Why Buy Quality Screwdrivers?
Yesterday I was installing a curtain rod in the kitchen. I asked my wife for a flat-bladed screwdriver and she reached into her tool drawer and handed me one. After 30 seconds of frustration, I handed it back to her and went out to the garage, grabbed a different screwdriver from my toolbox, returned to the kitchen and finished the job in no time.
Why did I get a different screwdriver? Simply, the one she gave me was junk. When I put the blade of her screwdriver into the slot of the screw and went to turn it, the screwdriver immediately jumped out of the slot. I pushed harder on the screwdriver on the second try and all it did was round off the edges of the screw slot. After I got one of my screwdrivers from my toolbox I was able to remove the screw easily even with the slot on the screw damaged from the first screwdriver.
The difference was the quality of the screwdriver. The one she had came from some no-name home toolkit (like the ones in pink toolkits). It was just a steel rod with an end stamped to look like a flat blade and a plastic injection molded handle. The screwdriver that I had was made from a forged steel rod, the tip was ground to an exact tolerance and designed to grip the inside edge of the screw slot. The handle was molded onto the shaft of the screwdriver and was made of shatter-resistant plastic. There was also a rubber covering (cushion grip) over the plastic handle that allowed me to easily grip the screwdriver and turn out the screw.
Screwdrivers are one of the most important items in your toolbox. When you need to use it, you need to use it correctly and it needs to do the job correctly. There is nothing more frustrating to the homeowner than trying to remove a screw and have the screwdriver strip out the head. Buying a quality screwdriver is important for just this fact.
Here a few things to look for when selecting a quality screwdriver.
1. First, most consumer manufacturers make two or more grades of screwdrivers. Even if the name is one you trust like Craftsman be aware of this fact. The red, blue, and clear handled ones at Sears are not the same quality as the red and black handled professional line. If you want long lasting screwdrivers select from the professional grade line or buy from a manufacture like Klein that only makes professional tools. Yes, I know the Craftsman’s you got for Christmas have a lifetime warranty but they do not have forged, ground tip. I use mine for cleaning the gunk out of cooling fins, prying, scraping and pounding. I use my Kleins (or Greenlee) for the important fastening work.
2. A quality screwdriver has a tip that is forged steel and ground to precise tolerances for an exact fit on the screw. Many of the good screwdrivers have a hardened tip. (the tip is a different color usually a flat black or flat gray
3. The handles are made of a shatter resistant plastic. The shaft has large flanges inside the handle to hold it securely
4. I prefer a cushion grip handle (and most of you will too). The cushion grip is a rubber sleeve that fits over the plastic handle. It makes the handle larger and easier to grip.
5. Be aware of the warranty. Many homeowners abuse their screwdrivers. They use them to open paint cans, pound on them, use them as chisels and digging tools. They also use the wrong size screwdriver and twist the tips of the flat bladed ones and round the ends off the Phillip’s ones. If you break a screwdriver how do you get it replaced? Most manufactures today will only warranty screwdrivers for defects and will not warranty them for abuse. (A broken tip, bent shaft, rounded end is considered abuse) By purchasing a quality screwdriver you at least have a tool that when abused will last longer that the cheap ones. Craftsman is one of the few that will replace a Craftsman screwdriver for any reason.
Ten years ago it was harder for the typical homeowner to buy quality tools. You had to find a store that carried the specific brand you were looking for and most of the time you had to order and wait for a tool. Today, if you are reading this article on a computer, you have a much better access to quality tools. You can easily order them through Sears, Amazon or many other places on the web.
I’ve selected three grades of tools for you that I recommend. My selections are based on my many years of using tools both around the home and professionally.
Basic Homeowner Grade – You use it every month or so – Good tool at a good price. (Good Homeowner Set)
Remodel/Construction Grade – You use it every weekend – Better tool will last you years. (Automotive Professionals like this set)
Professional Grade – You use it everyday – When you only want the best. (Electricians use this brand (was Klein) exclusively)
The Klein is a full set of electricians tools. This would make a good set for a home that will last a lifetime (my set I bought in 1973) By the way the adjustable wrench in this kit is the only true parallel jaw “cresent” wrench I know of. Someday I will tell you why that is important.
DO’S AND DON’T WHEN USING SCREWDRIVERS
1. Don’t hold the work in one hand while using the screwdriver with the other. If the screwdriver slips out of the slot you will cut yourself. (a trip to the emergency room!)
2. Don’t use a screwdriver with rounded edges or tips; it will slip and cause damage to the work or yourself. (another trip to the emergency room!)
3. Don’t use a screwdriver near a live wire or for electrical testing. (Unless you like having your heart restarted with the paddles!)
4. Don’t use a screwdriver to check a storage battery or to determine if an electrical circuit is live. (electrical burns are not fun. another trip to the emergency room!)
5. Don’t use a screwdriver for prying, punching, chiseling, scoring, or scraping. (another trip to the emergency room!)
6. Use an offset screwdriver in close quarters where a conventional screwdriver cannot be used.
7. Don’t use pliers on the handle of a screwdriver to get extra turning power. Some larger screwdrivers have a portion of the shank just below the handle that looks like a nut that is specifically designed for that purpose.
8. Don’t expose a screwdriver blade to excessive heat as it may reduce the hardness of the blade. (Don’t use it to stir your campfire coals)
9. Don’t use a screwdriver for opening paint cans or stirring paint. (that will break the tip)
10. Don’t use a screwdriver with a split or broken handle. (another trip to the emergency room!)
11. Keep the screwdriver handle clean; a slippery handle is apt to cause an accident. (another trip to the emergency room!)
12. A screwdriver should never be used as a pry bar. If it is over-stressed in this manner, the blade might break and send a particle of steel into the operator’s arm or perhaps even an eye.
Do’s and Don’ts taken from “Proper Use and Care of Hand Tools, Pliers, Screwdrivers, Wrenches, Striking & Struck Tools” Klein Tools 1977