In the Make: Online Toolbox, we focus mainly on tools that fly under the radar of more conventional tool coverage: in-depth tool-making projects, strange, or specialty tools unique to a trade or craft that can be useful elsewhere, tools and techniques you may not know about, but once you do, and incorporate them into your workflow, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without them. And, in the spirit of the times, we pay close attention to tools that you can get on the cheap, make yourself, or refurbish.
Since it’s “Physical Science and Mechanics” month, it seemed only appropriate that we cover screwdrivers, a simple machine if ever there was one. So simple, in fact, that my call to my usual networks of makers didn’t yield a tremendous number of responses. Maybe screwdrivers should have gone into last Toolbox’s Homeliest tools round-up. OK, so it’s little more than a rod with a handle on one end and a shaped tip on the other, but as we all know, our world is… well very screwed, so without drivers, we’d be in a real pickle.
I thought what I would do is inventory the significant drivers in my personal collection, followed by a few thoughts from friends and colleagues, and then throw it open to you all. What screwdrivers do you use and recommend? What tips for driving? Do you do any tap and die work? What do you recommend there? Please tell us in the comments below.
If I had to choose a “desert island” set of screwdrivers, it’d be a Wiha set of slotted and Philips drivers. Some tools just feel different in your hands. Wiha is like that. The blades are precision-ground high alloy chrome-vanadium-molybdenum. OK, I don’t even know what vanadium and molybdenum are, but they produce a really strong alloy that makes these drivers extremely tough and keeps their tips intact. The handles are well-proportioned to the blades so you get good torque and they have rotating caps for fingertip control. Some sets, like the above Wiha 26199 Slotted and Phillips Screwdrivers, come in a heavy-duty canvas roll-up. This is a really sweet set of tools for just over $25 on Amazon (MSRP $40.50).
Wiha 40010 Magnetizer or Demagnetizer ($6) — I don’t actually have one of these, but when the driver discussion came up on HacDC, someone was recommending magnetized drivers. Sometimes you want a magnetized head to help pick up and hold your screw, sometimes you really don’t want this. This device lets you to “turn on” and “turn off” a magnetic field. Nifty.
Professional Gearless Screwdriver Set — Model: 9829
My brother-in-law is a Matco Tools salesman, and ages ago, he gave me this Sunex Tools driver set for Christmas. It’s my go-to set for Torx, Hex, Robertson/Square Drive, and PoziDriv security bits. The handle is bulbous and feels cheap, but otherwise, it’s a decent set that has served me well. And it retails for under $20.
My other well-used set of drivers is a 6-piece “micro” precision driver set. I bought it at a hardware store decades ago, to fix my glasses. It cost about $3. I still use it today, mainly to fix my glasses (and to open watches and other devices that have really tiny slotted and Philips heads).
Best set of precision screwdrivers I’ve ever used. I love the grip. Very easy to use with one hand.
Andy Walker responds on the HacDC e-list:
Those Stanleys are great, but you’ll often find them lacking when it comes to getting at something that’s really recessed. The driver body will hit the chassis before the tip makes contact with the screw head. Wiha and General Tools make some nice long precision drivers for this sort of thing.
A security bit set
Andy Walker also writes:
Good security drivers are a must if you want to be able to hack anything. Unfortunately, a lot of the available bit sets are simple 1-1/4″ length bits which often means that they’re too fat (driver included) to get into the tight spots. I have a dedicated Tri-wing bit driver and a set of security Torx bits for taking things apart that employ the old “security through obscurity” mindset.
Fredrik Nyman throws in a plug for a big el cheapo security set from good ol’ Harbor Freight.
Harbor Freight has a very reasonably priced set ($10) that is a must-have for a tinkerer.
So, tell us about you favorite screw driver sets and features that others should look for in getting drivers and bits.
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