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

16 thoughts on “Tool Review: Garrett Wade Gunsmithing Screwdrivers

  1. Kai Howells says:

    In my experience, there are no finer scewdrivers than Wiha.
    (I have no relationship with this company, other than being a very satisfied customer)
    There are even some great tools like:

    1. Sean Ragan says:

      Thanks Kai. I will check them out.

      I have no personal experience, but these crazy premium handmade jobs from Elkhead Tools caught my eye while researching:

  2. Forty Seven Effects (@fortysevenfx) says:

    My great-grandfather made a wood chisel looking like these out of his gun when WW2 was over, that’s a nice reconversion :)

    1. Sean Ragan says:

      Man that’s cool. Would love to post a picture of that tool if you have one.

  3. Archibald Tuttle (@SquittersTweet) says:

    Check those
    I worked several years in the machine industry and those were the tools to use. All this flat-headed screwdrivers will ruin your screw head when you have to apply big force. Just look at the geometry of the slit and the flat-headed screwdriver; They don’t really match!

  4. Spencer Barnett says:

    I’m a professional clockmaker and bruised, stripped, scratched, and just plain abused screw heads are a sign of amateur and shoddy work. If one can’t be bothered to take care when removing screws what else was overlooked? I know electricians who bristle when they see slotted screws that are not set properly and feel the same way as I do. It is a finishing touch that shows that care was taken in all of the details. I would also recommend making your own slotted screwdrivers. It is a cheaper option and an enjoyable experience.

  5. Craig C says:

    with all due respect, the primo-source for gunsmithing tools and equipment applicable to almost anything mechanical we do would be Brownells under the Gunsmithing Tools Tab.

    Garret Wade is a wonderful vendor and I am one of their customers, but they are a Premium priced supplier of jeweled toolery (of which I do love) soof itso nice, you’d be afraid to used it. Also, gunsmith screwdrivers are straight pieces of metal, not tapering trapezoids, so they do NOT mar the edges of the screw hole. I know, when I was learning in a smiths’ shop, I ground and reground a lot of steel into screwdrivers as well as sweeping tailings, swarf and dust off the floor.

    Every modeler, maker or whomever should have a copy of Brownells current paper catalog on their shelves.

  6. Craig C says:

    The best way is to start with an appropriately sized length of steel, grind the steel on a large wheel or sander to the correct width to fit the length of the slot, which is a hair smaller than the slot so that if the screw sits below the surface, you do NOT mar or scape the edges of the hole.

    Now hollow grind the tip to an exact fit of the width of the screw slot so they is no play when turning it back into its seat,

    Flatten the other end or knurl in a lathe and insert into a handle with some epoxy.

    De-burr, and lightly polish to remove unnecessary roughness and get to work.

    Re-hollow grind as necessary to keep sharp, true and without nicks or burrs which might damage the finishes. Small diameter round stone files are your friends!

    For some applications where not damaging the screw or surrounding metals or surfacing is paramount, use a softer metal than the workpieces.

    There is a lot of’ forgotten working techniques and ‘Kinks’ out there. Think about getting copies of the ‘gunsmiths kinks’ volumes from Brownells,

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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.

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