Do you remember the first tool you used? For me, it was a screwdriver I stuck in the electric socket (I don’t recommend that.) The first tool I used for its intended purpose though was my father’s Stanley No. 45 Yankee Drill. I vividly remember him helping me to drill my first hole using it. For those that don’t know, a Yankee drill it a mechanical tool that is powered by you; you put in the bit, grasp the handle, push down, and the shaft rotates clockwise spinning the drill bit. Release the pressure and an internal spring pushes the handle back up, rotating the shaft in the opposite direction returning it to its original state. It’s simple, effective, and perfect for pilot holes, light drilling jobs, and tight spaces where you can’t fit your cordless drill. I’ve had my eye on dad’s Yankee drill for quite a while so when the opportunity arose to to review Garrett Wade’s reproduction, I leapt at the chance.
Around 10 years ago Stanley discontinued manufacture of the Yankee drill due to the popularity of battery powered cordless drills. Fortunately, Garrett Wade stepped into fill the void in the market releasing their own version. The first thing you’ll notice is that while both drills are mechanically similar and have bit storage in the handle, they look quite different. That is because the GW version is modeled after the original Yankee drill which was made first by the North Bros. and later by Stanley. The Garrett Wade is said to be an identical reproduction of the original. The Stanley No. 45 I borrowed from dad is a later revision of the original.
The GW version is every bit as hefty as the Stanley. Both have a solid, sturdy feel in your hand as a quality tool should. The way you access the bit storage on each is different. The Stanley uses a simple, twist off cap while the GW requires you to loosen a collar and slide the handle down to access the bits. I’m assuming this design was chosen because that’s the how the original was. It also ensures that you’ll never lose the cap. The bits hidden inside are sharpened so they they cut on both the push and pull strokes making for fast, efficient drilling. The Garrett Wade bits are exactly the same as the originals which is great news for owners of Stanleys. You can purchase a full set of replacement sets at GarrettWade.com for $24.95
The action on the GW version is incredibly smooth, much more so than the Stanley. I’m sure years of use the Stanley has received attributes to this. The GW also has a slightly lighter spring tension which I found makes it much easier to drill holes. The Stanley would occasionally bind in the piece of 2×4 I was testing with but the GW experienced no binding at all (I used the same bit in each for consistency.)
The chuck on each tool is mostly identical. Pulling the chuck out loosens a captive ball bearing allowing you to insert a bit. Releasing the chuck tightens the ball bearing against a notch in the bit, locking it into place. The Stanley locked the bits in very tightly and allowed only slight rotational play to occur and only a slight amount of side to side “wobble” (or runout in CNC speak) despite it’s age. When a bit is chucked into the Garrett Wade there is about 45° of rotational play between the chuck and the bit and there is considerably more “wobble.” It didn’t seem to effect the functionality in the least and it’s possible that the 45° is present to add some “snap” when the rotation of the tool changes direction to reduce binding. I would appreciate less wobble but it’s not enough to make me question the quality of the tool.
Overall, I do like the Garrett Wade Yankee Drill. It is a high quality, well made product. My only gripes are the bit wobble and the price. At nearly $70 at GarrettWade.com, I’m not going to encourage everyone to go out and buy this one. However, a Yankee drill is a great tool that I think every maker should have in their toolbox. A quick search of online auction sites brought up several good (original) examples for less than half of the cost of this unit. Also, since Yankee drills have been in production for so long, chances are you have a relative or friend that might be willing to part ways with one that’s collecting dust in their toolbox.
Having said that, I fully expect this drill to hold up as well as dad’s Stanley and one day, I hope to teach my kids how to use it like my dad taught me.