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When I was a boy, my grandfather was the handyman in the family. Every time he visited, he’d prompt my folks to busy his restless hands with a list of projects, from rough to refined, minute to major. If not given a list, he’d just clip on his toolbelt and go hunt for things to do. I followed him around with fierce devotion, and helped him build, fix, and finish things. Not only did this teach me how things fit together (and how to fit those things together) but it inspired me to treat my folks’ house with greater respect—a certain pride of ownership born, perhaps, from making positive improvements there.

Back then my folks didn’t have the luxury of a power drill, much less the cordless drivers we nowadays take for granted. Grandpa taught me to do everything by hand. Much as every screw, raked first over the Ivory soap bar, was driven with a plain old manual screwdriver, so every new hole (after measuring twice and marking once, of course) was carefully drilled by hand. We had two manual drills to choose from: a drill brace, which had a crankshaft-like handle topped by a pommel in-line with the chuck; and a hand drill (like the Schröder), which Grandpa called “the eggbeater.”

Usually, the brace was reserved for heavy jobs and for Grandpa’s big hands; the eggbeater was for smaller work and was a better fit for my young grasp. Both required the operator’s constant attention to balance the cranking hand’s torque with the stabilizing force of the positioning hand. It took me a lot of practice doing rough work before Grandpa would let me try finish work. We were in no hurry, and we liked it.

That was a very long time ago. Since Grandpa’s passing, I had not touched a hand drill until beginning this review. But when I first picked up the Schröder, it felt like shaking hands with a long-lost old friend. If I’d been blindfolded, I might have sworn the Schröder was Grandpa’s well-maintained vintage tool. It looks shiny and new, but the solid construction and tight engineering hark back to the days when tools weren’t considered disposable.

I picked up a pair of these German-made drills from Garrett Wade: the 9″ Mini Hand Drill ($25.50) and the 12″ Larger Hand Drill ($46.50), which has an additional wood knob opposite the crank handle. Since the Mini reminds me more of the old eggbeater, I’m using that.

This drill is a simple, solid tool I could see having for a very long time. The chuck’s three jaws close snugly around up to 1/4″ bit (or 3/8″ for the Larger model) with a firm but easy twist. Turning the crank handle spins a geared wheel against the bevel gear on the chuck’s rotary shaft, and the bit whirs with a smooth and satisfying action and no noticeable play.

I had trouble at first remembering how to keep it plumb as I drill. I’m right-handed, but it didn’t feel wrong held either way. I found I preferred holding its top handle in my left hand and turning the crank with my right. It took a few tries to sink a hole I was proud of, but a long dormant sense memory stepped up and soon I was drilling away with some of my old confidence. A little while longer at it and I’m sure I’d have made the old man proud.

Gregory Hayes

Gregory Hayes is a helpful being who has lots of fun. He makes most of his living as a photographer and writer, and occasionally tweets @mootpointblank.


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