Tool Review: Garrett Wade Gunsmithing Screwdrivers

Tool Review: Garrett Wade Gunsmithing Screwdrivers


Garrett Wade Gunsmithing Screwdrivers - Title

This is a set of three finely made flat-head screwdrivers with fancy hardwood handles and nice brass ferrules. They’re each 5-1/4″ long, 1-1/4 oz. in weight, and made to generally the same pattern, differing between each other only in tip thickness, tip width, and thus, necessarily, in the angle at which the blade edges slope in from the ferrule. The blades are 1-3/4″ long and of nicely-machined 0.140″ carbon steel stock, though their short overall length and sloping profiles will limit their ability to engage deeply recessed screws.

From smallest to largest, the tips are 0.150/0.025″, 0.238/0.033″, and 0.352/0.033″ wide/thick. They are hollow-ground, rather than wedge-shaped, and the grind line on the smallest screwdriver, which has been thinned a bit more than the other two, is also a bit further back, consistent with all three having been ground on the same diameter wheel.

Medium-sized GW gunsmithing screwdriver (center) with two other random flat-head screwdrivers from the drawer.
Medium-sized GW gunsmithing screwdriver (center) with two other random flat-head screwdrivers from the drawer.

Apart from their fine finish, the hollow-ground tips are the screwdrivers’ major selling point. Per GW’s ad copy:

[T]he tips are hollow-ground, not double-wedge shaped – so that torque is applied at the bottom of the screw slot where it is strongest, not the top. This is especially important if the appearance of the screw head is important to you.

Though the appearance of screw heads is rarely important to me, there are functional reasons why it’s important to avoid damaging screws as much as practical, and I get as irritated as anyone else with screws and drivers that readily slip out of engagement.

Flat-head screws are, in my experience, usually the worst offenders, and though I was a bit skeptical, I have to say these hollow-ground tips really do feel more solid, turning a screw, than the assortment of more pedestrian double-wedge and (even fully convex) shaped drivers in my toolbox.

Handle profileThey look and feel great in the hand, and their high quality is evident in the way that high quality usually is. The handles are “rosewood” (though of course that term, especially in commercial use, is nowadays nonspecific as to species and origin), 3-1/8″ long, and of oblate cross-section so the tool will not roll on a minor incline. At its widest points, the handle is 1-1/8″ thick in the plane of the blade, and 3/4″ in the other dimension. The ferrules are yellow brass cylinders, 1/2″ in diameter and 3/8″ long, finely ridged along a 1/8″ band around the front edge. In use, the wooden handle gives power for initial loosening and final tightening, and the ridged ferrule can be smoothly rolled between thumb and finger to quickly spin loose screws in or out.

Ferrule detail

These were given to me as a review unit. I’m glad to have them, and they are indeed a great pleasure to use. But I do not generally go in for fine tools and would probably not pay $50 for a personal set. I would, however, readily consider them as a gift for the right person, perhaps crafting a simple presentation box to add a personal touch.

Handsome Gunsmith Screwdrivers – Garrett Wade

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I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c't – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.

View more articles by Sean Michael Ragan


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