Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The amazing North Bros No 1545 hand drill

As far as hand drills goes, this one hit all the right boxes.

Size comparison From L-R
Millers Falls No 12, North Bros No 1545, Millers Falls No 5

As picked by Rudy in the line up :-)

It is sized like a breast drill and accept different handles, either a large bulbous wooden hollow top (like the one I found) or a metal arc shaped breast plate.

Very solid attachment. But good luck trying to find
 a replacement handle...

Side handle attached

Side handle removed, often found missing

It used the double gears pinions to offset side loading and remain smooth and true under pressure, but where its funkiness really outshines them all its with the amazing little 5 positions slider selector switch.

YANKEE No 1545
North Bros Mfg Co
Phila PA USA
Pat. Nov 2 97- Jul 28 08
Nov 02 09- Aug 23 10

It the first position: PLAIN it works like any regular hand drill, you spin CW so does the chuck, spin CCW and the chuck does the same

In the second position: LH RATCHET

In the third position: RH Ratchet

In the fourth position: RH DOUBLE It is really funky, no matter which way you crank, the chuck only advance (turn CW) to drill. Oh and it also ratchet so you can take small side crank motion

In the fifth position: LOCK The gears are all locked, facilitating tightening or removing the bits

Here is a video of the drill in action showing off the 5 positions slider

Add to all this a lever to select Hi or LO speed for more torque and you can really use this thing anywhere on just about anything, wood or metal.

Speed selector set to HI speed

PAT. DEC 15 08

Now that is one sweet drill! And being made by North Bros you know it is built solidly and will outlast us all.

it sport a big 3/8 chuck
North Bros MFG
Philada USA Pat Mar 5 10
That patent date does not work in DATAMP, not sure if I read it right??

but thankfully here is a page that list all the patents they held So it look like it was Mar 15 1910

Here's what Chris Schwarz think of this hand drill family
Here is a primer on how to disassemble if required.
There is also a message board dedicated solely to Yankee tools

Lets have a look at the patents identified on this tool

Pat No 593,157,  Nov 2 1897
The funky 5 positions selector switch 

Pat No 894,673,  Dec 15 1908
The ratchet mechanism, that does funky tricks

Pat No 939,042, Nov 02 1909
Gearing arrangements

Pat No 952,320, Mar 15 1910
The North Bros version of Millers Falls protected spring chuck design

Pat No 968,372, Aug 23 1910
The adjustable ball bearing race near the chuck

Pat No 1,059,132, Apr 15 1913
The hollow detachable handle.
A very sturdy, bullet proof mechanism

All these patents point to a tool made post Apr 1913
North Bros Manufactured tools from 1878 until purchased by Stanley in 1946, which continues manufacturing some of their tools in Philadelphia until 1956-58, at which point they were gradually manufactured in New Britain, Stanley home turf and stamped Stanley only. At which point the quality started to declined.

Their tools have a long reputation for being solid performers, they are serious tools!

There was a series of these handrills numbered as such
1540 uses a 4-1/2 in dia large gear wheel
1545 uses a 4-1/2 in dia large gear wheel, 3/8 in,  3 jaws chuck
1550 uses a 5-1/4 in dia large gear wheel
1555 uses a 5-1/4 in dia large gear wheel, 1/2 in chuck

And also the similar models
540 uses a 4-1/2 in dia large gear wheel
545 uses a 4-1/2 in dia large gear wheel
550 uses a 5-1/4 in dia large gear wheel
555 uses a 5-1/4 in dia large gear wheel

The biggest difference between these models is in the chuck model and capacity

So all that to say that if you ever come across one, grab it you wont regret it, it is some sweet drill.
And now I pack it up and send it off to a friend in Namibia... :-)
I know you will enjoy it Gerhard, have fun with it.

I could go on and on but some one need my attention...

Bob, taking Rudy out for a walk


  1. Nice history lesson. I'll be looking for one these now.

    1. If you ever find one, grab it. These are the ultimate handrills...

  2. I like the idea of such a complicated mechanism in a hand drill. What a spectacular journey for an old drill to go to Namibia at a high age.


    1. Hi Jonas
      Yah I know it is kinda cool isn't. I will have to document that as part of the tool provenance :-)

  3. That is one sweet drill. The video you linked to was also very nice for showing how the five settings work. Thanks Bob.

    1. Heh Heh yes sweet isn't It truly is a funky drill, but when you think about it, it pretty well darn well cover just about any situation you could find yourself with and there is a speed and a ratchet for THAT application. Pure genius if you asked me :-)

      Bob, smitten by ancient technology

  4. I am very honoured to be the recipient of such an incredible tool. I though it was a special tool, but after reading your comprehensive assessment Bob, I realise that it is significantly superior to what I expected. I really appreciate this gesture. I will send you a Namibian made tool in the near future. I also promised Jonathan one, but we are still tinkering with it's design to try and get it perfect.
    Thanks again

    1. You are very welcome Gerhard, as much as I am impressed by this tool, I know that you will be more thrilled to have it, and that my friend is priceless... :-)

      Uncle Bob, from across the pond

    2. Bob,

      This Namibian made tool that Gerhard mentions has me very curious indeed. I have done my best to avoid asking questions about it (trying to act like an adult) but I must admit. I'm very intrigued.

      I have a 1530 that I restored and it has a very similar selector switch. The 1545 looks much more heavy duty.

      Great post.


  5. Bob,

    I agree, the research you do is very good and always a pleasure to read. I can tell from Rudy's photo he is in need of a ear scratch, do your job :-).

    BTW our two big guys swam their hearts out while we were in the PNW. It's a joy to see.


  6. OK Ken, Rudy had his ears scratched, walked, ran around the house, got treats, plyed with "Beary can I rest now? :-)

    Joke asides it is always good to read that your doggies are having a good time too :-)

    Bob and Rudy