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Powerless Alternatives For the Apocalypse

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  • Powerless Alternatives For the Apocalypse

    ...or power outage. Or if you forget your batteries.

    Anyway, an effective powerless tool holds a lot of appeal for me as an alternative whether the issue is a blackout, wilderness construction, natural disaster, zombie hordes or just simply working on something in a city apartment in the wee hours without pissing off the neighbors.

    My number one favorite is my old Stanley Yankee spiral ratcheting screwdriver. I don't know why these declined in popularity but it is my most prized personal possession. If you don't know what I'm talking it's that thing they use to rapidly remove a panel in an elevator in the Blues Brothers and yes, it works that fast on shallow screws getting ~2 1/2 rotations in on every pull for the standard 12-17 inch types.

    These things have been around since the late 1800s (although maybe not the spring-loaded versions which are a must). You simply extend it like a switch blade *snikt* and push the driver into the screw. The forward motion pushes the business end of the tool back along spiral grooves causing it to turn. Most of them also double as ratchet drivers so you can get the torque needed to break a stuck screw loose and they can be set to turn in either direction or be locked.

    The old Stanley versions and all their competitors used a proprietary bit system that isn't supported by anybody today but cheap 1/4" hex adapters can be had that give them a ton of diversity and even smaller drill bits that actually work fairly well (there's Canadian outfit that sells a $5 dollar one). There is also a newer version of the whole driver with the 1/4" hex socket built in made by a german hand-tool/precision part specialist company called Schroder which I plan on checking out eventually. Schroder also makes some incredibly cool looking hand-crank drills including a heavy duty model with two speeds. You can get a cheap-o chinese version too but I wasn't blown away by its action at the store. Although maybe it just needed a little lubricating with the blood and tears of the Chinese prison or sweatshop workers that made it. Hmm yeah, no, still not big on buying Chinese. I'll buy Chinese products without first searching hard for an alternative when their schoolkids start learning about the Tienanmen Square massacre by reading about it in the classroom.

    Anyway, at 12" to 17" fully extended (it can be locked at either end but loses the push action) it's rarely lacking in reach or portability.

    As I said, the Stanley can drill but I suspect the eggbeater (crank) drills or an auger drill are much better for this as it's not as stable as I would like. Back in the day similar Yankee tools were produced separately with drilling in mind. I don't know if they're more stable or if everybody just wanted to be able to sell two proprietary bit lines. The Schroders might be more stable from what I've read of them. Their specialty would suggest a quality tool.

    In any case, the Stanley with a good hex bit collection saves me a Hell of a lot of space in my hand tool drawer and I don't expect I'll ever need or want a lower-powered battery-operated driver unless I get arthritis and even then it might be reasonably comfortable. This is one of those fun tools that will have you looking for more crap to unscrew and put holes in if you've never used one before and there are a surprising number of side-uses for an extendable metal rod that can be locked in place.

    Anyway, I don't know what else is out there but I think these things are going to turn into a hobby for me or at the very least a default gift option for anybody who needs to screw and unscrew things occasionally or even fairly frequently.
    Last edited by ErikReppen; 10-22-2008, 12:19 PM.

  • #2
    Re: Powerless Alternatives For the Apocalypse

    Get yourself a good bit brace and also a good egg beater drill. Both have been around for years but not too many people seem to remember them that well. The bit brace with proper adapter makes one heck of a nice hex head screw driver or nut driving tool.
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    • #3
      Re: Powerless Alternatives For the Apocalypse

      Check out Schroeder's 1/2" 2-speed drill. That's a good price BTW. I didn't realize Sears sold them.

      http://www.sears.com/shc/s/p_10153_12605_00934093000P

      I could definitely see a lot of versatility in a bit brace for high torque stuff.

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      • #4
        Re: Powerless Alternatives For the Apocalypse

        Originally posted by ErikReppen View Post
        Check out Schroeder's 1/2" 2-speed drill. That's a good price BTW. I didn't realize Sears sold them.

        http://www.sears.com/shc/s/p_10153_12605_00934093000P

        I could definitely see a lot of versatility in a bit brace for high torque stuff.
        A modern version of the old "Breast Plate Drill" where you cranked hard and drilled many holes.

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