Goodell-Pratt Eggbeater

I found the Goodell-Pratt number #259 (I originally thought 5 1/2B) eggbeater drill at Liberty Tools in Liberty, Maine. Liberty Tools is a galoot’s paradise where one has little choice but to spend money. This drill went for $28. We put it to use immediately at the Wooden Boat School, drilling and setting screws on the boats we were building. We quickly discovered that it’s a very versatile drill. In addition to the usual drilling action, there is a fast / slow selector that alternates gearing ratios. The fast speed is great for drilling pilot holes and most screw setting. Switch to slow when more torque is needed. Then, there’s a ratchet mechanism too. See the R I L indications on the round plate under the hand crank? R and L set ratcheting for Right or Left. The I setting locks up tight, no ratcheting. This makes the drill very handy for working in tight spaces where’s there not enough room to fully spin the crank. Quite a nice eggbeater!

Other than wiping the handle clean so it didn’t stick to my hands, the way shoes stick to the floors in movie theaters, we did no other clean up. There is a patent date of Aug 13 1885. The next patent date found on that model drill is 1905. So, this one was manufactured sometime between those two dates. (Update: the ratchet mechanism was added in the early 1920s, making the 5 1/2B into the #259. Thanks Rick.) It had a fair amount of grunge, but not bad enough to affect smooth operation. We used it at the school. I then brought it home and used it in building a workbench and the first boat. Still no clean up. (Click the picture on the right to see 100+ years of “ambiance.”)

photo of goodell-pratt eggbeater photo of eggbeater in use

Being between projects, I’m following Stephen Covey’s habit #7: Sharpen the Saw. Actually, the saw was sharpened last week. This week I refurbished the eggbeater. Here’s where the traditional collectors will howl. Instead of doing the minimal (don’t harm the patina) restoration, I stripped it down, polished, and repainted. It’s not a collector’s item. It’s “a user.” So, I’m not worried about the howls. Three coats of fresh paint went on the metal parts. a new side knob of mahogany replaces the one that was lost. A bit of red stain brought the knobs and handles into harmony before receiving three coats of Minwax Polycrylic satin finish. Polishing the bare metal parts brought back their luster. One of the compression springs inside the chuck was badly deformed. I wound a new one from the steel core of a well used guitar string. (Don’t ever throw away used guitar strings.) Lubed and reassembled, the drill runs as smoothly as one could want, and looks almost as nice as Wictor Kuc’s. Ready for another hundred years.

photo of refurbished eggbeater photo of refurbished eggbeater

Update: A discussion over at the Sawmill Creek forums has Mike asking about the speed shifter on a Millers Falls drill. Although different in how the speeds are selected, I’m guessing the internal mechanism is similar. Following are 4 pictures showing my cautious step-by-step disassembly of the shifter. It turns out to be a simple device. The internal sleeve has ears on each end and is keyed to the collet shaft. Those ears engage either one pinion or the other. The little shift wheel on the frame moves a peg that slides the sleeve to one pinion or the other.

shifter disassembly 1 goodell pratt speed shifter 2

goodell pratt speed shifter 3 goodell pratt speed shifter 4

61 Responses to “Goodell-Pratt Eggbeater”

  1. rob Says:

    Thanks for the details! Your end results are great and definitely good enough for “use”. What a great blog you have.

  2. rob Says:

    I didn’t bother painting (yet) but did the rest of the overhaul including making guitar string springs. Thanks again for all the awesome info!

  3. Bob Says:

    Good to hear your progress Rob. Enjoy your smoother running eggbeater! Once you have one that works well, it’s amazing how often it gets used.

  4. P.E. Howes Says:

    Recently came across your website, I have for sale a #5 1/2 B Goodell-Pratt hand drill. All original except middle handle(opposite crank)was replaced. Private seller. Any interest?

    P.E. Howes

  5. michael Says:

    Nice, and in good condition. I recently found #259 at a garage sale, they wanted $20 for it and I got it for $10. Over the years I have picked up several Goodall Pratt but more Millers Falls hand drills.

    Millers Falls Hand Drills

  6. Thomas Strauß Says:


    a couple of years ago i bought an old hand drill from Goodell Pratt – unfortunately without drill chuck – for a few Euros from a junk dealer in Berlin / Germany.

    It seems to be an old model – patented 1891.