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Screwdrivers

Thursday, 31 July 2008

No matter if youíre Mr. Fix It or Bumbling Bob, everyone needs a screwdriver. And nothingís more frustrating than fiddling with bits. We find out what there is to know about this essential toolbox inhabitant, and also if one works better than another.

   BUYING TIPS

The Basics

  • There are three basic bits (tips) you need to cover the most common screw heads you’ll encounter:

    • Robertson: square flat tip

    • Phillips: star or cross-shaped

    • Slot or flat-head: a single flat/slotted tip

  • If you’ve got a multi-tip screwdriver, it may include one or more sizes of the same type of tip.

  • If you’re buying single-tip screwdrivers, be sure the handles are different so it’s easier to differentiate them from each other.

  • Handles and grips are often plastic or plastic with silicone grips. Hold it in your hand and get a feel for the different handles. If you’re going to be doing a lot of work with the screwdriver, you may want to consider a more ergonomic, comfortable handle.

  • Traditionally, screwdriver handles are shaped like a bulb, large enough to be gripped comfortably in the palm of your hand enabling the user to provide more torque in the driving end.

Other Considerations

  • Believe it or not some hardware stores actually have gift registries so you can stock up on all the tools you need when you get married – because you’ll need them!

  • Some usage tips for your new screwdriver:

    • Your screwdriver should fit snugly into the head of the screw otherwise you’re not going to get as much resistance or torque and you’ll end up stripping the screw.

    • Never use a slotted screwdriver for Phillips head screws; you’ll damage the screw and the driver.

    • Torque or turning power turns the screw, not pressure, so don’t bear down on the screwdriver.

    • If you’re trying to screw into hardwood, it helps to rub a little beeswax (you can use a candle) onto the tip of the screw; it’ll help the screw go into the wood more smoothly.

   TEST CRITERIA

We asked an electrician who constantly relies on her screwdriver to test out a few we selected, and we try them out building a desk. We tested:

  • Rubbermaid (multi-head with two of each of the main tips plus a ratcheting head): $12
  • Barbara K! (multi-head, designed for women, with extendable magnetized tip): $20
  • Fuller (entry level set with six plastic-handled screwdrivers): $6
  • Klein (5-piece set made from tempered steel with cushioned handles): $63

Strength Test

  • All of the screwdrivers held up under a pretty intense amount of pressure.

  • The biggest difference among them was under a microscope: the cheaper Fuller looked quite a bit different than the others, probably indicating less consistency during the heat treatment process. Despite that, our expert was pretty confident that none of them would bend on the job.

Usage Test

  • Our electrician found that the Klein was overall the best screwdriver for her frequent needs. She also felt the Barbara K would be a good set for around the house.

  • The Rubbermaid felt good but the storage compartment for the extra bits was finicky and time-consuming.

  • The flashlight and magnetic features of the Barbara K set gave it bonus marks over the rest. Plus it was comfortable to use and also stylish.

   OUR TOP PICK

While our electrician expert preferred the most expensive tool by Klein, we feel that the Barbara K! screwdriver does the job just fine, and at a more reasonable price. Barbara K! products are only available online.

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