Toolbox: Show us your screwdrivers

Toolbox: Show us your screwdrivers

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).


Stanley 66-052 6-Piece Precision Screwdriver Set
Daniel Ternes, of HacDC, recommends this Stanley set with the wacky handles:

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.


32 thoughts on “Toolbox: Show us your screwdrivers

  1. John T says:

    I have to agree about the micro precision set. Whatever the brand they never come in wrong. We’ve had a set around for years and years and they’ve worked for everything from glasses to screw terminals on various components.

    As for a recommendation, we have a couple of generic/own brand drivers around from B&Q I think it was. Not the best, but they are balanced enough to use and take a fair beating. For around £3 each, you can’t complain. On top of that, find yourself a decent flat blade of a fair size, 10-15mm and bigger than a kitten should do it! No real technical reasons, they are just good for opening tins, the odd large screw and generally acting as a useful paperweight for your plans on windy days.

    Nothing however beats having a decent set like those suggested.

  2. SBW says:

    After needing a really good set of jewelers screwdrivers for a decade or so, I just acquired the 50-piece Wiha 92190 set. Techni-Tool wants $240 for this set, but All-spec has it for $151.59+8.52 shipping. A lot of money, but I am very glad I spent it. (I had never done business with All-spec before, but they were very good–excellent price, communication, and prompt shipping.)

    One of the things I liked about this set is that it includes Torx T1 through T10–it can be hard to find the small Torx, but some things (like cell phones) use them.

    Stay away from the Craftsman jeweler’s screwdrivers. They are so bad that they are actually unusable.

    1. says:

      That’s strange. My Craftstman precision drivers work just fine. I’ve never had a problem with them. In fact, they look suspiciously like the Wihas shown above. (They’ve since been “redesigned,” and most annoying re-color-coded.)

      Anyway, they have a lifetime guarantee. Just take them back and get a new one. My dad did that with a pair of vise grips he bought in 60s. When one of the pads broke off, he took it in, the guy looked at the side, saw the engraved “CRAFTSMAN” and said, “Pick out the size you need. No cost.”

      I have Craftsman precision screwdrivers in assorted sizes for philips, flat, torx, and ball hex. I also have two foldable allen key sets in both imperial and metric. Then of course I have “standard” sized philips and straight in both “normal” length and “extra long.” (Need a wider straight screwdriver, now that I think about it.)

  3. SBW says:

    A few suggestions w.r.t. taps:

    Stay away from the chain hardware store taps. They are poorly made, dull, and weak–you are almost guaranteed to end up with a broken tap in your part.

    Order some good ones from MSC. If you need one TODAY, Grainger also stocks good ones. They are nominally “wholesale only”, but they have been willing to do what they call ‘courtesy cash sales’.

    Once you’ve used a “Hand Tapper” stand like Item #09491010 @ MSC, you’ll hate using just a t-handle. I used one at a local machine shop, and then lusted after one until I got a 25%-off-one-item coupon from MSC. It is way too expensive: $326, but the much cheaper ones are not really rated for ‘small’ taps like #4; this one is good enough for use with #0 taps, and I have done so. At the risk of jinxing my self, I don’t think I’ve broken a tap since I got the stand.

  4. mrmeval says:

    It should read “Show us your screws!”

  5. Skarphedin says:

    Irwin 9 in 1

    It is tough to compare a multi tool screwdriver to a dedicated screwdriver, however there is one tool I keep in my tool bag. The Irwin 9 in 1 is amazing. It is tough, the bits are super secure and the handle is bomber. I have had mine for 3 years, I use it multiple times a day and it is just as good as the day I bought it…only now it is beat to hell. For $10 it is worth adding to your toolbox.

  6. What says:

    “really strong allow”->”really strong alloy”

    Anyway… my all time two favorite phillips heads are from Tamiya and I picked them up at a steal($2 each) when they were having a warehouse sale in my area. Links:

    1. Gareth Branwyn says:

      >”really strong allow”->”really strong alloy”

      Dang. That’s actually the second time I’ve turned “alloy” into “allow.”

      Fixing… thanks for the catch.

  7. says:

    I love my Craftsman clear screwdrivers ( Like a previous commenter, I grew up using and admiring my dad’s set and was ecstatic to discover back in my 20s they were still available.

    They are extremely durable, comfortable, and well balanced. Maybe better ones are out there, but I don’t think anything could overcome my early childhood tool imprinting!

  8. Funky Space Cowboy says:

    My favorite driver is one I made from scratch. It’s a sawmakers split nut driver, used in making traditional Western style hand saws:

    I’ve made several of these over the years but this one is my favorite and it was gift for a friend a very talented saw maker in Stuttgart. The handle is East Indian rosewood I turned on my mini lathe, the ferrule is a 1/2″ copper pipe end cap from the hardware store that I polished and the bit itself I ground down to the correct profile from an old 1/2″ spade bit. The ‘2’ on the blade is the bottom half the 1/2 mark ;-)



  9. says:

    I recently started carrying a pen sized mini screw driver from Maratac. Very handy for IT work and life in general.

  10. Stefan Dodge says:

    It is light duty, but much stronger than you might expect.


  11. Sebastian says:

    The HF bit set is fantastic. Picked one up a while back.. there is one bit that is great for driving hooks… saved me tons of time. Seem to be pretty durable too, compared to some others I’ve had.

  12. Oceaneer99 says:

    As far as magnetized screwdrivers, I keep a supermagnet with my Torx set that I stick to the side of the shaft when I temporarily want the tip magnetized.

  13. vanadium says:

    The consumption of vanadium, which is used to improve the strength properties of structural steel sections,

  14. Billy says:

    Moody tools are the only ones that are are made in the USA that are worth anything, otherwise go with wiha, wera, or felo.

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. And he has a new best-of writing collection and “lazy man’s memoir,” called Borg Like Me.

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