Toolsday: My Mechanical Screwdriver

It’s not what you would call a basic tool, but I have a mechanical screwdriver. It’s more or less my favorite tool.

The Spec Tools Overdriver is like a ratchet screwdriver’s smarter sister. It will work like a regular ratchet screwdriver, But it has this knob on the shaft: if you hold that knob and twist the handle, the bit turns 4 times as fast. Which makes inserting and removing fasteners go very quickly, and is just the thing for starting screws in wood: The point of the screw spins fast enough to start drilling its own pilot hole until the screw starts to actually bite, then you let go of the knob and drive the screw in. (If you twist the knob and the handle in opposite directions it spins even faster.) Its ratchet mechanism is very smooth and has no steps that I can feel; if you can turn your hand a tiny fraction of a degree back and forth, you will (eventually) be able to get the job done.

I love this tool.

The one I linked to up there seems to be on the way out. It’s on sale, and not shown on the main shopping page. The one that is shown on the main page has a new handle design that looks to be even more comfortable (the cap on the bit storage compartment at the butt of mine makes leaning on it for more leverage a little uncomfortable: the new one seems to have a rotating butt cap to make it more comfortable than a standard screwdriver, rather than less. And the shape of the handle is more ergonomic.)

Nothing is perfect: I have often wished for a “no spin” setting (you can set it to ratchet clockwise or counter-clockwise, but you can’t set it not to ratchet at all), and the ratchet direction setting ring is easy to switch on the fly (which is good); so easy that sometimes I slip it while working the screwdriver, especially when holding the overdrive knob (which is not good). But all in all, I would be a very sad panda if I didn’t have my Overdriver.


A guy in his early 50s, living more or less alone in a 90-year-old house, trying to keep it all together.

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2 comments on “Toolsday: My Mechanical Screwdriver
  1. Sam Paris says:

    That’s a very cool-looking gizmo. I may need to pick one up.

    Somewhere, probably in the work shed at his retirement place in Arkansas, is Dad’s “Yankee Screwdriver” (Google it). The cylindrical shank telescopes, and on the inside cylinder are two opposing spiral grooves. A selector switch engages one groove or the other depending on whether you wish to tighten or loosen the screw. Pumping the handle spins the bit. I adored this tool; when I got old enough to have some spare cash, I bought one from Stanley, same as Dad’s.

    Not the same. Stanley was going through serious quality control issues at that point; my screwdriver was a POS that fell apart (literally) after the first few uses. Tried and failed to get my money back (didn’t have the receipt). Stanley was on my shit list for years, though, to be fair, they seem to have improved a lot.

    These days, my electric screwdriver or my drill do the job just fine, but someday, if I can find a reliable one, I may buy another Yankee screwdriver just for shits and giggles. In the meantime, I love the look of the Overdriver. I think I’ll slot one into the tool budget.

    • Erik says:

      Indeed. I had long coveted a Yankee. My issues with them are that a: the bits all have proprietary weird shanks, and b: they don’t come with very many different bits, and it’s hard even to get replacement bits of the ones that do come with. Those two together severely limit their utility in this modern age. That and the way they work makes it hard to regulate how much downward force is applied to the screw as you turn it.
      (However, in researching this post, I see that now you can get a Yankee bit that in turn holds the now-standard hex bits. So that may be worth looking into to make your Yankee more generally useful.)

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