Toolbox Essentials – Screwdrivers

Screwdrivers are probably the most common tools used both for household and professional purposes. They come in a large variety of sizes from tiny jeweler’s screwdrivers up, and are designed to match the large variety of screws available.The screwdriver seems to have originated in either France or Germany in the late 15th century. The original name for this tool was screwturner or turnscrew. The earliest screwdrivers had pear-shaped wooden handles and were made for slotted screws. Screws were used in the 15th century for constructing screw-cutting lathes, for securing breastplates, backplates and helmets on medieval jousting armor. Screwdrivers developed over time as the development of screws evolved and improved.In 1908, a Canadian, P.L. Robertson, although not the first person to patent the idea of socket-head screws, was the first person to successfully commercialize them. Socket screws rapidly grew in popularity and are still a favorite of mechanics today for their resistance to wear and tear, their compatibility with hex keys, and their ability to stop a power tool when set. Unfortunately, Robertson was unwilling to relinquish his patents and as a result, ran in to difficulties when trying to market his invention to the newly booming auto industry.In the meantime, an American, Henry F. Phillips, patented his own improved invention, today known as the Phillips screw. It was a version of a deep socket with a cruciform (arranged in a cross) that quickly became, and still remains, the most popular screw in the world. A main attraction for the screw was that conventional slotted screwdrivers could be used on them.Torx, the trademark for a type of screw head characterized by a six-point star-shaped pattern, was developed in 1967 by Camcar Textron. The screwdriver used on these screws is sometimes referred to as a star screwdriver. Torx screws are commonly used on automobiles, motorcycles, bicycle brake systems, hard disk drives, computer systems and consumer electronics. Initially, they were used in applications requiring tamper-resistance, since the drive systems and screwdrivers were not readily available.There are many different types of screws, and consequently many different types of screwdrivers, available today. The slotted, Phillips and Robertson screwdrivers remain the most popular. From minor household repairs, to major construction projects, the need for a good set of screwdrivers is apparent. It would be convenient to only require one type, but the variety of metal and wood screws available deem this impossible. If a screwdriver is not the correct size and type for the screw being used, it’s very likely that the screw will be damaged in the process of tightening or loosening it.Screwdrivers may be purchased individually or in sets. Your toolbox or tool drawer should contain at least a couple of flat or slotted screwdrivers, a couple of Phillips screwdrivers, and a couple of Robertson screwdrivers, all in various sizes. A set of precision screwdrivers and perhaps a small cordless screwdriver with various bits are great tools to have on hand as well. Some screwdriver tips are magnetic, so that the screw remains attached to the screwdriver while the screwdriver is being used. This feature is particularly useful when working with small screws that are typically difficult to handle.A set of screwdrivers or a cordless screwdriver can prove to be an inexpensive but useful gift for someone starting out on their own. Both men and women can make use of these tools for a variety of tasks from simply tightening existing screws around the house, installing a ceiling fan, or for working on home renovations. Having the right tools for the job is imperative. Although it may be tempting, never use screwdrivers as improvised substitutes for pry bars, levers, hole punches, or any other purpose they are not designed for. Such use can damage the tip or bend the shaft, or injure the user if the screwdriver slips or fails. Always remember safety first!

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