Is there anything I can't do with my bit and brace that you can do with...

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Forum topic by basswood posted 02-19-2014 07:31 PM 2461 views 0 times favorited 28 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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261 posts in 1615 days

02-19-2014 07:31 PM

...just wondering out loud… I imagine that most who ordinarily prefer hand tools for woodworking still reach for the new variety of cordless driver/drills and impacts before they reach for the original cordless drill/drivers—the brace and bit or yankee screwdrivers. Is this true?

Are there tasks the old tools excel at?

I used to keep a yankee drill in my tool box, but stopped doing that about 15 years or so ago, when the local hardware stopped carrying replacement bits for it.


28 replies so far

View waho6o9's profile


8187 posts in 2571 days

#1 posted 02-19-2014 07:35 PM

View DrDirt's profile


4424 posts in 3737 days

#2 posted 02-19-2014 10:39 PM

I sweat more when using hand tools… but that is about it.

many electricians have gone from the yankee screwdriver to this – - instead of a cordless, to avoid cracking faceplates.

-- “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Mark Twain

View runswithscissors's profile


2750 posts in 2020 days

#3 posted 02-19-2014 11:02 PM

A brace with a screwdriver bit is a very powerful driver, as long as you can keep the bit from jumping the slot.

-- I admit to being an adrenaline junky; fortunately, I'm very easily frightened

View Dallas's profile


3599 posts in 2482 days

#4 posted 02-19-2014 11:58 PM

I can change batteries.

As soon as I find some bits I’ll go back to using my yankee drill in the shop. I do need to get my brace and bit out and start using them again, I just haven’t felt like getting out the box of bits out that I bought at the flea market to check for sharpness and wear.

-- Improvise.... Adapt...... Overcome!

View bigblockyeti's profile


5112 posts in 1715 days

#5 posted 02-20-2014 12:09 AM

I just received my first brace from a fellow jock not too long ago. While technology allows us to do many things that couldn’t or would have been very difficult in the past, I find my self reaching for the brace more and more. It has more to do with honing skill than getting the job done as fast as possible. The speed thing I already have a pretty good handle on, old school skill is what I’m concentrating more on now. I think my next tool is going to be an adze.

View carver1942's profile


93 posts in 1699 days

#6 posted 02-20-2014 12:09 AM

You might not be able to drill a 1 1/2 inch hole thru a 12 inch thick piece of Elm without getting a heart attach. :-)
regards Ed

View WayneC's profile


13754 posts in 4092 days

#7 posted 02-20-2014 12:43 AM

I like the additional control you get with a hand drill and/or brace.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View GOOD LUCK TO ALL's profile


418 posts in 1722 days

#8 posted 02-20-2014 12:47 AM

Can you drive a 2 1/2” screw into a 2” backrail of a cabinet while holding the cabinet to the wall with one hand?

View Jim Baldwin's profile

Jim Baldwin

56 posts in 2353 days

#9 posted 02-20-2014 05:19 AM

Of course I have cordless hand tools like everyone else but unless you use them everyday they’re dead or dying the moment you reach for them. Of course it might help if I replaced the battery.

My old Yankee however is calling me from the bottom of the tool chest somewhere.

-- Jim Baldwin/

View The Box Whisperer's profile

The Box Whisperer

678 posts in 2065 days

#10 posted 02-20-2014 05:31 AM

hand tools will always have their place, and for me its the finer furniture, etc, things like that. Setting up my shop, I drilled hundreds of pocket holes. hundreds, in a day or 2. I’m not saying it couldn’t be done as per the original question, but in an example like mine, why would you want to?

-- "despite you best efforts and your confidence that your smarter and faster than a saw blade at 10k rpm…. your not …." - Charles Neil

View jdh122's profile


1008 posts in 2812 days

#11 posted 02-20-2014 11:41 AM

Like Wayne says, the main advantage of a brace is the control. If you need to drill an angled hole you can set up a square and a bevel and follow it pretty closely. And with a screwtip auger bit you can count the number of turns and get the exact same depth every time. I also have an eggbeater drill and use it sometimes, but mostly just for the fun of it, whereas I do think that the brace and bit offer real advantages in some situations over power drills.
Never used a Yankee drill, but now that I’ve seen pictures of them I’ll have to start looking for one at the flea markets.

-- Jeremy, in the Acadian forests

View 12strings's profile


434 posts in 2379 days

#12 posted 02-20-2014 12:48 PM

The one-handed thing is a big advantage of the powered drill…and in my experience, my hand drill is not great at driving phillips screws once they get tight, the bit keeps jumping out. I can apply more downward pressure when using a powered drill. So for me…

-Pocket holes: cordless drill
-Small holes: cordless drill, unless I just want to say I used the hand drill.
-driving screws: cordless drill, or simple screwdriver
-Large holes (1/4” and bigger): Brace & Bit

-- I'm strictly hand-tool only...unless the power tool is faster and easier!

View basswood's profile


261 posts in 1615 days

#13 posted 02-20-2014 02:51 PM

It seems that of all the old school woodworking hand tools (planes, saws, etc.) The Brace and Bit is more likely to be collecting dust or on display (rather than used). They are fun to use and not too difficult to master, so this surprises me, to some extent. For production, electric drills, corded or battery powered, are hard to beat. The one-handed use is a big benefit too.

When I started in this business, corded drills had taken over, but we still used the brace and bit and Yankee screwdrivers in some situations. My first cordless drill was the venerable 9.6 volt Makita. Someone stole it out of my work van, but did not get the charger, so a lot of good it did them (now days they could find a charger on CL, but not back then).

The new Lithium batteries hold a charge for a long time between uses, so even that disadvantage has gone away. The clutch settings also provide more control than electric drills used to have, but the feed back between the wood and user is more direct with a brace or Yankee.

I brought this up, because people try to compare new and older tools and their advantages pretty often here.

Sometimes we over-romanticize the past. Most woodworkers 100 years ago would quickly adopt the newest technology. We have the benefit of both the old tools and the new, if we know when and how to use them.


View basswood's profile


261 posts in 1615 days

#14 posted 02-20-2014 02:59 PM


That is precisely what the phillips screw was designed for. When the screw is set, the driver automatically cams out of the head, preventing the threads from stripping out the wood.

What we hate most about Phillips screws is what they were designed to do. I appreciate what you are saying though.

Here is a fun history of the screw:


View Tim's profile


3803 posts in 1956 days

#15 posted 02-20-2014 08:00 PM

“Sometimes we over-romanticize the past. Most woodworkers 100 years ago would quickly adopt the newest technology. We have the benefit of both the old tools and the new, if we know when and how to use them.”

If you’re in a production environment or really just need to get something done ASAP, then power tools are usually going to be more efficient and most woodworkers 100 years ago were in production so indeed would have jumped on anything that would make them more efficient. In fact they did and now most people are doing something else for work.

Many of us now are hobbyists though that can choose how we work and choose to enjoy the process. If you enjoy a power tool have at it, but hand tools have a lot of advantages if production speed isn’t your only objective.

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