In this video of "Breaking Bad", beginning at 0:21, Mike uses what looks like a Phillips screwdriver, but presses the tool to turn the screw. I always wanted one of these; what's the name of this type of tool?

  • 3
    That's a "yankee". en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yankee_screwdriver
    – Hot Licks
    Jul 26, 2021 at 17:30
  • 1
    @HotLicks other countries, other names: ebay.co.uk/itm/…
    – Solar Mike
    Jul 26, 2021 at 17:43
  • 1
    @MonkeyZeus While I don't have one of these myself, I can see the use in many cases. You're right that it would be nearly useless for screwing in wood screws the first time. But for existing wood screws, for machine screws (into existing holes, of course), as a nutdriver, etc. it could work quite well. Jul 26, 2021 at 18:10
  • 2
    @manassehkatz-Moving2Codidact I'm sure it works fine when all the stars align but given the amount of clearance you need to use it effectively I see it as a "solution in search of a problem" compared to modern tools.
    – MonkeyZeus
    Jul 26, 2021 at 18:24
  • 4
    Elwood Blues also uses one in "Blues Brothers": youtu.be/5AZQox85JLI?t=147
    – jwh20
    Jul 27, 2021 at 11:49

2 Answers 2


Also known as a spiral ratchet screwdriver.

An old design, used by professionals and amazingly still available.

One advantage is it has no batteries to go flat and no waiting for it to charge!!


That is a push pull ratchet screwdriver. It has a spiral shaft mechanism that turns the push/pull into rotary motion.

This would be a relatively bad choice for any new holes (e.g., screw into wood where there is no existing hole), because it could easily slip. But I see two good uses for it (besides the "really cool movie use", of course):

  • Arthritis or similar problems - Turning a screwdriver can be hard on the fingers and the wrist. Pushing is much easier. For some people, this could make the difference between doing the job themselves pain-free or doing in a very painful way or having to get help from someone else. Power tools are a common way around this type of problem, but they have additional costs and those tools are often much heavier, which can exacerbate the same type of physical problems.

  • Tight spaces - There are places (the movie clip is not one of those) where you have limited room to work and a screwdriver like this will help get the job done without repeatedly scraping your knuckles/pinching your fingers/etc.

  • Every wooden boat building video I watch uses one - they pre-drill holes anyway... I.e. The art of boat building - youtu.be/pjrt5UJZ7WY?t=998 Jul 27, 2021 at 5:27
  • 1
    With the right screw into softwood it will start a hole, but I wouldn't make a habit of it
    – Chris H
    Jul 27, 2021 at 12:13
  • 1
    Starting new holes just takes two hands and a bit of practice. Using the mechanism for screwdrivers is relatively new, it was originally for drills, and many models still come with drill bits, which can make starting new screw holes pretty trivial. I still use mine for electrical faceplates ( like in the video ) where they're as fast as battery-operated and never go flat, or occasionally for carpentry work where running a cord or charging a battery isn't worth the hassle. As you can see, they're pretty quick once you get the hang of it.
    – Perkins
    Jul 27, 2021 at 14:48
  • @Perkins ideally they use slightly different drill bits to those commonly sold, but I had a set of 1/4" hex pilot drills that worked nicely in my Yankee via a home-made adaptor (until some tools were stolen). Some designs make starting screws easier than others, giving you a nice rotating collar to hold with your off hand
    – Chris H
    Jul 28, 2021 at 8:41
  • You don't have to use it in that mode though. You can lock the ratchet, set it forward or backwards and just use a twisting motion which should just be as good as a solid screwdriver
    – Rodney
    Jul 28, 2021 at 11:33

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.