types of screwdrivers

Welcome, handy folks! You know how it goes: you need to tighten a loose screw, and your trusted screwdriver set is right there waiting. But here’s the thing, not all screws are created equal, and neither are their corresponding screwdrivers.

In fact, using the wrong tool can make the task at hand unnecessarily challenging or, worse, damage the screw or even the tool itself.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll reveal the mystery behind various types of screwdrivers and their appropriate uses. This way, you’ll be fully equipped to handle any project, whether it’s basic DIY maintenance or a major repair.

In the upcoming article, we’ll cover the following key points:

  • An in-depth understanding of screws and their corresponding screwdrivers
  • A detailed review of different types of standard screwdrivers
  • Spotlight on specialty screwdrivers (covering at least 10 unique types)
  • Proper care and maintenance tips for your screwdrivers

Understanding Screws And Their Corresponding Screwdrivers

screwdriver parts

Before we delve into screwdrivers, let’s first understand their counterparts – screws. Yes, those tiny, spiral-threaded fasteners that hold our world together.

In short, the main parts of any screwdriver include:

  • The Head
  • The Drive Type
  • The Thread

The Head

The head of a screw is the part that you see when it’s screwed into a surface. It’s where you insert your screwdriver to either drive in (tighten) or drive out (loosen) the screw.

There are several types of screw heads, including flat, domed, or countersunk, and each is designed for a specific purpose and use.

For example, a domed screw head is great for aesthetic appeal, while a countersunk head allows the screw to lie flush with the surface.

The Drive Type

This refers to the shape of the recess on the screw head where the screwdriver bit fits. Common drive types include slotted (flat), Phillips (cross), Torx (star), and hexagonal (hex), among others.

Each type requires a matching screwdriver to apply the rotational force effectively.

The Thread

The screw’s thread, also known as its helical structure, is the part that provides the friction and torque necessary for the screw to hold materials together. It’s like the magic behind the scenes that makes the screw a mighty little tool.

How Screwdrivers Correspond To Screws?

electric screwdrivers

All right, now that we understand the screw let’s talk about the screwdriver. In essence, the screwdriver acts as the “key” to the screw’s “lock.”

The type of screwdriver you use largely depends on the drive type of the screw. Simply put, each screw needs its specific type of screwdriver.

Using a Phillips screwdriver on a Torx screw is like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole—it just won’t work.

Detailed Review Of Different Types Of Screwdrivers

Now that we have the basics down let’s get to the heart of the matter. We’ll be examining various types of screwdrivers, their unique features, and their best uses. Plus, we’ll weigh the pros and cons of each to help you make informed decisions for your projects.

1. Flathead Screwdrivers

Flathead screwdrivers, often referred to as slotted screwdrivers, are the oldest type of screwdriver and are still universally used today.

This design features a simple, flat-bladed tip that is intended to fit into a single slot in the head of flat-head screws.

The flathead screwdriver was the first of its kind and set the standard for screwdriver design.

Its simple, versatile form allows it to fit into many different sizes of screw heads, making it one of the most common tools found in any toolbox.

The range of applications for flathead screwdrivers is vast and includes both household and professional use.

Here are a few appropriate uses for flathead screwdrivers:

  • Flathead screws are often used in applications where the screw is not meant to be removed once installed due to their tendency to slip.
  • They are commonly used for simple tightening or loosening operations.
  • They can be found in many types of assembly or repair works, including carpentry and electronic work.

Here are a few pros and cons of flathead screwdrivers:

Simple design that’s easy to useThe flat design can easily slip from the slot, which can result in damaged screws or potential injuries.
Can fit a variety of screw sizesFlathead screws can’t handle much torque without slipping.
Widely available and inexpensive

2. Phillips Screwdrivers

The Phillips screwdriver was designed to solve the slippage problem encountered with flathead screwdrivers.

The “X” shape of the Phillips screwdriver fits into the cross-shaped indention in a Phillips screw, allowing for a better grip and less chance of slippage.

The Phillips screwdriver is a great example of a tool that evolved to meet the changing needs of the industries it served.

As mechanical and technological innovations advanced, screws needed to hold more tightly and resist more force without causing damage to the screw or the material.

Here are a few appropriate uses for Phillips Screwdrivers:

  • Phillips screws are often used in appliances, electronics, and other items that may need to be disassembled for repair.
  • They are also used in many automotive applications due to their ability to handle more torque.
  • The design of the Phillips screwdriver allows it to self-center, which makes it easier to use in hard-to-reach places.

Here are a few pros and cons of Phillips screwdrivers:

Provides a better grip and the ability to handle more torque compared to a flathead screwdriver.It can cause damage to the screw if too much torque is applied.
The self-centering design makes it easier to keep the screwdriver in place.It can “cam out” or slip from the screw head, particularly with high torque.
Comes in various sizes to fit different screw heads.

3. Pozidriv Screwdrivers

Pozidriv screwdrivers are similar to Phillips but feature additional lines between each point of the cross.

This design allows the screwdriver to grip the screw more completely, reducing the chance of slippage.

This type of screwdriver is less widely recognized than the Phillips, but its additional grip and decreased chance of slippage make it a popular choice in certain industries.

Here are a few appropriate uses for Pozidriv screwdrivers:

  • They’re often used in automotive industries and other applications that require high torque.
  • Pozidriv screws are common in Europe and are often used in furniture.

Here are a few pros and cons for Pozidriv screwdrivers:

Allows higher torque application than Phillips due to increased contact with the screw head.Not as universally recognized or available as Phillips or flathead screwdrivers.
Less likely to “cam out” or slip from the screw head.Can be confused with Phillips screwdrivers but are not interchangeable.

4. Torx Screwdrivers

Torx screwdrivers, also known as star screwdrivers, feature a star-shaped point with six rounded lobes. This design allows for a higher torque transfer compared to traditional flathead or Phillips screwdrivers.

Despite their more complex shape, Torx screwdriver is straightforward to use and are highly effective. They were designed to reduce the wear and tear on both the screw and the driver, allowing for a longer lifespan for both components.

Here are a few appropriate uses for Torx screwdrivers:

  • Torx screws are often used in vehicles, computers, and consumer electronics because of their resistance to stripping.
  • They’re also found in many outdoor items like lawnmowers and bicycles due to their resilience against wear and tear.

Here are a few pros and cons of Torx screwdrivers:

Allows for high torque application without damaging the screw or driver.Requires the exact matching size; not as versatile as flathead or Phillips drivers.
Torx screws are extremely resistant to “cam out.”Torx screws and drivers are not as readily available as flathead or Phillips.
The star-shaped design allows for multiple points of contact with the screw, reducing the chance of slippage.

5. Hex Key / Allen Screwdrivers

Hex key or Allen screwdrivers are characterized by their hexagonal shape. These drivers fit into a recess in the hex head screws rather than over the top, allowing for a secure fit.

The Allen wrench, a common form of this type of driver, is often included with furniture or other items that require assembly, making Hex key screwdriver a familiar tool to many people.

Here are a few appropriate uses for Hex key or Allen screwdrivers:

  • Hex screws are used in applications that require a secure connection that can withstand high torque, such as furniture assembly and bicycle repair.
  • They’re also found in mechanical and industrial applications.

Here are a few pros and cons of Allen screwdrivers:

Provides an excellent grip and resistance to stripping.Requires an exact size match with the screw, making it less versatile than other types.
Hex screwdriver can handle high torque.Can be easily misplaced due to their small size.
The simplistic design is easy to use.

6. Robertson / Square Screwdrivers

Robertson screwdrivers

Also known as square recess screwdrivers, Robertson screwdrivers have a square-shaped tip that fits into a similarly shaped recess in the screw head.

This type of screwdriver was designed in Canada and is highly popular in that country, though it is less commonly found in the US.

Here are a few appropriate uses for Robertson screwdrivers:

  • Robertson screws are popular in construction and electrical work due to their ability to securely hold the screw on the driver.
  • These screws are also found in deck screws and other woodworking applications.

Here are a few pros and cons of Robertson screwdrivers:

High torque application due to the secure fit.Not as widely available in some countries.
Less likely to “cam out” or slip from the screw head.Requires the exact size of the driver for each screw size.
The screw can be held on the screwdriver, freeing up a hand for other tasks.

7. Tri-Wing Screwdrivers

Tri-wing screwdrivers, as the name suggests, have triangularly shaped tips with three wings. The distinctive shape of these screwdrivers makes them ideal for use with specialized screw heads that are designed to prevent tampering.

Here are a few appropriate uses for Tri-Wing screwdrivers:

  • Tri-wing screws are typically found in high-security applications where tampering should be discouraged or prevented.
  • You can often find them in electronics such as video game consoles and mobile devices.

Here are a few pros and cons of Tri-Wing screwdrivers:

Excellent for applications requiring tamper-proof or tamper-resistant screws.The specialized nature of tri-wing screws and drivers limits their general use.
It can deliver high torque due to the solid contact between the driver and the screw.These screwdrivers can be harder to find compared to more standard types.

8. Spanner Screwdrivers

Spanner screwdrivers, also known as snake eye or pig nose screwdrivers, have a tip with two small, opposite-facing points.

These fit into a screw head with two small holes, making them effective for specific, usually security-related, applications.

Here are a few appropriate uses for Spanner screwdrivers:

  • Spanner screws are typically used in public spaces to prevent tampering. They can be found in restroom stalls, transit systems, and park benches.
  • These screws are also used in electronic devices where the manufacturer wishes to discourage disassembly.

Here are a few pros and cons of Spanner screwdrivers:

Ideal for tamper-resistant applications due to the unique head design.The need for spanner screwdrivers is relatively limited outside of specialized uses.
Provides a secure fit, reducing the chance of slipping or stripping.As with other specialty screwdrivers, finding the correct size of a driver can be challenging.

9. Clutch Head Screwdrivers

Clutch head screwdrivers are also known as butterfly screwdrivers due to the bow-tie shape of the driver tip.

These were popularly used in the mid-20th century and can still be found in vintage applications.

Here are a few appropriate uses for Clutch Head screwdrivers:

  • Clutch screws were commonly used in the assembly of mobile homes and RVs in the past. If you’re restoring or repairing a vintage mobile home or RV that has clutch head screws, you may come across these.
  • These are also used in general security applications, although less frequently today.

Here are a few pros and cons of butterfly screwdrivers:

Useful for restoration and maintenance of vintage vehicles, mobile homes, and other structures.The clutch head design is less common in modern construction, making these screwdrivers less widely needed.
The design allows for a secure fit and solid torque transfer.Can be harder to find compared to more standard types of screwdrivers.

10. Frearson Screwdrivers

Frearson screwdrivers, also known as Reed and Prince drivers, resemble Phillips drivers but have a sharper tip and larger angle in the cross.

This allows one driver size to fit a variety of screw sizes.

Here are a few appropriate uses for Frearson screwdrivers:

  • Frearson screws are popular in marine applications because they can handle high torque, and their design resists corrosion.
  • They’re also used in woodworking and other industrial applications where high torque is required.

Here are a few pros and cons of Frearson screwdrivers:

The design allows one driver to be used with various screw sizes, providing flexibility.Frearson screws and drivers aren’t as widely available as Phillips or flathead varieties.
The sharper tip and larger angle provide a more secure fit and reduce the risk of “cam-out.”Some confusion may occur due to their similarity to Phillips screws and drivers.

11. Japanese Screwdrivers

Japanese Industrial Standard (JIS) screwdrivers might be mistaken for Phillips screwdrivers at first glance, but a key difference lies in their design intent.

While Phillips screwdrivers are designed to cam out under high torque, JIS screwdrivers are designed to grip firmly without slipping.

Here are a few appropriate uses for Japanese screwdrivers:

  • JIS screws are found primarily in Japanese products, such as cameras, motorcycles, and other electronics.
  • They’re essential for any professional or hobbyist who regularly works with Japanese products.

Here are a few pros and cons of Japanese screwdrivers:

No cam-out under high torque, which reduces the risk of damaging the screw head.Requires a specific JIS screwdriver, which might not be readily available.
Ensures a secure and tight fit when working with JIS screws.Using a Phillips screwdriver on a JIS screw can lead to damage as the tools are not perfectly interchangeable.

12. Bristol Screwdrivers

Bristol screwdrivers have a unique, multiple-splined tip. This tip can have anywhere from four to six splines, providing secure engagement with the screw head.

Here are a few appropriate uses for Bristol screwdrivers:

  • Bristol screws are used primarily in electronics and aviation applications, particularly in situations where space is limited.
  • They’re also found in applications where more torque is needed, but space for a larger head or driver is not available.

Here are a few pros and cons of Bristol screwdrivers:

Ideal for tight spaces due to its compact design.Bristol screws and their drivers are not common in everyday household items, making the need for a Bristol driver relatively rare.
It can deliver more torque than a comparable flat or cross-head driver due to the multiple points of engagement.The splined design can be damaged if not used correctly or with the right-sized screw.

13. Nut Drivers

While nut drivers technically aren’t screwdrivers, they’re a closely related tool that’s used for driving nuts and bolts rather than screws.

They consist of a socket attached to a shaft and handle and are a compact version of a socket wrench.

Here are a few appropriate uses for Nut drivers:

  • Nut drivers are often used in appliance repair, electronics, or any situation where a wrench would be too big or cumbersome.
  • They’re perfect for situations that require the tightening or loosening of nuts and bolts but in a more compact form.

Here are a few pros and cons of Nut drivers:

Nut drivers are handy for situations where a socket wrench won’t fit.Nut drivers are not designed for high-torque applications, which can limit their use in certain situations.
These tools are excellent for the fast, convenient tightening and loosening of nuts and bolts.You’ll need a separate driver for each nut size, unlike adjustable wrenches.

Additionally, we can’t forget about precision screwdrivers. These screwdrivers are often used to tighten eyeglass screws and to work on small devices. They come in several different types, including Phillips, flathead, Torx, and hex.

A ratcheting screwdriver is another useful tool, which allows the user to tighten or loosen screws more quickly and with less effort.

The various types of screwdriver heads also allow for versatility in different applications. For example, a square screwdriver can be used with square recess screws, which are common in electrical applications.

These screwdriver types are a snapshot of the wide variety available today. Whether you’re a DIYer or a professional, understanding the differences can help ensure you always have the right tool for the job.

Specialty Screwdrivers Types (Explained)

Specialty Screwdrivers

Beyond the standard screwdrivers, there are specialty screwdrivers designed for specific uses or unique types of screws. These can be invaluable when you run into a unique task.

1. Jeweler’s Screwdrivers

Jeweler’s screwdrivers, as the name suggests, are smaller, precision tools designed to work with the tiny screws found in watches, jewelry, and eyeglasses.

The appropriate Usage for Jeweler’s Screwdrivers: Ideal for precision work, you’ll often find these in jewelry repair, watchmaking, and electronics.

Here are a few pros and cons of Jeweler’s screwdrivers:

Designed for precision workNot suited for large or heavy-duty tasks
Can access small, tight spaces

2. Insulated Screwdrivers

Insulated screwdrivers have a layer of insulation on the shaft that protects the user from electric shock.

The Appropriate Use of Insulated Screwdrivers: These are vital tools for electricians or anyone working around live electrical circuits.

Here are a few pros and cons of Insulated screwdrivers:

It provides protection against electric shockMore expensive than regular screwdrivers
Ensures safety during electrical work

3. Ratcheting Screwdrivers

Ratcheting screwdrivers have a mechanism that allows the user to apply turning force in one direction while freely moving in the other.

The appropriate Uses for ratcheting screwdrivers: These are great for repetitive work or in confined spaces where it’s hard to remove and reset the driver on the screw.

Here are a few pros and cons of ratcheting screwdrivers:

Saves time and energy during repetitive tasksMore complex than standard screwdrivers, which could lead to potential mechanical failure
Convenient to use in tight spaces

4. Multi-bit Screwdrivers

Multi-bit screwdrivers have interchangeable tips or bits, allowing one tool to adapt to many different types of screws.

The appropriate use of Multi-bit screwdrivers: This versatile tool is perfect for those looking to save space or for general household use.

Here are a few pros and cons of Multi-bit screwdrivers:

Highly versatile with interchangeable bitsBits can be lost easily
Space-saving and economical

5. ESD Safe Screwdrivers

ESD (Electrostatic Discharge) safe screwdrivers have a special handle material that prevents static electricity accumulation, protecting sensitive electronic components.

The appropriate use for ESD Safe screwdrivers: These screwdrivers are necessary for working on sensitive electronics like computer components.

Here are a few pros and cons of ESD Safe screwdrivers:

Protects electronics from static dischargeNiche use cases not needed for general tasks
Essential for computer repairs

6. Torque Screwdrivers

Torque screwdrivers are designed to apply a specific amount of force (torque), which is useful in situations where over-tightening could damage parts.

The appropriate use for Torque screwdrivers: These are common in manufacturing and engineering, where precise torque is critical.

Here are a few pros and cons of Torque screwdrivers:

Provides precise control over the tightening forceRequires calibration
Prevents damage from over-tighteningMore expensive than regular screwdrivers

7. Magnetic Screwdrivers

Magnetic screwdrivers have a magnetized tip to hold screws, helping to start a screw or retrieve one from a tight spot.

The appropriate use for Magnetic screwdrivers: These are ideal for any situation where you’re dealing with loose screws, especially in hard-to-reach places.

Here are a few pros and cons of Magnetic screwdrivers:

Helpful for starting screws or retrieving themMagnetism can sometimes attract unwanted metal debris
Reduces the risk of dropping and losing screwsNot suitable for use with sensitive electronics

8. Offset Screwdrivers

Offset screwdrivers have a bent shape that allows you to work in tight spaces where a regular screwdriver won’t fit.

The appropriate use for Offset screwdrivers: These are a godsend for working on car interiors, cabinets, or other tight spaces.

Here are a few pros and cons of Offset screwdrivers:

Enables screwing/unscrewing in confined spacesNot as comfortable to use as a straight screwdriver

9. Spiral Ratchet Screwdrivers

Spiral ratchet screwdrivers, also known as Yankee screwdrivers, have a spring-loaded mechanism that drives the bit in one direction when the handle is pushed.

The appropriate use for Spiral ratchet screwdrivers: These are used in woodworking and general construction for their speed and efficiency.

Here are a few pros and cons of Spiral ratchet screwdrivers:

Rapid, continuous screwing actionMore complex, prone to mechanical failure
Often have a built-in ratchet for ease of use

10. Watchmaker’s Screwdrivers

Watchmaker’s screwdrivers are even smaller than jeweler’s screwdrivers and come in a set of varying sizes for precision work.

The appropriate use for Watchmaker’s screwdrivers: As the name implies, these are used primarily for watch repairs and other intricate work involving tiny screws.

Precision tool for very small screwsLimited use cases outside of watch repair
The small size makes them easy to lose

These specialty screwdrivers each serve a unique purpose, broadening the capabilities of the humble screwdriver beyond its traditional uses.

As always, the key is to use the right tool for the job, ensuring efficiency and, more importantly, safety.

Proper Care And Maintenance For Screwdrivers

screwdrivers maintenance and care

You’ve invested in a solid screwdriver set, so let’s make sure it lasts. Here are some care and maintenance tips to help keep your tools in prime condition.

Regular Cleaning

Cleaning your screwdrivers after each use can prevent dirt and rust from accumulating. Use a damp cloth to wipe them down, making sure to dry them thoroughly afterward.

Proper Storage

Store your screwdrivers in a dry place to avoid moisture-related damage. Using a toolbox or drawer with designated spots can keep them organized and protected.

Dealing With Rust And Corrosion

If rust does appear, it can often be removed with a bit of elbow grease and some steel wool or a wire brush. For stubborn rust, a rust-removing solution may be necessary.

Safety Measures While Using Screwdrivers

screwdrivers safety measures

When it comes to using tools, safety should always be paramount. Even a simple tool like a screwdriver can cause harm if not used correctly.

Here are several safety measures you should consider when using screwdrivers:

  • Choose the Right Tool: This isn’t just about effectiveness; it’s about safety too. Using the wrong type or size of screwdriver can lead to slipping or loss of control, which can result in injury.
  • Check the Condition of the Tool: Before you start, always inspect your tool. Look for any damage, such as cracks in the handle or a bent shaft. A damaged tool is a safety hazard and should be replaced.
  • Wear Appropriate Protective Equipment: Safety glasses should be worn to protect your eyes from any debris. If you’re working with power screwdrivers, hearing protection might also be necessary.
  • Maintain a Firm Grip: Always keep a firm, steady grip on the screwdriver. This will not only ensure accurate work but will prevent the tool from slipping out of your hand.
  • Don’t Use Excessive Force: If a screw won’t budge, don’t apply excessive force as this can cause the screwdriver to slip or break. Instead, use penetrating oil to loosen the screw, or consider drilling a small pilot hole.
  • Always Push Away from Your Body: When applying force to a screwdriver, always direct it away from your body. This way, if the screwdriver slips, you’re less likely to injure yourself.
  • Never Use a Screwdriver as a Pry Bar or Chisel: Screwdrivers are not designed for prying or chiseling. Using them for these purposes can damage the tool and cause injury.
  • Store Safely: When not in use, store your screwdrivers in a safe place. This protects the tool and prevents accidents.
  • Electrical Safety: Never use a metal screwdriver on electrical circuits unless it’s properly insulated. When working on electrical projects, always turn off the power first.

Following these safety measures will not only ensure that your project goes smoothly, but will also help to prevent unnecessary accidents or injuries. Remember, a responsible worker is a safe worker!

How to Choose The Right Screwdriver For Your Project?

screwdriver types

Selecting the right screwdriver isn’t always as straightforward as it seems. Here are ten critical factors to consider when choosing the perfect tool for your project:

1. Match The Screwdriver Type To The Screw

Every screw type requires a specific screwdriver. Using a mismatched pair can result in a damaged screw or, even worse, a failed project.

Make sure to match the screwdriver type—flathead, Phillips, Torx, etc.—to the corresponding screw.

2. Consider The Screwdriver Size

Size matters when it comes to screwdrivers. If your driver is too large or small for the screw, it can strip the screw head or slip out during use.

Many screwdriver types come in a range of sizes, so always check for the right fit.

3. Understand The Material You’ll Be Working With

Different materials require different levels of torque and screw types.

If you’re working with hardwood, for example, you might need a screwdriver capable of delivering more torque compared to working with softwood or sheet metal.

4. Grip And Comfort Matter

Comfort is crucial, especially for projects that require extended use of the tool. Choose a screwdriver with an ergonomic handle that fits well in your hand.

The handle should also provide a firm grip to prevent any slippage.

5. Look For Quality

Not all screwdrivers are made equal. A low-quality tool can bend, break, or even harm the user.

Opt for a screwdriver from a reputable manufacturer, even if it costs a little more. Remember, a good tool is an investment.

6. Consider The Length

Screwdrivers come in various lengths. The length you need depends on the location of the screw and how much force is needed. For hard-to-reach places, you might need a longer screwdriver.

However, for tasks requiring more force, a shorter screwdriver might be more appropriate.

7. Evaluate The Handle Design

The design of the handle is not just about comfort. A good handle design will allow you to apply more torque, reducing the effort needed.

Some screwdrivers also have a hex bolster where you can use a wrench to apply more torque.

8. Magnetic Or Not?

A magnetic screwdriver tip can be very handy when you’re dealing with small screws or working in a tight space.

It can hold the screw in place, making your job much easier. But be careful around sensitive electronics, as magnets can cause damage.

9. Insulated Or Not?

If you’re going to be working around electricity, an insulated screwdriver is a must. These tools have a protective coating on the shaft that prevents electrical current from reaching the user.

Just remember, insulation is not a substitute for turning off the power!

10. Fixed Or Interchangeable Bits?

A screwdriver with interchangeable bits can be a space and money saver, as one handle can adapt to multiple screw types and sizes.

However, a fixed-blade screwdriver can usually withstand more torque and is often more durable.

By carefully considering these factors, you can select the right screwdriver that meets your needs, ensures your safety, and helps your project go smoothly.

The Bottom Line

We’ve traveled the gamut of screwdrivers, from understanding screws to in-depth reviews of standard and specialty screwdrivers, and finally, tips for maintaining your tools.

Armed with this knowledge, you’re ready to tackle any project that comes your way. Remember, the right tool can make all the difference. So, pick up that screwdriver with confidence, knowing you’ve got the right one for the job.