Craftsman gyroscopic e-screwdriver, you may want one

For me, the Craftsman tool brand mainly harkens back to my dad’s garage workshop more than half a century ago, so now I’d love to see his reaction to this cordless electric screwdriver that knows what you want it to do. You too may amazed at what can be mass-marketed for $25 these days, and how useful it can be around a boat.

Shown above are the LED headlights that can light up shadowy screw heads, and that also nicely turn on for 20 seconds with just a tap on the e-driver’s single control button. But the magic is how the drive shaft can turn clockwise or counter-clockwise with significant torque based only on how you naturally turn the handle.

There’s a 3-bar gauge for the 4 volt 1.5 amp-hour battery

I’ve vaguely gathered that Sears Roebuck and its once good-quality Craftsman tool line have been through decades of retail hell, so I purchased the Craftsman CMCF604 4v Cordless Screwdriver from Lowes with skepticism. But after using it hard for various home projects, and on the boats, I just purchased a few more (also motivated by the $25 sale price and because they’ll make great gifts).

The technology that Craftsman calls “gyroscopic” apparently involves a 3-axis accelerometer and a torque sensor, at least according to my amateur experimentation. Once activated, the driver motor vibrates in anticipation of work but doesn’t turn as long you hold it still. In fact, you can point it in any direction and move it back and forth along the drive axis, and it still doesn’t turn. But slightly rotate the handle clockwise, or counter-, and the drive shaft will slowly rotate in that direction.

Talk about an intuitive interface! And, yes, it will turn faster when you rotate faster, right up to its 180 rpm max, and also reverse instantly. Moreover, it will keep turning even if your wrist plus its fairly mighty torque assist can not turn the screw any deeper (which is why I think it senses more than motion and speed).

It would be nice if Lowes/Craftsman published a maximum torque specification, as seen with some other electric screwdrivers, but the CMCF604 will deep drive 1 3/4-inch #8 construction screws through cedar and into pressure yellow pine. Sure, an 18v cordless impact driver will do the job much quicker. But this e-driver is more compact and precise, even delicate when needed — and thus excellent for, say, temporarily disassembling fine boat joinery (that was kindly screwed, but not bunged or glued where useful, by a good boatbuilder).

Milwaukee versus Craftsman 4v cordless screwdrivers
(old) Milwaukee versus Craftsman 4v cordless screwdrivers

The Craftsman will get a serious workout installing electronics and cable clamps in the months ahead, and will likely replace the beloved 4v Milwaukee that has withstood nearly a decade of onboard abuse. I don’t expect such longevity from the gyro model and its non-replacable battery is annoying. But two Craftsmans would take up less stuff space and the simple USB charging is a plus.

Then again, I now realize that DeWalt offers an 8v Gyro cordless with the two-position handle and drilling mode I like on the Milwaukee (and the very compact B&D Gyro has been out for years, though maybe gone now). This YouTube Craftsman review looks at all three, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see new gyro screwdrivers come to market, because now I know that the technology can work well. Your screwy thoughts?

Ben Ellison

Ben Ellison

Panbo editor, publisher & chief bottlewasher from 4/2005 until 8/2018, and now pleased to have Ben Stein as a very able publisher, webmaster, and editing colleague. Please don't regard him as an "expert"; he's getting quite old and thinks that "fadiddling fumble-putz" is a more accurate description.

5 Responses

  1. Interesting, Ben! I currently have a Ryobi battery screwdriver/drill which is now wearing out its second battery, so I’m looking around – good timing! Since it’s a given that everything inside the hull and quite a bit of whats fastened onto the hull is held in place with SS screws an electric screwdriver is an essential piece of kit.
    I think I like the DeWalt a bit better than the Craftsman (though the Craftsman name has good memories for me, too). One feature on both of these that I like is that the light comes on BEFORE it starts turning – a near-fatal flaw in the Ryobi. I also like the USB charging – my AC-only little Ryobi charger is not very convenient on a 12VDC boat 🙁
    I think I’ll take a cruise down to Lowe’s and check ’em out 🙂

    • Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

      Yes, the LED headlights essentially switch on independently, though you use that same long thin button that must be held in to activate the driver. In fact, it starts that 20 second ON period so easily that it will occasionally light up your tool bag as you move around the boat unless you use the button lock.

      I’ve become a major Ryobi customer, by the way, with maybe a dozen tools in their 18v Plus family and another half dozen that use the same 40v batteries. Cordless tool families with common batteries and chargers is an excellent concept, I think, and I’ve found most of the Ryobi designs reasonably decent and well made for the cost. I even took a chance on their new model snowblower and, by jiminey, it can handle most of the messes we so enjoy on the coast of Maine.

  2. Hi Ben – yes, I assembled a grouping of Ryobi 18V tools (and lithium batteries) before we headed out in 2015 – I have a drill, 5″ circular saw, “Fein tool”, Sawzall and a saber saw. I don’t use them all that often, but they’re darn handy when needed. I also bought the 12V charger, which has proven a good investment. The sawzall has been used extensively chopping up firewood on the beach 🙂
    That’s why I bought the Ryobi screwdriver/drill, but the light is annoying and the controls are not optimal.

    I do NOT want to be anywhere where I need a snowblower!

  3. Hi Again, Ben.. I went down to Lowes and bought one of the Craftsman screwdrivers – while it was working out of the package, I charged it first, and it took several hours (maybe my 12V USB charge port is low powered?) – but then I launched into several Nav Station repairs, which involved LOTS of screws 🙂
    The gyro action takes some getting used to, though having the light on before you start is handy. The #2 Phillips bit it came with was not a good fit, but that was easy to fix. The amount of torque available isn’t huge, but certainly sufficient for what I was doing. I did discover that when you release the trigger (so the motor doesn’t run) and try to use the driver manually, it does not lock the shaft, so the amount of torque you can apply is limited.
    Today the wind dropped below 20 knots, so I sawed and drilled and mounted the additional solar panel (which did not involve the electric screwdriver but did involve my Ryobi battery tools!). Always something to do 🙂

  4. Hi Ben,
    I’ve never been a fan of small formot (non-gun type) power screwdrivers – they’ve usually been wimpy things that don’t fair well in the real world. On your suggestion I got one of these Craftsman gyro screwdrivers. Over the past couple of months it has become the must have go-to tool in my bag. I am really impressed by it’s power and once used to the gyro action it is a really useful tool. Thanks for the heads up.

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