Super Driver
© Frank Ford 2003; Photos by FF

If you take a tour of the Taylor guitar factory, you'll see a lot of busy hands:

Many of these hands hold the popular cordless drills and screwdrivers.

And, at every work station where guitars are strung, there's a familiar tool, the Black and Decker cordless screwdriver, fitted with a plastic chuck that is used to spin the tuners, speedily winding up the guitar strings:

This is the same little plastic chuck I have at my workbench. It's a tool I don't use because the cordless driver runs slower than I typically crank a manual string winder.

As I was hanging out with the gang in the repair department, I picked up one of these screwdrivers and noticed that while it looked just like mine, it seemed to be supercharged, running at double the speed or more! I asked about this little tool, which bears the same label and speed designation as mine, namely 180 RPM. Head repairman, Tim Luranc, told me that it revved closer to 400 RPM because it had been modified right there at the Taylor factory.

Zack in the service department gave me one of these hotrods to play with, and curiosity got the better of me, so I had to take it apart to compare with mine so I could see what they'd done to make theirs so hot.

I figured that the only way to get inside would be to pull out the retaining clip in spite of the warning:

Sure enough, and inside my "stock" driver, I found a cool little double planetary gear drive, just like the planetary gear system I'd seen in various banjo tuners:

You can see the drive ("sun") gear sticking out of the tool handle, and the ring gear on the inside of the gray cover just under the company name. In this photo, I'm holding the double planet gear system with my forefinger right where the drive gear inserts between the first layer of three gray planet gears. Unfortunately, the second planet system has black gears that don't show up as well in the photo

Now, take a look a the same mechanism I removed from the Taylor-modified tool:

In place of the second internal planetary gear system, there's just a plain steel cylinder.

Here's a shot of the modified drive with one planet gear removed:

So, without the secondary gear reduction, this tool really screams:

The driver end is just a blur, and it really zips along, winding up the strings much faster than I can by hand. Mighty clever, these Southern Californians. . .

Oh yes, before you ask, this is a proprietary factory production tool and not something Taylor manufactures for distribution to folks like us. I present this description both because I think it's interesting and because we can all use an occasional reminder to rethink our use of conventional tools.

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