My Cordless Screwdrivers

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.

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2 Responses to My Cordless Screwdrivers

  1. Gary Roberts says:

    and… if you have arthritis in your thumbs and tendonitis in your elbows, a brace fitted with a screw driver bit is wonderful. No grasping the handle of a powered drill, no kick, no vibration and hardly any weight. At times I use a breast drill for larger holes if the need arises.
    Say! Hand tools can be good for old guys.

    • And if your wrist is sore from writing with pen and paper all day, they’re wonderful. I only wish I could find a lower-profile brace for screw driving, which would let me get into tighter areas.

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