The best hand drills ever made came out of the Millers
Falls factory in the first half of the 20th century.
While many people used these drills for boring holes in
metal, the tools proved remarkably adept at becoming the
first generation of cordless drills for woodworking.
These drills are today called eggbeater drills because
of the way the drive mechanism works. The main gear
turns either one or two pinions on the tool’s shaft to
turn the chuck backward or forward , just like an old
My favorite eggbeater drills are the Nos. 2, 2A and 5
made by Millers Falls. These drills were made to an
astonishingly high degree of precision, and are easily
comparable to tools manufactured today by Lie-Nielsen
Toolworks, Veritas, Wenzloff & Sons, Adria or Gramercy.
The eggbeater drills are fairly common at flea markets,
but they are also usually in dogmeat shape. The gears
are rusted. The bearings are gummed up. The wood knobs
are dried out and cracked. The frames have lost all
But now Wiktor Kuc, the owner of WKTools.com and
WKFineTools.com, is restoring and selling these drills
on his website and on eBay. He recently sent me a
Millers Falls No. 5 that he has restored, and I am just
stunned by the quality of the restoration.
This tool looks better than any example of a Millers
Falls I’ve ever seen. It looks good no matter how close
you examine it. Inside the chuck. At the seam between
the ferrule and the handle. Where the pinions mesh with
the main gear.
Kuc says he’s been restoring these kinds of drills for a
year. He’s been learning the best way to disassemble and
clean the tools, how to apply principles from jewelers
to polish the metalwork, and how to deal with the
“I started doing this for myself,” Kuc says. “I love to
restore old tools. I read Herb Keane’s book ('Restoring
Antique Tools’) and it blew my roof off. I had to learn
to do that.”
Since he started restoring drills (and some braces),
Kuc’s resurrected more than 130 Millers Falls drills, 30
Goodell-Pratt drills and a number of braces.
He takes all the drills apart as much as possible,
strips them clean and then rebuilds them so they look
and work perfectly. The ones he can restore to their
full glory Kuc sells on his web site after four to five
coats of paint and refinishing everything. The drills
that he cannot get perfect he sells on eBay at a reduced
price, though they are functionally perfect.
The perfect drills cost between $60 and $110, depending
on their rarity. On eBay, the current crop of drills
cost between $50 and $90. Are they worth it? Absolutely.
If you want a cordless drill that will never run out of
juice (until you run out of juice) an eggbeater like
this is ideal for any toolbox.
These tools have small chucks that are great for
furniture-scale twists and brad-point bits. I use hand
drills all the time when making pilot holes, especially
for screws or nails.
And one more thing: If you already have a Millers Falls
drill, Kuc also sells reproduction parts for these
drills that are usually missing, such as the side knobs
and the bits that are stored in the handles.
Millers Falls drills are very common, so if you don’t
want a restored one you’ll be able to find them at
garage sales, flea markets and eBay (they are not scarce
by any measure). But if you want the best, a tool that
looks as good as it works, check out Kuc’s selection.
Highly recommended by me (and banned by
April 10, 2008
Chris is a contributing editor to Popular Woodworking
Magazine and the publisher at
Art Press. He's a hand-tool enthusiast (though he
uses power tools, too).
[This article is republished from Popular Woodworking