Tool Review: Garrett Wade Yankee Push Drill

Tool Review: Garrett Wade Yankee Push Drill


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 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, 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.

44 thoughts on “Tool Review: Garrett Wade Yankee Push Drill

  1. pete says:

    A push drill was one of the first tools I used with my father. I remember using it to hand wooden shutter/blinds. Drilling pilot holes with a small push drill. I also remember a larger one he would use that had a flat blade screwdriver. These were the original cordless screwdrivers.

    Thanks for sharing. It brings back a lot of memories.

    1. Michael Castor says:

      Hi Pete,

      Classic tools like this sure can bring back a lot of memories. Not only do I remember dad helping me to use it, I also remember him taking it away from me quite a bit. I’m not sure if it was because the push drill was his favorite tool or because I would use it to poke holes in things I shouldn’t! I suspect it was the latter.

  2. Bob Alexander says:

    I think push drills are great: small and convenient. So I bought the Garrett Wade. I’m not at all happy with it.

    With the Stanley drill, the top unscrews and gives you access to the bits. With the GW, you unscrew a nut at the bottom of the handle and the handle slides down.

    So what, you may ask, holds the handle in place when you tighten that nut? There’s a rubber O-ring there, and tightening the nut squeezes the O-ring against the shaft so that the handle won’t slide down.

    Well, that O-ring breaks after a while. When I contacted GW about my broken O-ring, they basically shrugged their shoulders and said there was nothing they could do. I tried improvising by replacing the O-ring with the small rubber bands my daughter had for her braces, but that didn’t work so well.

    So Michael, I think you’re overly optimistic when you say the GW will last as long as the Stanley. The Stanleys last for *decades*. The GW lasts for a few years of light use.

    I ended up throwing out my broken GW and buying a used Stanley on eBay. Now I’m happy again.

    1. Michael Castor says:

      Hi Bob,

      Thanks for your comment! You got me curious about this so I tore mine apart. Inside the nut there is an angled bevel that holds a metal split ring. When the nut is tightened against the handle the split ring rides up the bevel causing it to constrict against the shaft, locking it firmly into place.

      Split Ring

      The one you had must have been an early version as a rubber O-ring would be a horrible design choice for a push drill. I’m sorry you had a bad experience with Garrett Wade. This is my first experience with their tools and I’ve never dealt with their customer service department.

      I’m glad you are enjoying your classic Stanley. Although they “don’t make them like they used to,” GW seems to have addressed the issue with this version.

      I do appreciate your comment! I enjoy honest, truthful, and detailed reviews and experiences like yours.

      1. Bob Alexander says:

        Hi Michael,

        Call me Bob.

        To be honest, I was speculating about the O-ring. I never thought about what was holding the handle up until after it broke. It might have been (and in retrospect probably was) the metal ring you describe.

        So I still have no faith in the GW design.

        BTW, after my GW broke, I posted a negative review on GW’s web site. They deleted it. That’s their right, of course, but it’s more evidence that reviews on a manufacturer;s site can not be trusted.

      2. Michael Castor says:


        Sorry, I must have been looking at your last name! I edited my reply with your first name.

    2. petra4gw says:


      I’m embarrassed and a little shocked by your comments in regards to your experience with the Push Drill and Garrett Wade. We’ve sold many hundreds of the Push Drill and Bit Sets to an overwhelmingly positive response from customers. I am convinced you got a lemon. My email address is If you contact me I will be happy to send you another Push Drill free of charge. That is what should have occurred when you first contacted us, and if you’re willing to give the Push Drill another try, I’ll check one out personally and send it to you straight away.

      I’m the person at Garrett Wade in charge of customer reviews. If you’re review was deleted, it was probably my decision, and I am sorry. That’s done only rarely for very specific reasons. It is not our policy or my practice to deny posting negative reviews or reviews that are critical of GW customer service. On the contrary, negative reviews and comments can be just as helpful to our customers and our company. If nothing else, they legitimize the overwhelming majority of positive reviews. We post them. I intend to review my files and find out what happened with yours.

      Finally, Bob, despite your frustration, I hope you take me up on my offer of a free Push Drill and I hope you give Garrett Wade another try.

      All the best,


      1. Michael Castor says:

        This is what I call absolutely great customer service! Thank you Petra and Garrett Wade for standing by your products and helping Bob out. You’ve earned my respect!

        1. Paul says:

          Gotta say that this series of communications between you, Bob and Petra demonstrated an amazing use of the internet to get a problem resolved. Petra, you deserve a lot of credit for jumping in, owning the issue, and proposing the perfect fix. Hope your boss gives you a raise for your customer-oriented approach. Way to go!
          That said, I own one of these push drills, too. I purchased it new, a couple of years ago, I’d guess. It looks exactly (and I mean exactly) like the picture of the GW drill Michael posted above, and opens to get at the bits in an identical way, but there is one small exception: it says “Stanley Yankee 04-043″on the shaft, and “Garrett Wade” is nowhere in evidence. Did Stanley start making these again, copying the GW design?

          1. Tom Cap says:

            The Stanley 03-043 was produced until about 1998. It’s identical to the last version of the No.41; basically, the model number was changed to fit Stanley’s revised numbering scheme.

          2. petra4gw says:

            Thanks for the kind words, Paul. I’ll be sure to pass along your recommendation.
            Stanley has not, to the best of my knowledge, resumed production of the Push Drill. There’s plenty Stanley Push Drills still around and in fine working order, which is one of reasons GW offers the Set of 8 Drill Bits. Our bits fit most Stanley models including yours. (I’ve heard of some really old models for which this is not true).

            All the best,

          3. Tom Cap says:

            All Yankee push drills ever sold, either by Stanley or North Brothers before them use the Yankee-type bits. The bits sold by GW are the same type and should fit all of those tools from 1897 onwards. The “old-style” bits with the cruciform shank do not interchange with the Yankee type bits. These were last produced by Millers Falls around 1968. Some of those older push drills that use the cruciform bit are Goodell-Pratt, Johnson & Tainter and a few Millers Falls and Craftsman models.

      2. petra4gw says:


        I believe I found your review from 2010. There is nothing in it that should have prevented us from posting it. In fact, it’s very well written as reviews go. It read:

        The way the handle is opened and closed, to access the drill bits, is much worse than the old Stanley push drill. In the old model, the handle had a cap that screwed on and off. I have a 50+ year old push drill with that design and it still works great. I also have the Garrett-Wade drill, a few years old. It has a nut around the shaft that screws into the bottom of the handle. An O-ring provides friction to hold the handle closed. But that O-ring gets subjected to a lot of rubbing when you’re drilling. My O-ring broke, so the handle doesn’t stay closed and it won’t hold the drill bits. It’s impossible to replace that O-ring. Very dumb design. I’m replacing my G-W push drill with a used one from eBay with the old, better design.

        We posted it today, but we’re not able to change it’s date so it’s pretty far back in the reviews. If you would like to submit it again, I’ll post it.


      3. Bob Alexander says:

        I’d like to publicly thank Petra for his responses here and for posting (somewhat belatedly) my negative review of the push drill on GW’s website.

        I don’t plan to re-submit my negative review. I’m not pursuing a vendetta here and it’s certainly possible that I got a lemon that is not representative of most people’s experiences with the drill, or that there were manufacturing problems years ago that are no longer relevant.

        That said, I still believe that the GW push drill’s design creates a possibility of failure that did not exist in the Stanley design. But I haven’t heard the other side of the story. Whoever designed the GW drill was undoubtedly familiar with the Stanley design and had a reason for believing that the GW design was better. Maybe he was aware of problems in the Stanley design that I’m not aware of. I’m an engineer and I like to think that engineers have good reasons for what they do.

        In any case, I have sent Petra an e-mail taking him up on his kind offer to send me a replacement drill.

        – Bob

        1. petra4gw says:

          Thank you, Bob, for your gracious post. I’m happy you decided to take another look at teh Push Drill and I look forward to receiving your email. Just one thing… I’m a girl.



  3. G Scott Lyman says:

    I’m a recently retired phone guy; I carried one of these in my tool belt for over 30 years. Happy to know where I can get new bits!

    1. Michael Castor says:

      I got an extra set that I’m going to give to my dad as payment for letting me borrow his drill for the review. He’s going to be thrilled!

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  5. Drew Marold says:

    I have that GW push drill and love it. Had it for several years now, and use it all the time without a single problem. It really can’t be beat for drilling pilot holes. It’s unfortunate that Bob had a problem with his, but I don’t think it’s indicative of the quality of GW tools. I have several things from them and they’ve all been great.

  6. Ross Hershberger says:

    This looks like great fun. There’s no such thing as too many devices for making holes. I have a few questions:
    1) It looks like it takes a proprietary bit shaped like a pointed reamer. Are these bits widely available?
    2) Is it effective on soft plastics and materials other than wood? It would be nice to have a simple tool for making holes in sheet metal.
    3) What bit sizes are included or available?

    1. Michael Castor says:

      Hello Ross,

      1. I don’t think it is a proprietary bit but it is specialized to cut in both directions and is notched especially to work in the chuck (so regular drill bits won’t work.) A quick search for “Stanley Yankee Drill Bits” yields several suppliers including Garret Wade and several sellers on Ebay. Finding replacement bits does not seem to be an issue. Garret Wade also sells 3-packs of the smallest, most commonly broken bit sizes.

      2. I would say that it will work fine in most plastics. Metal, however, would be a different story. The bits seem to be made of steel and would not last long in sheet metal. I can’t seem to find any Yankee bits online that are made for metals. I did find a 1/4 in chuck adapter to allow you to use your own drill bits ( that should allow you to work with sheet metal.

      3. The bit sizes included and available as replacements are 1/16, 5/64, 3/32, 7/64, 1/8, 9/64, 5/32, and 11/64.

      1. Ross Hershberger says:

        Thanks for the info, Michael. I did some digging and found sources for replacement bits. I see some versions of this tool came with spiral fluted bits as well as the straight fluted ones yours has. That 1/4″ chuck adapter is interesting. It would allow you to use specialty bits like a countersink to clean up a hole.
        This drill is related to the Yankee Screwdriver, which takes driver bits and spins clockwise on the downstroke, ratcheting on the backstroke.

      2. Tom Cap says:

        Re: 1) Michael Castor’s informational comment, “Garrett Wade also sells 3-packs of the smallest, most commonly broken bit sizes.” The three smallest sizes of Yankee bits are less likely to break if you limit the push stroke to about halfway down or less. This makes drilling a small hole half as quick, but slows you down quite a lot less than a broken bit.

      3. Tom Cap says:

        Re: 2) Michael Castor’s informational comment above: Push drill bits (traditionally/archaically called drill points) are made from hardened medium-high carbon steel. When sharp, they will cut most soft metals including soft steels. Although the bits are hard enough to cut soft metals, a push drill’s spring is calibrated for drilling wood. It does not allow enough thrust to drill most metals effectively, especially considering the point geometry of push drill bits is not optimized for minimum thrust force. Push drill points are designed not to sink so fast into the wood that they get stuck and tool can’t turn them. Push drills really are best used to drill blind holes into wood, such as pilot holes for screws. In general, the biggest problem with push drill bits is that so many old bits have been re-sharpened asymmetrically and/or with the wrong point and clearance angles that they don’t cut at all. It’s well worth the small effort to learn to re-sharpen your own bits with a hard, fine oilstone or small diamond file or hone.

  7. Stuart says:

    My dad (and uncle, grand father, and great-grandfather) were glaziers and always loved playing with their screw-driver version of this. I was fascinated that you could “push” and it would “spin”. And I always admired how fast and precise my dad was with it. This one brought back some memories of my in the “shop” as a kid!

  8. G Scott Lyman says:

    I should add, that I wore this in my tool belt rain or shine, and the only thing I needed to do to keep it working was to give it a shot or two of WD40 a couple times during the yearly rainy season. I was typically using this to drill pilot holes in sheet rock or baseboard, but over the years I’ve used it on old redwood foundations, stucco (that’ll kill a drill bit fast), plywood, and various plastics. The only material that ever made me shake my head and reach for my cordless was melamine…

  9. Brian Doom (@briandoom) says:

    I remember seeing Elwood Blues use this in The Blues Brothers to sabotage an elevator. I always assumed it was some kind of custom tool. Thanks!

  10. Ross Hershberger says:

    In the movie Brazil rogue ductwork repairman Harry Tuttle (Robert De Niro) uses a Yankee screwdriver to whip a cover panel off of a HVAC unit to perform a forbidden repair. Apparently De Niro is a DIY-er and the screwdriver used was his own.

  11. hexmonkey says:

    John Cusack’s character in Grosse Point Blank also used a push-drill-like device to quickly remove a heating vent/return to hide his assassin’s tools.

  12. petra4gw says:

    I think you guys are confusing the Yankee Push Drill with the Yankee Screwdriver, another Stanley favorite no longer made by them. If Bobby D and Elwood were removing vents panels, it was most likely the screwdriver. Garrett Wade sells Yankee style screwdrivers from Schroder of Germany. They come with a hex bit chuck.


    1. Ross Hershberger says:

      I thought my comment made the distinction clearly:
      “This drill is related to the Yankee Screwdriver, which takes driver bits and spins clockwise on the downstroke, ratcheting on the backstroke.”

      1. petra4gw says:

        You’re right, you did say “screwdriver”, Ross. You made the distinction very well, in fact. Thanks.

  13. balloondoggle says:

    I had a drill like this as a kid and will get one for my kids as they develop an interest. I also have a Yankee screwdriver that I bought for the repetitive drilling of pilot holes in a plywood sailboat I intend to build. Someday.

  14. jp says:

    Glad I’m not the only one who still uses both the Yankee drill and Yankee screwdriver. I too got and learned to use these tools while working for my father, an electrician and contractor. He taught me a great many things and I still have many of the tools he gave me.

  15. Tom Cap says:

    The drill points (bits) of push drills cut CW only. They do not cut in both directions. With the exception of the Yankee No.40 push drill which incorporates a ratchet mechanism, all push drills simply rotate the drilling shaft and bit CCW on the return stroke to reset the tool for the next push and CW rotation. The bit does not cut on the return stroke; instead it just rubs. The earliest push drills in the 1850s or 1860s may have used bi-directional drill points, like those points used with the many varieties of bow drill that were common in that era. The “modern” push drills like the Yankee products have always cut in the CW direction only.

  16. petra4gw says:

    My boss, Garry, asked me to post this note regarding the early development of the two-flute bits for the Garrett Wade Push Drill.


    It’s great to see that our effort to bring this iconic hand tool back to the market has been so well appreciated. However, I thought it worth mentioning one design detail that perhaps readers would find interesting.

    When we were researching the history of the tool, we discovered that the original design specified two-flute cutters as bits, not the twist drill bit that the tool came with in its later days. Although we were unable to find out exactly when that switch-over took place (it could have been many decades ago), it was obvious to us that the two-flute design was infinitely superior, as it cleaned chips so much more reliably and was just as fast in penetration.

    The switch took place, we suspect, because of the lower cost of the twist drill option once bit makers perfected it in mass production. Nevertheless, we determined to revert to the original two-flute bit for the reasons mentioned above, because we felt users should get the best we could offer. It proved a bit of a challenge because of the tricky issues of hardness control in the tiniest sizes, but we got it all solved.


    Garry Chinn
    Garrett Wade Co.
    President and Founder

  17. Walter says:

    Hie Petra, I want to buy a Garret Wade push drill.Can i buy it in Europe? If not can you send it to Belgium but on a more economical way ( between 10 and 30 working days) On your online shop you propose only the very expensive DHL.
    Best regards
    Walter Eerdekens

    1. petra4gw says:

      Hi Walter,
      Email our Customer Service manager directly at Orin’s a great guy, I spoke to him this morning and he’ll try to hook you up. Copy me at so I can follow up.


      1. Walter says:

        Hie Petra. Thanks for your help.On 09/06/2012 I ve bought a new old 03 043 with 8 drill points on Ebay ( USA ) , for 93,49 $.Made in USA.I ve received it today.It works great.
        Just to inform you. I APPRECIATE very much your help.
        Best regards

  18. MAKE | Best of 2012: Toolsday says:

    […] Garrett Wade Yankee Push Drill […]

  19. MaineGeezer says:

    A friend of mine has an original North Brothers drill. It still works perfectly well and sees regular use in his shop.

  20. David says:

    I have been using the cordless screwdriver. I am more than impressed with the power this little screwdriver has.

  21. Michael Peace says:

    Picked one up at a yard sale today wasn’t sure what it was but I figured for $1.00 I couldn’t go wrong however it only came with two bits.

  22. Fingloi Delos reyes says:

    your dad helped you to drill your first hole? hahaha

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I am the Evangelist for the Maker Shed. It seems that there is no limit to my making interests. I'm a tinkerer at heart and have a passion for solving problems and figuring out how things work. When not working for Make I can be found falling off my unicycle, running in adverse weather conditions, skiing down the nearest hill, restoring vintage motorcycles, or working on my car.

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