 233H, I have no problem removing the bit. Any advice will be appreciated.

  50. HI Kate
    Perhaps I was a bit confusing, blame my French accent while typing :-)
    The A models simply refer to the redesign look of the tools(improved).
    Hence Models 30, 31, 35 or 30A, 31A and 35A still NO springs
    3X NO spring
    13X Spring 131, 132, 135
    you can tell them apart from the big screw cover on top. If they have it, they are 13X series

    Hope this clears it up?


  51. HI Basil
    Refer to the picture of the patents above to see how the bit is locked inside the chuck. I happens to have a No 131 with a solidly stuck bit, it has so far resisted every attempts I made to free it up. But there is always C4 :-)

    If the bit is stuck and it is otherwise working, I would just leave it alone


  52. Basil check out this video, its not Yankee, but a British copy. Same mechanism.

  53. acquired a "yankee" push dreill from my uncle who got it from his father, a woodworker. it has north bros. mfg. co.philadelphia,pa. and patented nov. 2 1897 stamped on the metal handle(all metal tool). it still works and i sometimes use it but is in so-so condition with signs of many years of hands-on. anyone interested in more?

  54. Hi can you call me on 07756136790 ive got a few Yankees but my father inlaw has a great Yankee screwdriver.But I never got the model number off him.I need a big yankee screwdriver but need best version spring loaded and best pump action with great return spring whats best model and version please not sure best one to get

    1. Yes I could call you but where in the world are you located?
      That phone numbers look European to me? We have a few hours differences, would not want me to call in the middle of the time.


  55. Hi,
    Stumbled into this blog doing some detective work, best info I've run into so far. Trying to place my No. 46 with a Dark Grey Handle w/ Black Cap in the timeline, stamped as follows:
    NO 46
    PHILA. PA. U.S.A.

    My best guess is early to mid 1950's, any thoughts on this?
    I believe ,not sure, my father had it in his toolbox before he got married in 1956 and it came into my possession when clearing out our mother's house in 2005. I had to play odds and evens with my brother for it, ha! ha! Still works great and the replacement bits from Garrett Wade fit perfectly.

  56. North Bros was purchased by Stanley in 1946, soon after, their tools were stamped a division of Stanley. I don't remember off hand when they stopped, but by the late 50s(?) they were simply stamped Stanley.
    Your guess is close enough. It is very difficult to pin down an exact date, unless the tools has a Serial Numbers, which they don't. We are then left with approximations in a given time period based on some clues EG When model was introduced-discontinued, features, Pat dates etc.


    1. The baffling thing is the black end cap. All of the pictures I found for the No. 46 had the red end cap.

      Thanks for your reply.

  57. Thank you for the wonderful article. I have a passion for North Brothers. To date I have close to 20, some rare, some common. I came across a Yankee Tool Set No. 100 a couple of months ago for a steal. Everything is there, but the No. 30 is actually a No. 30-A. I have an older No. 30 but it will not fit in the spot that the 30-A is sitting in currently. Did they make different lengths of the No. 30? I also have 4 different sizes of bits. A set labeled Yankee Handyman No. 333H, a 1/4" set that seems to be between the the 7/32 and 9/32 sizes included with the No. 100 set mentioned earlier.

  58. Yes, the length of the Yankee spiral screwdrivers varies a bit thru the years. Not by much but enough to cause issues like you found. Later models made in England, Germany then Japan went metric and introduced yet more small dimensions changes.


  59. It would be appropriate in this broad and helpful article, to include credit for the historical information (SHORT HISTORY OF THE TOOL IN QUESTION) on the beginnings of the YANKEE screwdriver and the Forest City Screwdriver photo, as having come from http://cfales.sos4net.com/articles/Forest%20City-Roots-Yankee/Furbish-ForestCity1.htm. The article is copyrighted.

  60. I have a NIB R. & L. Spiral Raychet screw driver model 30A. It has never been used, is in its original wrapping paper and the packet of bits is included. Will you give me an idea as to its value?

  61. Thank you for the post! I just finished reading it up and am very excited to IQ test questions the following series. Just wanted to let you know that your posts/thoughts/articles give me invaluable insights! I cannot really be thankful enough for all that you do! Currently finishing up your Narratives & Numbers as well. What a Gem as well!

  62. The 1946 catalog 'How Yankee and Yankee Handyman Tools Make Good Mechanics Better' shows a picture on page 8 that clearly seems to have a screw on top of the handle, like mine. See https://archive.org/details/northbrosyankeetools1946/page/n7/mode/1up

  63. I meant a 30A with a screw on top of the handle.

  64. Thank you for the post! I just finished reading it up and am very excited to House sort the following series. Just wanted to let you know that your posts/thoughts/articles give me invaluable insights! I cannot really be thankful enough for all that you do! Currently finishing up your Narratives & Numbers as well. What a Gem as well!

  65. This article helps me a lot. Thanks for sharing valuable information. As I was looking for such information, I have found an article useful like this; you can check it out here. ChoreStop I hope you get more information.


  66. I am a little late to the dance, but I too really appreciate the research and the publishing of the information. It is as valuable today as it was several years ago.

    Being an old Southerner, I will say that these are the only Yankees that I let into my workshop. I have several now, all North Bros. and they are some of the best cordless tools that I own.

    Some people wonder how the "Yankee" name came about, but is seems to me to be rather obvious, coming from the NORTH Brothers...

  67. I just picked up another 31A and the markings a different from the other Yankees that I own. Not the only difference but the last two lines are:


    Any idea of the production year(s)

    Thanks, and thanks again for the great article.

  68. Hello & thank so much. You have resurrected my Grandpa. I’m in tears with the memory. Like many families, dad was scared by his combat in WWII, so we had some chaos at home, Grandpa was an island of calm sanity who taught me so much without saying a word. The coolest thing I got from Grandpa was his Yankee Spiral Ratchet screwdriver Model 131A with North Brothers, Philadelphia & the date 1924 stamped on it. I thought I’d died & gone to heaven!! Even though somewhere along the way it wouldn’t hold the bits. It was my connection to saner, simpler times & Grandpa. I cherished it, broken or not. I put it aside ‘till I had time to look in to where to send it for repair, never thinking *I* could do anything myself. The kids have moved out on their own & gotten married. I now have the Internet & lots of time. Somehow I found your *unbelievable, yes, you can-fix-it* Website!! I might be able to bring Grandpa prized tool back to life. Thanking you for the memories of us in his workshop doesn’t seem like enough, but thank you.
    The only thing standing in my way, since I haven’t done anything is, it still won’t hold a bit. With you “at-my-side” the little “internal clamp-thingy” seems to be missing, but I’m not certain. How do I remove the bit-holder & dissemble it? I’ve watched you excellent repair tutorial, but to me all that seems a bit extreme when all the rest works just fine. When I pull the chuck release knurled collor back, seemingly there is opposing flat sides as if to put a wrench on it & unscrew the bit-holder, but I don’t want to damage the spiral with like Vice-Grips. There is no drive pin to release the bit-holder. I don’t see a screw down inside the bit-holder either. I’m at a loss & not having your experience, I'm stumped. Also I guess if it is missing, I’m gonna need a replacement internal bit locking thingy. You can get me at, ralph.fergason@gmail.com. Help me Obi-Wan, your my only hope!!

  69. I have read this post several times. despite my best efforts I have been completely at a lose to find a place to purchase your Japanese Jet SD-1300. I love my Yankee screwdrivers and that would really be great to work with using the standard hex bits as it does. Can you point me in the direction of finding one? Thank you for any help you can provide.

  70. Thank you for this fascinating research. My great grandfather has a patent on this kind of tool. I would like to send you information about it and get your impression. Please get in touch. This is Eric at eefryxell@hotmail.com.

  71. This is a great read! I recently picked up one of these at an antiques shop for cheap because it seemed like a nice tool to have. Then I found myself curious about its age and this is the most accessable and informative info I've found in it.
    (FYI as best I can make out it says "Yankee No. 30, North Bros Mfg Co. Phil PA U.S.A., followed by some patent info)

  72. fantastic information for enthusiastic collectors and retired woodworkers/joiners.
    I do have my original driver that I bought in the early 70s when an apprentice in the UK. It's a 131a made in Sheffield England, however well worn as my work was often on boats.that particular driver I used to refasten planking on a 48ft sailboat.. all 3800 bronze screws.. remove and replaced.
    This driver has literally been down to Southern Africa and all over Canada, but unfortunately, at some point someone had tried loosen up the barrel and in doing so, lost the reverse forward locking mechanism that's under the sleeve and screw that holds the sleeve .. My question is are they available or anyone happen to have any. My Grand Nephew is about to transfer to Civ Div in the Marines and is going to live renovate our off grid cabin. He is a great woodworker but chose the marines as a career .. So any help is appretiated .

  73. Hello Bob, I have a North Brothers No. 31 that I am trying to repair. Does the bit chuck come apart? I am trying to remove the shaft to get to the locking ring (shaft will not lock in place). The snap ring or lock ring on the handle end of the shaft will not come off. Any ideas. Is there any place to find a breakdown diagram for the older screwdrivers. Thank you. Wayne