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The trade name "Yankee" screwdriver was first marketed by North Brothers Manufacturing Company in ≈1895, with the No. ≠130 spiral ratchet screwdriver. Yankee soon became and still is a well-known name in automatic spiral ratchet screwdrivers, with several other models, and model improvements patented by North Bros. over a 40-year period.
The term "Yankee screwdriver" is often used to describe push/pull type screwdriver other than one manufactured by North Brothers Mfg. Co. or Stanley Tools, who purchased the rights to the well-known Yankee brand or trade name in the 1940s from North Brothers. North Brothers always marked the tools they manufactured with the Yankee name, and in most cases the North Bros. name and location as well.
All spiral ratchet screwdriver models made by Stanley did have the Yankee trade name on them, or at least until the 1960s when the Handyman trade name became as well known as the Yankee trade name, so Stanley Tools marked certain models with both the Handyman and Yankee brand name on them, and usually the Stanley name was on them as well. The Handyman trade name was not limited to a line of screwdriver models, as the same name was marked on a complete line of planes, drills and other tools specifically marketed to the home user.
There were 3 different size spring chucks, and therefore 3 different shank size tips or sometimes called points, to fit various models. Generally all tips made by North Brothers or Stanley were stamped with the corresponding number of the model screwdriver they would fit, but the stamped numbers are often difficult to see, so it's a good idea to know the size you need before you set out to find tips for your screwdriver.
- The smallest size was the number 35, so any of the model numbers with 35 in the number, like No. 135A is the smallest tip shank diameter, measuring 7/32" diameter shank. (Note that all the handyman models with 33 in their model number also have the No. 35 size chucks, the smallest size tips).
- The middle size is the No. 30 size, and all numbers with the 30 in them have a chuck shank size of 9/32" diameter.
- The biggest size is the No. 31, and all numbers with 31 in them have a chuck diameter of 5/16" diameter.
By around 2005 Stanley in the USA had discontinued production of all Yankee tools in previous years. Production did continue in the UK until 2007, when tooling for components of screwdrivers were sent to Japan and have now been scrapped. Over the years other manufacturing companies used similar design chucks, that held Yankee brand screwdriver and drill point tips with the flat and notch on the shank.
Accessories and bits
North Brothers offered several different accessories to fit the various type chucks on the Yankee spiral ratchet screwdrivers. Normally, 3 different slot type tips were include with each screwdriver when it was new. Other tips included:
- Nut drivers in various sizes, both hex and square head
- Drill points for the smallest 133/135 size screwdriver
- adapters to adapt push drill size drill point sets to the three sizes of screwdriver chuck size
- screwdriver tips holding with screw holding feature
- Phillips screwdriver tips in various sizes
- slot screwdriver tips with the centring sleeve feature, and
- extra-long screwdriver tips for special applications.
The first patented spiral push drill or similar spiral screwdriver dates back to 1868 known as the Allard's patent, but since we have never been able to find one in existence, we assume that the 1868 patent was never manufactured in quantity. The earliest we have observed is the F. A. Howard patent, known to have sold in the US in quantity. The beginning of production of the Howard screwdriver seems to have been in the early 1870s. Most of the first models patented are rare and hard to find. Although North Brothers was not the very first to patent the spiral type mechanism, they were not far behind in terms of years. Most models were designed and patented post 1900, and companies other than North Brothers joined in around 1920.
Over the years Millers Falls not only manufactured their own models, but also manufactured spiral screwdrivers for other companies like "Craftsman" and these models usually only slightly different, were marked with the Craftsman brand name.
Generally "A" is the earlier version with the wooden handle, generally they also don't have the white triangular design printed on the handle, Stanley produced early"A"s at several different factories so there may be slight differences in size and fitment of bits, most early "A"s also were marked as to what model of Yankee they are, they are stamped where the slide switch for backwards and forwards is, the early A's were imperial internal measurements and the chucks are very slightly smaller internally. i.e. the 131A takes 5/16" = 0.3125" bits, and the newer 8mm bits are 0.3150".
Generally "B" is the newer version with a plastic handle, although toward the end of the production they fitted wooden handles, the handle should be marked with the Yankee triangle as mentioned above. These generally are not marked with the type of Yankee they are 131b, 130b etc., they would be stamped where the slide switch for backwards and forwards is situated, Later B's were made in the United Kingdom, West Germany, and the last batches were made in Japan, the B's were metric internal measurements and the chucks are very slightly bigger internally, You may also find that the helix has been machined with flats, whereas A's have a more smooth machined finish to its helix.
Made before 2002 = 712mm long Made after 2002 = 672mm long 131A or B takes 8mm diameter bits
508mm long 130A or B takes 7mm diameter bits
343mm long 135A or B takes 5.5mm diameter bits
133B & 233B
263mm long Both take the same bits as 135 e.g. 5.5mm diameter bits
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Screwdrivers.|
- Specification for screwdrivers and screwdriver accessories, BSI British Standards, doi:10.3403/00317996
- "Tools of Yesteryear - Stanley Yankee Pump Action Screwdriver". Woodworkers Institute. Retrieved 2019-04-08.
- Antiques, Great Expectations. "Welcome to Great Expectations Antiques & Long Arm Quilting Service". Great Expectations Antiques. Retrieved 2019-04-09.