Musings of Navigating The Finite remainder of life from Porchville, with the hope of a glimpse of The Infinite

Monday, September 1, 2014

Nifty Cool Tool? Perhaps.

Image Credit:

So what happens when you mate a yankee drill with a ratchet wrench?  You get yatchet wrench.  Obviously I had better remain retired and not seek employment as the creative genius in a tool advertisement agency.  So what happens when you hand a yatchet to such a creative genius?

You get the:

3/8-IN Drive Ratchet

Registered Trademark: Sears Brands LLC.

Oooooohhhh, the Sears Craftsman MACH Series 3/8-IN Drive Ratchet! I feel a tingling in my nether regions.  It sounds so much more MACHo than a yatchet.  Poor Ernst Mach, once again his name is misused on a product that he has absolutely nothing to do with--he died 98 years ago.   Other examples of this misuse are the Mustang Mach 1, an arguably fast car, and the Gillette MACH3 razor, a device for shaving that apparently can reach velocities of 3 times the speed of sound.  

Ernst Mach 1838-1916
Obviously had little use for the
Gillette Mach3.
Image Credit: Wikipedia
Ernst Mach was an Austrian physicist that studied the properties of sound in regards to projectile physics.  He discovered the shock wave (sonic boom) produced when a projectile exceeds the speed of sound.  Mach number is a ratio of an object's speed to the speed of sound.  As such, the Mustang Mach 1 is patently false advertising.  Let's give the Mach 1 the benefit of the doubt and say that it can go 200 mph.  The speed of sound in dry air at 68 degrees F at sea level is 767 mph.  So our 200 mph hour Mustang is actually a Mach 0.261 (200 / 767).  Our Gillette Mach3 has to be traveling at 2301 mph (3 X 767).  How this relates to shaving, I have no idea.  But I think in both cases that they just forgot to add the o turning mach into macho.  BTW (according to the Wikipedia article) take the same razor, change the color of the plastic and packaging and call it Venus, and you can sell it to women. 

So getting back to our yatchet, errrr MACH Series 3/8-IN Drive Ratchet, it is so named because it is fast, 16 times as efficient as their traditional ratchet.  This seems to be based on the 72 teeth resulting in a 5 degree "arch" (I think they meant arc).  So I looked at their run of the mill 3/8 ratchet that is priced at 1/3 the cost and it had 36 teeth resulting in a 10 degree arc.  Smaller arcs allow wrenches of the same length to ratchet in tighter quarters.  So how do we get a 16 X (a whopping 1600%) improvement in efficiency when the handle is actually longer than a standard ratchet, and only has twice the number of teeth?  Well it is efficiency and they haven't really defined what they mean by efficiency.  In one place they say "compared to our traditional ratchet, measuring the distance the handle travels to rotate the socket."  In the sales web page they state:

 "The 72-tooth Mach Series 3/8-Inch Drive Ratchet is built for SPEED turning sockets 16X's Times more efficient than a regular ratchet with a swing arch of 60-degrees."   

I am still mystified by the 16,  60 / 5 is 12.   To get a 60 degree arc you would need a 6 tooth ratchet.  The oldest Craftsman ratchet I have is dated to 1967, it is a 1/4 drive and does not have a release button.  It has 24 teeth (15 degree arc).  By my calculations to get a 16 X improvement in efficiency only looking at teeth, the traditional ratchet would have to be a 4.5 tooth ratchet resulting in an 80 degree swing.  Perhaps the traditional ratchet is the one that Sears sold during the Spanish American War?  But I quibble, it is faster.  The question is in my mind, is it at three times the cost and much lower torque more efficient?  

Gimbal mounted head.
Image Credit:

So here is what this thing does. The head is a standard ratchet mechanism although fine toothed, but it is gimbal mounted.  This allows the head to swivel 270 degrees in relation to the axial center line of the handle.  So you get a high degree of flexibility of the handle position relative to the head.  Where it shines is that you can position the handle directly over the head so that the centerline of the handle matches the center line of the fastener rotation.   This allows you to turn the handle like a standard screwdriver. If the torque goes up, you can swing the handle down ward to pick up some mechanical advantage through the handle behaving like a lever arm.  The second nifty feature is that the handle itself can ratchet in either direction or lock (white icons on the black collar in the image to the left).    And the third cool idea is that shaft and handle is a "yankee drive."  By pushing the handle down and holding the red collar near the head, you get a fast rotation action, one and a half turns of socket rotation per stroke.  The ratchet mechanism in the handle allows the handle to remain fixed in your hand on the return stroke.  They claim the shaft is "expandable."  I am not sure what they mean by that but it appears that you can use the ratchet in a short handled or a long handled configuration.  

Short Handle
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Long Handle
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Due to the complexity of the helix and ball mechanism in the yankee drive, I would be loath to use this ratchet for anything other than very low torques with the shaft fully retracted into the handle.  I fear that applying torques that would be well within a normal range for a standard ratchet would significantly shorten the life of the yankee drive in this ratchet if not result in outright breakage.    So what! It is guaranteed forever!  Perhaps, but forever is a long time and my prediction is that this wrench is going to have a short life and Sears will  discontinue it.  So if you like the yankee drive action, take care of your wrench, do not use it for anything other than very modest torques.

So yes the wrench is kind of cool and nifty.  But one man's nifty is another man's gimmicky.  Yep it is that too.  It kind of strikes me as cool solution looking for a problem.  Its fast, but not as fast as a drill with a bit driver or an impact gun.  It will deliver torque but not too much torque.  So it is kind of limited to those in-between jobs where you have a need for a lot of rotation but not much torque.    At 50 bucks it is priced a way too high for my budget. But I did get one.  It is on sale for $25 for Labor Day.  That is the price for the ratchet alone, the full mechanics set which includes 20 sockets, and 30 bits and a case is $99.99 on sale for $49.99.   For the most part this thing is a little too gimmicky for my tastes but it just so happens that I have a problem that I think it will work great for.  Rotating my tires.  I have fancy lug nuts that I am loathe to use an impact wrench.  I think this thing will be great for removing and installing those lug nuts.  I will use my 1/2 inch drive breaker bar as usual to un-torque the nuts and this ratchet's yankee drive action to remove them.  Likewise I can install the nuts again with the yankee drive action with this ratchet and slightly torque them using it as a ratchet wrench.  Then I can apply the full torque value with my torque wrench.   OK, I'll admit, I wanted the is kind of cool, but if it were not for my lugs nuts, even at 25 bucks, I think this is a pricey gimmick looking for an application.  I hope to be proved wrong.

The wrench is available at Sears and K-Mart retail stores and on line at:  


Introducing Craftsman MACH SERIES

Craftsman 3/8-Inch Drive Mach Series Ratchet


  1. Can I offer my biased 2 bits worth?
    Last 4 Craftsman ratchets I had, all bit the dust. Not sure if I can still take them back for 'Lifetime repair'.....but the quality of their stuff has gone downhill for years now. To me this Mach ratchet says marketing schmaltz. Period.
    And you are 110% correct when you say that it is a pricey gimmick looking for an application. Spot on.
    But that said I hope that it does what you want it to for your automotive needs.
    I have not seen this new fangled gadget in person, but from the pictures it looks very plasticky. Wouldn't hold up in my shop. I'd be putting a 2 foot pipe over the end of that handle and it would be shredded apart in no time.
    Here's hoping you don't have too much post purchase dissonance.

    1. Busman, always an honor. I agree not a tool for you. I think it will serve my purposes because I realize it is a piece of shit and will basically only use it as a spinner wrench, and for that purpose I think it will work well. People who think of this thing as a quality tool will probably be disappointed. You are right it is plasticky and schmaltzy. My prediction is that there will be a lot of returns and Sears will drop the tool from their line.

      I have read a lot of commentary online that all Craftsman tools are being made in China now, and there is a good bit of unhappiness among long term customers. This wrench is made in China.

      Oh a 2 foot pipe will shred the handle instantly. I am pretty sure using the ratchet in the long handle configuration will drastically reduce the life of this wrench--a pipe cheater will destroy it on the spot.

  2. Honestly, I did not understand a word of this post, But if you are ever in my corner of Vermont you are most welcome to gaze upon the trays and trays of tools left in the garage. I am sure there would be many post topics for you. Mike was big on "the right tool for the job." I am clueless about the jobs as much as the tools.

    1. Olga,

      From the photos I saw on your blog of Mike's tools, I would want to do more with them than write blog posts. That man kept some nice tools. He would have laughed at this thing. It is a piece of crap. But I tried it today and for what I want it to do it works wonderfully. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  3. I'm a little bit like Olga in not understanding most of this post. I made it to the paragraph where you start off "I am still mystified by the 16, 60 / 5 is 12. To get a 60 degree arc you would need a 6 tooth ratchet" and I started thinking of pink bunnies and an Egg McMuffin to go with my coffee, which reminded me that I need to stop to pick up coffee and then remembered I have a pack of toilet paper in the trunk of my car that has been there for a couple of weeks and that led to wondering what my family has been doing for toilet paper in the last week and well...I stopped at that point because I shudder to think of what they have been doing!

    But I digress, as usual! My dad was a big fan of Craftsman and Sears in general. Every appliance we have ever had was a Kenmore and when my sister bought a GE refrigerator she was banished from the kingdom never to be seen again. It would be sad to me if Sears Craftsman tools lost their reputation, but nothing lasts forever.

    Great to see you posting. I always enjoy your posts, especially the ones I don't understand! But to be serious, I always learn from your posts and enjoyed you sharing what Mach means and where the term came from and you explain it very well. I would have loved to have a Mustang Mach 1, but I still think the name Mustang Mach .261 sounds cool too!

    1. Oh Alicia, you cut me to the quick! With something as fascinating as 72 tooth ratchets, how could your mind wonder so?

      Well now you know how I feel reading I wanna witness such a fine mind burbling on about trinkets and nick-nacks! It is like using a Rolls Royce to haul coal.

      Yes, Sears was always a big name around our house as well. Its a shame to see the old glory days fade. The Sears of today is not the same quality of years ago. Fortunately most Craftsman tools are not as tacky as this thing. They are now made in China however.

      Thank you for the kind comments on my blog. I learn many things on yours as well. Almond shakers! Who would have guessed?

    2. Ha! I love it! "A fine mind burbling on about trinkets and nick-nacks!" And to have my mind compared to a Rolls Royce?? Wow! I think Iwanna Wed just helped me to keep things light and not take life too seriously. But either I have everything I want to I just don't need anything I find that I can't make myself get excited about trinkets and nick-nacks anymore.

      Yeah...almond shakers! Can you believe it? I find them really fascinating. I think I would love to drive one!

  4. Oh and on your sidebar you have some quotes. The one that caught my eye is the FDR quote, "The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide for those who have too little."

    I know that you don't have a facebook page, which is GREAT, you really don't want one. The drama and showoffmanship (made up word) is so irritating. But in thinking about all the comments I read in facebook all day I would say that we have reached the pinnacle of progress and are now on the way down on the other side of the hill to where everyone only cares about adding abundance for themselves and not even realizing how much they have compared to others. But those are just my two cents for the day. Back to the job that pays the bills!

    1. And FaceBook-less I shall remain. I have heard little to recommend it.

      I have read several times of late that there is thought to be an ideal household income for happiness and it is surprisingly low, nationally around $75,000. This seems to defy logic. Surely someone making 500,000 a year is going to be more happy than 75 grand. Some surely do. But 75 seems to be the national average household income for the most happiness. Why? I have read that after 75 one begins to pursue wealth for the sake of pursuing wealth and not for life's needs and modest wants. I also suspect that many people start to believe that their success is not due to good fortune or grace, but because they are worth it. It is far easier to feel yourself slighted when the reason for your wealth is not good fortune, luck or grace, but your raw worth on the market. Look how many people are worth so very much more than you. Think of the suffering. Imagine the unfortunate person who must put up with the rigors of flying commercial first class. Oh to be able to lease a Gulfstream, but aboard that Gulfstream are those who envy those who can afford to own a Gulfstream.

      You and I? We are pleased to be able to pay off the Chevy.

      Alicia, always an honor, thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    2. You are welcome! But one quick comment on your comment...$75 grand in household income, but I wonder how much credit card or loan debt comes with that? Maybe that is why the amount seems so low? $75,000 income with $500,000 debt?

    3. From what I remember the $75K is without credit card debt. Excessive credit card debt reduces happiness.