I have several braces and eggbeater drills, but I only sometimes use them for boring holes. Just as often, I use them as cordless screwdrivers.
Driving screws with a brace is a pleasure. While most electric drills work on the high-speed/low-torque principle, the brace reverses the method. Its low-speed/high-torque is perfect for driving screws. Normally I drill pilot holes for my screws, but in construction-grade softwoods, I sometimes use a mallet or hammer to tap the screw in a little way, and then drive it the rest of the way with the brace. It’s a little slower than using a screw gun, but unlike a powered drill, the brace never strips out the heads.
The eggbeater drill, on the other hand, is more appropriate for small screws, since it’s closer to the high-speed/low-torque end of the scale. If the pilot hole is the correct size, the eggbeater will seat the screw just fine, without either over-tightening the screw or stripping the head out. Sometimes the screw doesn’t seat quite tight enough, in which case I will snug it up with a screwdriver.
Finding screwdriver bits for my eggbeater drill was easy. It has a regular three-jaw chuck, and I often use the long bits from Lee Valley, which have held up very well. Lee Valley also sells a square-shank hex driver for traditional braces, which I haven’t yet tried because I’ve been able to use a regular hex bit holder I bought at Sears. Some time ago, you could find square-shank flathead screwdriver bits for your brace–see the bottom of the above picture. I don’t know if they ever made them in Phillips head, but if so, I’ve never seen one. I managed to find a flathead bit at an old hardware store with a lot of new-old-stock.
But why not just use an electric drill?
Because it usually takes too long. When I need to drive a couple screws, I don’t have an hour to wait for a battery to charge, and because I will often go weeks without drilling anything, the battery in my old cordless drill was never ready when I needed it. To use the corded drill, I have to dig out an extension cord, find an available receptacle, run the cord, trip over the cord a couple times… you get the idea. Of course there are times when you want the RPMs of an electric drill, especially when driving a hundred screws at a stretch. But when driving just a few screws, the hand drill is usually the most efficient option.
And it’s much easier on the wrists than a screwdriver.