We frequently discuss the valuable contribution that a good tool can make in performing a task. A good tool, hand or power, can make a job infinitely easier and result in a finer finished product. It often makes a job safer too.
In this day and age of high-tech power tools we frequently forget from whence we came. Before there were power tools there were hand tools. Relatively speaking, it wasn’t that long ago when an electric drill or maybe even a sander were the only power tools found in a do-it-yourselfer’s workshop.
Today, virtually every hand tool is now available as a power tool. Power saws, routers, planers, drills, sanders, chisels and even screwdrivers are the rage. As power tools evolve they are becoming more powerful, lighter, quieter, safer and more affordable.
Of all the power tools available, one of the fastest selling do-it-yourself favorites is the cordless screwdriver. It can make installing screws easier and quicker. As valuable as the cordless screwdriver may be, there are some tasks which it is not designed to perform and it should not be considered a replacement for a good set of “old fashioned” screwdrivers.
Don’t be confused by the term “old fashioned”. Just as power tools have improved, so too have screwdrivers. Therefore, there really isn’t anything old fashioned about today’s screwdriver other than perhaps appearance and even that, in many cases, is different. Screwdrivers today are stronger, safer and a a more useful tool than ever before. Gone are the days of bent shanks, broken handles, injured hands or wrists and stripped heads.
The first screwdrivers appeared about the middle of the seventeenth century. In English, French and Dutch they were and are still called “turnscrews” or the equivalent. In most other European languages they are known as “screw-pullers” or “unscrewers”. The first use of the work “screwdriver” occurs in an order by a Philadelphia merchant to a London dealer in 1760 to supply “screwdrivers”. This American term has now superseded the old English term.
A quick screwdriver anatomy lesson. The basic screwdriver is composed of the head, the handle, the shank and the tip. Each is as important as the other and each is designed to work in harmony with the other. For example, a large handle with a small shank is a recipe for failure.
The two single most important considerations in choosing a screwdriver are the material of which it is made and how the handle fits your hand.
Traditional screwdriver handles swell out, forming a bulbous end, which fills the hand to provide a better grip and enable the user to provide more torque at the driving end. Most handles are made of plastic or hardwood. Wooden handles are strengthened with a metal ferrule where the blade enters the handle. Plastic handles are typically molded around the blade to provide a much stronger fixing.
Straight fluted handles are also made in plastic or hardwood. The fluting is designed to give the user increased grip. A slip-on rubber grip is available, which increases the size of the fluted handle.
In simple terms, the handle must fit your hand and be shaped to allow you to apply as much torque as possible based on your own strength. So, shopping for a screwdriver is a lot like shopping for a pair of shoes. Proper fit can make all of the difference in the world. Note: a screwdriver is designed to install screws. Many folks consider a screwdriver to be an all-purpose tool that can be used to do virtually anything such as driving nails. Using the handle as a hammer can damage it which will diminish the handle’s integrity and create a safety hazard.
The shank is almost always constructed of steel, with forged steel being the strongest. A square shank can add to shank strength and allows a wrench to be used for greater power. If you’ve ever bought one of those cheap screwdrivers that you see in a barrel at the front of the hardware store, you know what happens when you put them to the test. Either the blade bends, or the tip twists in the screw head.
Another important aspect of screwdriver design is the tip. There are many different tip configurations as Carter has little liver pills. The two most popular tip configurations are Slotted and Phillips. These account for ninety percent of the screws that most do-it-yourselfers will encounter. Other, less prevalent, tip configurations include Hex, Clutch, Robertson and Torx tips.
Not all screws are created equal. It’s important to have the right screw for the job. For example, a slot on a two gauge screw is a fraction the size of the slot on a twenty gauge screw. The same is true for Phillips and other types of screw configurations. Therefore, it makes good sense to have an assortment of screwdriver sizes to conform to various screws. Furthermore, when choosing a screwdriver from your toolbox make sure to grab the one that is as close to the size of the screw head as possible. A screwdriver which is either too small or too large will end up damaging the head. Additionally, its much easier to install a screw with the properly sized screwdriver because you maximize torque.
Even when using the right size screwdriver for the job, occasionally the tip will slip out of the slot. In an effort to combat this “knuckle-busting” problem some screwdriver manufacturers have come up with a scored “non slip” tip. It really works!
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