A vintage tool that still shines today
Numerous screwdriver designs offer the convenience of onboard lighting to brighten darkened work areas. Though modern versions generally use LEDs and function well, the idea of a lighted screwdriver has been around for ages. We recently found an earlier example, in nearly new condition, for a price we couldn’t refuse.
Manufactured by Pilot of Hong Kong, this illuminated screwdriver appears to be from the 1960s-’70s era. Trademarked under the name “Stellar,” this No. 1118 model features a soft plastic case that’s dark blue on the outside and light blue, with a different texture, on the inside. It came with four interchangeable long bits—two sizes for Phillips-head screws and two for slotted. The body is made from chromed metal, like a typical flashlight of the day. A pair of C batteries powers the incandescent bulb, which shines through a solid clear plastic dome that provides light to the area of the fastener being worked on and encases the base of the collet that retains the screwdriver bit.
Its metal construction, and the weight of the batteries, make the tool feel substantial in your hand, and the case will fit in a pocket. Though it had no problem removing and installing any screws we tried, what isn’t known is how much torque the plastic dome can withstand before it cracks.
This illuminated screwdriver was found at an antiques store, but it and several variations from the period are available online. Sometimes categorized as flashlight screwdrivers, they range in condition from heavily used to like-new. A few examples—with their model numbers—follow, to make your internet search easier should you decide to buy one.
The box for No. 2102 looks like the one for No. 1118 shown here, but says “Pilot” on the side in a ship’s wheel logo, instead of “Stellar.” The tools appear to be the same, however, as is true of No. 2002, despite its box art being completely different.
A “WT” trademarked, Hong Kong made, illuminated screwdriver, No. 1301, differs in design with an additional red light around its wider flashlight head, but it uses the same case as the No. 1118, except for the “WT” logo inside.
Sunrise of Japan and Ash Flash of Hong Kong (No. SC-2 and SC-5) also sold similar tools. One version of the Pilot Star from Japan featured a textured grip area in different colors and another case design.
Some of the illuminated screwdrivers discussed in this article could also be had with a stylish leather pouch.
Though our Stellar’s light isn’t very bright by today’s standards, and the tool may feel a bit bulky to some, it still does exactly what it was designed for and can be a conversation-creating display item. For $5, it was well worth adding to the vintage tool collection.