Types of Screwdrivers: The Complete Guide


What is a Screwdriver

A screwdriver is a tool that allows you to amplify the turning motion of your hands. Its main function is to make the process of removing screws significantly easier.

If you’ve ever attempted to remove a screw using only your hand – you’ll know exactly what I mean. A screwdriver allows you to easily insert and remove screws by simply turning the handle of the screwdriver.

The turning motion can either be clockwise or counter-clockwise depending on whether you want to tighten or loosen the screw. Anti-clockwise will loosen the screw (“Lefty Lucy”), clockwise will tighten the screw (“Righty Tighty”).

The handle of the screwdriver is generally made of plastic. The handle is molded into a shape so that it fits comfortably in your hand while making it easy for you to grip. This handle design allows for maximum control and torque.

Screwdrivers come in many shapes and sizes. Some screwdrivers are for general use, and some are designed for a dedicated purpose (such as an insulated screwdriver, which is a crucial part of any electrical tools list).

Types of Screwdrivers

The types of screwdrivers include:

  • Flathead screwdriver
  • Phillips screwdriver
  • Insulated screwdriver
  • Allen wrench screwdriver
  • Torx screwdriver
  • Robertson screwdriver
  • Schrader screwdriver
  • Tri-wing screwdriver
  • Spanner screwdriver
  • Square drive screwdriver
  • Clutch screwdriver
Types of Screwdrivers

There are two main types of screwdriver heads – flathead and Phillips. You also have insulated screwdrivers, which can come in both flathead or Phillips.

Flathead Screwdriver

The flathead (or slotted) screwdriver was invented during the 15th century in Europe. Due to its flatted shaft tip, you can only use it with slotted screw heads. The most common sizes for this type of screwdriver are 5.5mm and 8mm wide.

Flathead Screwdriver

You can use a slotted screwdriver either manually or in combination with a power-driven device. The power-driven method is less manual work, but requires more attention. That’s because it’s much easier for the screwdriver to slip out if you don’t apply the right amount of pressure. This also makes the power-driven method the more dangerous approach. Since the tip is flat, it’s prone to movement.

There are two types of flat screwdrivers – flared slotted and parallel slotted.

Flared Slotted Screwdriver

The tip of a flared driver has a flattened shape in the sense that the shaft is narrower than the edge.

Parallel Slotted Screwdriver

Parallel drivers have an edge that’s equal in width as the shaft. That prevents them from slipping off from the surface of the screw head.

Phillips Screwdriver

The greatest benefit of this type is that it allows the users to do things precisely and save more time. The ‘cam-out’ (slipping) effect is almost non-existent due to their rounded tip shape.

Phillips Screwdriver

Pozidriv Screwdriver

The Pozidriv screwdriver has a similar shape to the Phillips screwdriver. The main difference between the two is that Pozidriv has two cross signs, while the . That makes it excellent for applications that require high torque for tightening.

Pozidriv Screwdriver

The Pozidriv (sometimes incorrectly spelled “Pozidrive“) is an improved version of the Phillips screw drive. It was designed to allow more torque and engagement to be applied to a Phillips drive. Because of this, Pozidriv screwdrivers are less likely to cam out than a Phillips’ head.

Insulated Screwdriver

An insulated screwdriver is a screwdriver designed to protect electricians, lineman, and other tradesmen who work near electricity. Because of this, it is often referred to as an electricians screwdriver. Insulated screwdrivers are required when you’re working with live conductive parts.

The insulated plastic or rubber coating ensures that you’re not hurt if the conductive metal screwdriver tip comes into contact with electricity.

The best electricians screwdrivers also carry additional voltage ratings which specify the amount of the electricity that they can absorb without passing the electricity to those in contact with the handle. The typical rating for a professional insulated screwdriver is around 1,000 volts.

If you’re not working anywhere near electricity, you don’t need an insulated screwdriver. A cheaper non-insulated screwdriver will get the job done. But if you’re an electrician – an insulated screwdriver is an ESSENTIAL part of your toolkit.

How to Make a Screwdriver

The manufacturing process of a screwdriver is actually quite complex, even though the final product looks simple. In the past, most screwdrivers were wooden which means that their production was entirely manual. Fortunately enough, the industry continued improving to the point where everything is a part of mass production.

Nowadays, there are numerous factories that use industrial machines to create each of the screwdriver parts. Afterward, the parts go to the assembly line where the product becomes ready for the market.

The Steel Bar – We already mentioned one part of the steel bar manufacturing process in one of the previous sections. What we didn’t mention are the particulars of such a procedure. The factory uses industrial machines to process the raw steel into a .375 inch (diameter) bar. Furthermore, the manufacturers anneal it to get the appropriate tensile strength of the metal. The next step is straightening the wire and cutting it to the right length. Finally, the last step is to enamel the steel bar in nickel or chromium to get that perfect corrosion resistance.

The Handle – Cellulose acetate is one of the main components of a screwdriver handle. The factory receives the material in powder form and processes it. They use a giant blender where they add a liquid plasticizer and mix it in with the powder. As a result, they get a thick substance that will later become the bulk of the handle.

Afterward, they feed the substance into an extruder. This is the part where manufacturers mix different colors if they want to create a unique look. The final step is often drying and washing the handles.

Assembly – The word is pretty much self-explanatory. After the manufacturers deal with each manufacturing process, all that they need to do is to assemble the parts. The complexity of the assembly roughly depends on the quality of the tool. It can be fast or extremely slow.

The assembly line consists of several individual horizontal assembly machines which force the bar into the handle. To ensure that everything stays firm, the machines brand the handles by a hot stamp. After that, the factory sends the product for quality control and then ships it.

Parts Of A Screwdriver

A screwdriver is made of two main parts:

  • The handle
  • The drive

Screwdriver Handle

The handle is the part of the screwdriver that you grip with your hand (hence the name “hand”–le).

The handle is the largest part of the screwdriver and is most commonly made of plastic or rubber. It allows you to get a good grip on the screwdriver and apply pressure in an efficient manner. The handle can be either a regular one or a precision one (depending on its application).

The diameter of the handle differs between different screwdrivers. A larger handle will increase the amount of torque applied to the screw for the same amount of effort (energy) compared to a smaller handle.

The downside to a larger handle is that it will make the screwdriver bulkier, and weight more. Making it less convenient to hold and carry around.

You will often find bigger (larger diameter) handles on screwdrivers that aren’t as long. There is a functional reason for this. The torque a screwdriver produces for a given amount of effort will be higher if:

  • The screwdriver has a bigger (wider diameter) handle
  • The screwdriver is longer (in length)

So smaller-length screwdrivers won’t produce as much torque as their long-length counterparts for a set amount of effort. To compensate for this, manufacturers will often design smaller screwdrivers a larger handle.

The last (but not least) factor to consider when looking at a screwdriver handle is comfort.

Badly designed handles are uncomfortable, heavy, and hard-to-grip. Well designed handles are comfortable, lightweight, and easy-to-grip.

Anyone who has used a badly designed screwdriver handle will know exactly what I’m talking about. It just makes the job harder than it needs to be.

Well-designed handles make your life easier in two main ways:

  1. They are more comfortable in your hand
  2. They reduce the amount of effort needed to insert and remove screws

Both of these benefits mean that you’ll have less hand fatigue when using screwdriver’s with a well-designed, comfortable handle.

Screwdriver Drive

The term ‘screwdriver drive’ refers to the tip of the screwdriver.

It’s crucial that you have the right screwdriver head for the job. While it’s sometimes possible to use a screwdriver head that doesn’t match the screw, it’s not recommended. Doing so will ruin the screw head, especially if it’s a cheap screw made from weaker metals.

We’ve all used the flathead screwdriver for a Phillips-head screw one or twice (…or more) when we’re feeling lazy. But it’s not good for the screw – so try to avoid it.

There are also screwdrivers with detachable drives. This makes your screwdriver set a lot easier to carry around. Instead of carrying a big box of screwdrivers, you can instead bring one multipurpose screwdriver with a bunch of detachable drives.

For the part-time hobbyist or person who travels a lot with their screwdrivers, these multipurpose screwdrivers can be quite useful. They’re generally cheaper than buying a full set of screwdrivers and are more convenient for travel.

But if you’re a serious DIY-er or you person who just keeps their screwdrivers in one place (e.g. your shed or garage), then you’re better off going for a proper screwdriver set.

This is because (stronger + generally higher quality)

Additional Parts

A screwdriver also has a shank and a blade as its two remaining parts. A shank is the main part of the tool and it connects the handle and the tip. In most cases, it can run along the entire length of the handle to increase its durability.

The blade basically ‘holds’ the tip and it can have different shapes (depending on the tip). You might mix up a blade with the tip due to their similar functions.

What Are Screwdrivers Made of

When it comes to the material that the manufacturers use to make screwdrivers, there are several options. The creation of the screwdriver often revolves around using steel wires, chromium, and nickel.

The steel bar of a screwdriver uses a steel wire as its base component. The factory uses the steel wires that are at least .375 inches in diameter. Furthermore, it uses industrial machines to draw the steel wire until its size becomes appropriate for the steel bar.

Screwdriver manufacturers often use chromium to create stainless steel. They only use it when they want to create a high-end professional tip of the screwdriver. Chromium has a high resistance to discoloration and rust (corrosion).

To create the coating of the screwdriver, the manufacturers use nickel. The protective properties of that material are second to none. Since most of these screwdrivers are being made for consumers, it’s important to ensure that they’re safe to use. Nickel can reduce the chances of a shock by an electrical current, etc.

How To Store Your Screwdriver

Since we know how important (and expensive) screwdrivers can be, it’s crucial to preserve their condition in the best possible way. Storing them in a separate box, placing them on a shelf, or hanging them on the wall are all valid options. You can either opt for finished products or some DIY methods. Let’s explore them in greater detail.

When it comes to the finished products, you can choose between various tool cabinets, chests, boxes, buckets, and even tool belts. The manufacturers of these products always focus on making them as compact as possible. The products offer all the necessary space where the users can safely store their tools and order them to their liking.

For example, tool chests have multiple drawers which have an open space on the front for a label. You can easily arrange the screwdrivers according to their shape, size, and functionality. Tool boxes and buckets mainly provide a space for the tools and ensure that everything has its own place.

Concerning the DIY methods, you can try creating their own storage containers or shelves. There are multiple methods online which explain how to create a screwdriver holder. These holders usually have a plastic structure and you can attach them to any wall or shelf. The tools basically hang from it and allow the users to scan through everything quickly.

Who Invented the Screwdriver

The exact date and the founder of a screwdriver are still unknown. There are multiple speculations about the place where the screwdriver originated. There’s a claim that the first design appeared in Germany (or France) in 1490.

Although we can’t say that he’s the real inventor, P.L. Robertson is partially responsible for the commercial success of the tool. He was the first man who decided to commercialize the design and patent the idea. Nowadays, ‘Robertson’ screwdrivers are among the most popular and widely used tools. Later on, several other individuals expanded on the concept of the tool and made it even more unique. More on that in the following section.

Who is the Phillips Head Screwdriver Named After

Twenty-eight years after the Robertson’s patent broke through, Henry Phillips patented his own head screws. Henry developed his screws as a response to the high demand for them, At that time, there were numerous car assembly lines which required a lot of screws. Since his screws were completely compatible with the automatic screwdrivers in the assembly one, he was bound to succeed.

An interesting thing is that American Screw Co. rejected his invention at first. It was later on, in 1936, that General Motors started using Henry’s head screws regularly to produce Cadillacs. Phillips screws and the screwdriver are still widely popular to this day.

About Blake Sutton

Blake has worked as an electrician for over 10 years, receiving his Journeyman Electrician license in 1998. Looking to take his professional electrical career further, in 2008 he received his Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering (BSEE) from the University of Texas in Austin. Blake now works full time as an electrical engineer, specializing in power systems.