Where, and How Much?These were a gift, but they came from Garrett-Wade, and are $25 for a set of seven. You can get them here.
(photo from Garrett-Wade)
What do you get, and What's the Construction Like?They come as a set of seven, from 5/64" to 3/16". Construction is traditional, robust, and very simple: it's simply a piece of wire, with threads and fluting cut at one end, and the other end bent into a handle shape. They've been made this way more or less forever, and it's utterly reliable.
How do they work?These work beautifully. I'll be honest, I didn't really have high hopes for them. I've used gimlets a few places before, and didn't much like them. They didn't cut well, they bound in the wood, and they didn't seem to make starting a screw any easier. I decided I wanted these because Garrett Wade has a good reputation, and I was sick of trying to drill pilot holes with an eggbeater drill. I made a very good choice, because they're fantastic.
Here's how they work. Once you know where a screw is going in -- say, to install a hinge -- you mark where you want the hole. You could use an awl, a marking knife, or the gimlet itself. Pick a gimlet that is the same diameter as the core of the screw, or just a touch larger. Twist it into the wood. It shouldn't take much strength or effort, because the threads at the point will draw it in. When you're done, twist it back out in reverse. That last bit is important: you'll end up with the ghost of a thread track in the wood, which means the screw will go in with practically no effort at all. At this point there's no tool I'd rather use for drilling pilot holes. This is another technology where I don't understand how it got lost: sure, if I have a thousand holes to drill I'd rather use a power drill, but how often does that happen? In my shop, probably never.
Final Thoughts?They're well worth the cost, and if you ever need to drive small screws, order a set. They are a little harder to use in hardwood, but they still do a pretty good job. I've recently run into a number of tools like this: things that seem like they should never have fallen out of style. The mid-size Yankee screwdriver is another. It produces more torque than my electric drill, while weighing less and being easier on my wrist. More on that in another entry, though. For right now, the important information is that it's well worth buying a set of these, and they'll make your life easier.
Would I buy another?
Absolutely. They're cost effective and efficient.