Giving a toddler an open-geared eggbeater hand drill is risky business because the gears can pinch their fingers and ultimately scare them away from woodworking tools for a while. Therefore, the logical solution is an enclosed-gear drill. Many companies used to make them (see the Stanley Continental No748A, and Stanley 610 for example) but since practically almost all of our drilling industry went corded then electric cordless, the number of makers and the variety of hand-operated tools has dwindled drastically.
I remember a few years ago seeing a German-made enclosed-gear hand drill in the catalog of a North American hand-tool vendor. The drill was made by Schroder and seemed to be robust. It had two transmission settings: low gear for bits with a larger diameter and high speed for smaller bits. Its chuck’s capacity was 1/2” which was very impressive given that most “eggbeater” style drills are limited to 3/8” bits.
As I began contemplating buying such a drill for both Asher and me, I visited that catalog again and was disappointed to discover that the drill was no longer listed. I resumed my online search and located two stores that list it, but they displayed the ominous “out of stock.” So I assumed the worst – that company stopped making the drill. More searches revealed a clone drill made in India, but I couldn’t find any store in the U.S. or in Canada that carried it. The only avenue I could think of was eBay.
After a short search, I was lucky to find a used drill at half the price of a new one, and it even came in its original box. Thrilled to try it out, I inserted a 3/8” bit into the chuck and gave the crank handle a spin. The outcome was OK, but not great. The high-speed gear seemed stiff while the low gear was fine. So to find out what was wrong with the drill, I opened the gearbox caps and probed the mechanism.
The picture that unfolded was unpleasant – caked-up grease in a spectrum of colors that one finds in toddler’s diaper or on the paint pallet of an impressionist artist. The original grease disintegrated into black and hard clay, brown and stiff goo and soft and runny honey-like oil. I decided to overhaul the gearbox in hopes of making things run smoother. So I picked up a painter’s spatula, an old toothbrush, a micro brush, toothpicks, Q-tips and lint-free cotton rags.
First, I scraped up as much of the old grease as I could with the spatula. Then I grabbed the micro brush and got out all the crud between the gear teeth. In spots where stubborn black strands of metal and grease refused to let go, I wetted the area with mineral spirits and scrubbed again. As you can see in the pictures below this was a tedious job. I used the Q-tips only on wide surfaces to avoid the fibers from catching in the gears.
Once the gearbox was pretty clean of old grease, I smeared a generous amount of new synthetic grease on all areas of the gears, and dropped some oil on the the gear axle bearings. Then I closed the box.
Then I turned to the ball bearing around the shaft behind the drill’s chuck.
I pushed out the retainer clip, lifted the cap washer above the ball bearings and, with a makeshift spatula, scraped the old grease out. Next I tucked in some new synthetic grease and recapped the bearing with the retainer ring.
The job was done – now to try the refurbished tool. It worked like a charm, smooth and fast. The effort was worth it, for sure.
After all this work, I began thinking that, although I figured out a way to give Asher a safe drill that will not hurt his extremities, our house remained unprotected. As the saying goes: If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail – meaning that once Asher starts using the drill (with a bit inside) he might soon enough get bored with the scrap pieces I provide and try drilling everywhere. This, of course, is out of the question. So how do I make his drilling experience more interesting for him but not detrimental to our floors, walls and furniture? I came up with the idea of making a drill bit lookalike that will not drill. I picked up a wooden peg and drew a candy stick spiral on it. Now when Asher turns the drill, he sees the spiral moving and gets excited.
We shall see how long this lasts before my toddler uncovers my deception and demands the real deal.
If you have kids (perhaps slightly older than is Asher) check out “Build it with Dad” by A.J. Hamler (when we reprint it, we’re changing the title to “Build it with Kids” or something along those lines). The book has 22 projects suitable for little hands and interests, with a section on teaching your kids the safe use of basic tools and techniques. — Megan Fitzpatrick