The screwdriver is one of the most important hand tools in every toolbox. There are many situations and professions where a screwdriver is essential to perform a specific task that involves loosening or tightening fasteners.
Screwdrivers are a type of hand tool used for the insertion and removal of screws. They are available in a multitude of variations to correspond to the correct screw drive. The drive or head of a screw has a shaped cavity and protrusion that fits the screwdriver tip. A turning force known as torque can be applied in either a clockwise or counter-clockwise direction.
There are dozens of different types of screwdrivers and more are cropping up all the time as manufacturers develop new types of screws. Luckily, there are really only a few varieties the average homeowner should keep on hand.
What is Screwdriver?
A screwdriver is a tool, manual or powered, used for driving screws. A typical simple screwdriver has a handle and a shaft, ending in a tip the user puts into the screw head before turning the handle. This form of screwdriver has been replaced in many workplaces and homes with a more modern and versatile tool, a power drill, as they are quicker, easier, and also can drill holes.
The shaft is usually made of tough steel to resist bending or twisting. The tip may be hardened to resist wear, treated with a dark tip coating for improved visual contrast between tip and screw, or ridged or treated for additional ‘grip’.
Handles are typically wood, metal, or plastic and usually hexagonal, square, or oval in cross-section to improve grip and prevent the tool from rolling when set down. Some manual screwdrivers have interchangeable tips that fit into a socket on the end of the shaft and are held mechanically or magnetically.
These often have a hollow handle that contains various types and sizes of tips, and a reversible ratchet action that allows multiple full turns without repositioning the tip or the user’s hand.
A screwdriver is classified by its tip, which is shaped to fit the driving surfaces slots, grooves, recesses, etc. on the corresponding screw head. Proper use requires that the screwdriver’s tip engage the head of a screw of the same size and type designation as the screwdriver tip.
Screwdriver tips are available in a wide variety of types and sizes (List of screw drives). The two most common are the simple ‘blade’-type for slotted screws, and Phillips, generically called “cross-recess”, “cross-head”, or “cross-point”.
Let’s discuss in detail various types of screwdrivers.
Types of Screwdrivers
The different types of screwdrivers are typically determined by the drive tip shape which corresponds with the specific head type of a given screw. However, other screwdriver types are application-specific or are intended for particular industries.
Different Types of Screwdrivers:
- Flat Head Screwdriver
- Phillips Head Screwdriver
- Pozidriv Screwdriver
- Robertson or Square Screwdriver
- Torx Screwdriver
- Hex Screwdriver or Hexagon Screwdriver
- Spanner Screwdrivers
- Insulated Screwdrivers
- Torque Screwdrivers
- Tri-Wing Screwdriver
- Square Screwdriver
- Precision Screwdrivers
- Security T Screwdrivers
- Clutch Screwdrivers
- Specialty Screwdrivers
- Jeweler’s Screwdrivers
- Computer Screwdrivers
- Triangle Screwdriver
- Magnetic Screwdrivers
- Ratchet Screwdrivers
Some of the most common types of screwdrivers are detailed in the sections below.
1. Flat-head screwdrivers
Flat-head screwdrivers are labeled according to the size of the tip and there are different types of screwdriver shaft lengths. As the name suggests it has a flat shape shaft tip with a single slot that engages with the slotted screw head only.
The slot or flat-headed screwdriver is probably the most common form of hand tool. It has a flattened tip used for screws with a straight linear intrusion across the head. Flat-blade screwdrivers are multi-purpose and can typically be used for a range of applications.
Screwdriver measurements are listed by the shaft length and head width. It is a good idea to invest in screwdriver sets to keep a few of them in standard and metric sizes in your toolbox. These are best used for projects such as assembling furniture and installing light switch plate covers.
They are of two types according to their application: keystone and cabinet. keystone screwdrivers have a somewhat wider shaft tip as compared to cabinet type which makes them more applicable for purposes like woodworking etc. while the cabinet one is used for jewelry making, watch working, etc.
2. Phillips Head Screwdriver
Also known as cross-head screwdrivers, Phillips’s screwdrivers are one of the most common types. But what is a Phillips head screwdriver? These tools are designed to fit screws with Phillips heads, which have a cross-shaped recess – hence the alternative name of a cross screwdriver. They were invented to cope with higher torsion.
As today’s world is moving from manually driven to power or motor-driven, these were the first step toward power-driven screwdrivers to save time and do things more precisely and accurately. These were invented in the 19th century by Henry Phillips with the aim to introduce power-driven screwdrivers in most industries.
When you see these screwdrivers from the front, the tip looks like a cross sign. These types of screwdrivers also show a cam-out effect but it does purposely when the torque exceeds a limit while tightening up of screw which resists the damage of the screwdriver profile and screw and clearly extends the life of the tool.
Phillips’s screwdrivers are commonly used in construction, remodeling, and carpentry projects. The Philips screwdriver heads create a flared cross that ends at a rounded point. An exception is the Frearson screwdriver, which closely resembles a Phillips. The difference is the Frearson head is sharp with a 45-degree angled tip that allows Frearson types of screwdrivers to generate more torque.
3. Pozidriv Screwdriver
Pozidriv screwdrivers are essentially an upgraded version of Philips. They were designed to reduce cam-out, which is the process where a screwdriver slips out of the screw head when more torque is applied.
The pozidriv screwdriver has two cross signs which are offset at 45-degree angles. These are designed and widely used in Europe. This shape doesn’t completely overcome the cam-out effect but provides better resistance to slipping and offers more stability than Phillip’s profile, therefore used for applications that require high torque for tightening of the screw.
These screwdrivers are designated by the letters “PZ” followed by a size code ranging from 0 to the largest size of 5. The screwdriver’s blunt tip is designed to accommodate the screw’s two sets of indentations. Pozidriv and Phillips screwdrivers appear interchangeable, but a Pozidriv could jam into Phillips screws and could slip or damage the screw head when tightened.
Related: What is Phillip’s Head Screwdriver?
4. Robertson or Square Screwdriver
The square screwdriver is also known as Robertson screwdriver, is named after a Canadian inventor.
Robertson screwdrivers have a slight taper at the end and a square-shaped tip. The tapered end makes inserting the screw easier and helps you keep the screw on the tooltip without having to hold the screw in place. Robertson screwdrivers are used often with furniture and auto repair. They are popular in Canada, where the tool originated.
These screwdrivers types were first used for industrial purposes by Ford Motor company, because these drivers speed up production, reduce damages, and are highly reliable. These are very famous in USA and Canada but not in Europe.
5. Torx Screwdriver
Torx screwdrivers have a tip of six rounded points resembling a star to fit into the screws or nuts and to tolerate increased torque. The design ensures the screw head is less likely to be stripped. These screwdrivers are commonly used in automotive applications like wheel locks and consumer electronics.
Known variously as star head screwdrivers, pointed screwdrivers, six-point screwdrivers, and Torx screwdrivers, these versions are all the same type. Torx is the trademark for a type of screw head with a six-point star-shaped intrusion, hence the generic name star screwdriver. These exist to ensure even more torque can be applied, in mechanical production, for example.
Unlike Phillips or pozidriv screwdrivers, much higher torque can be transferred with the same amount of force with no chance of tool slipping, even at high driving speed power tools, which makes it more reliable to use.
Torx types of screwdrivers come in a variety of sizes and use a number system to determine the size of the tip like T8, T10, T15, T25, etc. as the number goes up, the size of the tooltip increases.
6. Hex Screwdriver or Hexagon Screwdriver
Hexagonal head screws are commonly used to assemble furniture and secure home hardware such as towel bars and faucet handles. The hex screwdriver is equipped with a hex key at the tip and is designed to tighten and loosen these types of screws heads much like Allen wrenches. Hex screwdrivers are also effective as nut drivers.
Allen keys or wrenches are more popular tools for loosening or tightening hex screws. However, hexagon screwdrivers exist to serve the same purpose, and hex-head tools are often included in sets.
It has six straight lobes, like a hexagon. No slipping or cam-out effect takes place while driving hence most of the power driver tools can be fitted with hex arrangement bits and thus making the production fast and with less error.
Related: What is Allen Wrenches?
7. Spanner Screwdrivers
The flat-headed Spanner screwdriver is made to drive in and remove screws designed to be tamper-proof. Spanner screws have two round pinholes opposing each other.
A Spanner screwdriver has two pins protruding from the tip that is designed to correspond with these types of screws heads. You’ll find these screws used as fasteners in public restrooms, transportation terminals, and other areas where security is emphasized.
Related: What is Spanner?
8. Insulated Screwdrivers
Also known as safety screwdrivers, insulated screwdrivers are important for taking safety precautions in potentially hazardous scenarios. They are constructed from non-conductive materials such as rubber.
VDE screwdrivers are also designed with safety in mind. VDE is an internationally-accredited institution that tests tools to certify that they meet the necessary safety standards. These tools are ideal for electricians.
9. Torque Screwdrivers
Not to be confused with Torx, a screwdriver with torque is similar to a torque wrench. Both are used to apply a specified torque which is meant to be just enough but not too excessive.
They are ideal for tightening screws sufficiently without breaking the material they are fastening and inversely tight enough so they do not fall out. A torquing screwdriver has a torque-limiting clutch that allows a limit on how much force is applied beyond a certain threshold.
Related: What are Wrenches and their types?
10. Tri-Wing Screwdriver
These are used for specific devices such as consoles, mobile phones, and cameras. They often feature quite small tips to enable use with smaller screws and components.
11. Square Screwdriver
The square-headed screwdriver fits screws with a square-shaped recess. It was invented to reduce the cam-out issue of the slotted screws and therefore speed up the fastening process.
12. Precision Screwdrivers
These screwdrivers are used for very small devices where extremely small screws are used. An example of this would be precision work on watches and mobile phones.
13. Security T Screwdrivers
The Security Torx screwdriver, known also as the Security T, is made for Torx screw heads that are designed to be tamper-proof. These screw heads have an additional pin at the center of the six rounded points. Standard Torx screwdrivers cannot be used on these screws, but the Security T screwdriver’s tip has a recessed slot to accommodate the pin.
14. Clutch Screwdrivers
Clutch screwdrivers are commonly used in the manufacturing of mobile homes and recreational vehicles. If you own an RV or an older motor vehicle you may find these types of screws heads that resemble a bowtie.
15. Specialty Screwdrivers
Many specialty screwdrivers are designed for custom-made screws and bolts.
- Tri-point screwdrivers resemble Phillips tools but have three points instead of four. These screwdrivers are often used with electronic hardware.
- Triangle screwdrivers are used for screws that use a triangle-shaped recess at the head. The sides of the triangle bit are straight.
- Tri-wing screwdrivers are common in the aerospace industry to use with screws and bolts holding together commercial aircraft. The three slotted wings surround a small triangular hole in the center. The slots are offset and do not meet at the center of the screw or bolt.
16. Jeweler’s Screwdrivers
These small screwdrivers are designed for precision work involving tiny screws in eyeglasses or watches. They are made with flat and Phillips heads and is used by skilled jewelers and craftspeople.
17. Computer Screwdrivers
Computer screwdrivers are designed to the specifications of laptops, desktops, video gaming systems, and similar devices. Some of these types of screwdrivers are designed to drive in or remove tamper-resistant screws.
18. Triangle Screwdriver
Tools featuring a triangle screwdriver head are less common, but they are ideal for certain applications. The triangular screwdriver head is beneficial as its design makes it more secure and tamper-proof than alternatives. These tools are often used with appliances, toys, and electronics.
19. Magnetic Screwdrivers
Screwdrivers with magnetic tips allow screws to be attracted by magnetic force. This reduces the risk of accidentally dropping them. Magnetized tools are useful for working on electronics where screws are small and can be easily dropped into hard-to-reach places.
20. Ratchet Screwdrivers
Ratcheting screwdrivers have a built-in mechanism that allows the application of force only in one direction while allowing free movement in the other direction. These hand tools function similarly to ratchet spanners.
Screwdrivers come in many different sizes. As well to the standard large, medium and small, there are also stubby screwdrivers that are ideal for use in tight or confined spaces. The tip width and the length of both the blade and the overall tool are usually measured in millimeters (mm).
You should note that some sorts and brands may offer different sizing options to others. For instance, there are four standard Phillips screwdriver sizes. These range from #0 to #4, where #0 is the smallest screwdriver.
Some tools can also be classified by Torx size. This is shown by the letter T followed by a number – for example, T10 screwdrivers. It ranges from miniature screwdrivers right up to T45 and beyond. This system can also be applied to screws, helping you choose the corresponding screwdriver for a particular-sized screw.
Parts of a Screwdriver
The three main parts that constitute a screwdriver are as follows:
- Shaft or shank
- Drive tip or bit
All three parts are made in a production process using machines to form the correct shape of material using an extruder and heat-treating it to achieve the desired tensile strength.
1. Screwdriver Handle
Screwdriver handles are used for gripping and are generally shaped to prevent rolling on flat surfaces. They can also be ergonomically designed to improve comfort when gripping. The materials used in the manufacturing process have changed over time and there is now also more variety for tools intended for use in specific applications.
Most commonly, the handles are ergonomic and made of a composite of hard plastic such as cellulose acetate and rubber. They can also be covered in a non-slip, soft material like thermoplastic rubber to improve grip.
2. Shaft or Shank
The shaft or shank is commonly made of strong steel to ensure that bending or twisting deformation does not occur when applying force. The shaft will be rounded or hexagonal to allow a spanner or wrench to be used to apply increased torque. The shaft is generally has different coloration and material from the drive tip which can be interchangeable.
3. Drive Tip or Bit
The drive tip can be an integrated part of the shank if it is not detachable. Alternatively, it can be an interchangeable part known as a driver-similar to drill bits. These are designed for use with multi-bit tools. The tip may also be known as the screwdriver head.
Screwdriver Uses and Applications
The screwdriver is one of the most essential hand tools in any tool kit. There are many situations and professions where a screwdriver is integral to carrying out a specific task revolving around loosening or tightening fasteners.
- Some of the most common uses of screwdrivers include:
- Electronics and electrical equipment
- Opening mobile phones
- Opening computers
- Mechanical and industrial production
- Woodworking and carpentry
- Metalwork and fastening wood to metal
- Flammable environments
It should also be noted that some specific types of screwdrivers are best suited to certain applications. For instance, the best electrician’s screwdrivers will be insulated to protect the user. Conversely, Phillips’s screwdriver uses are more varied as these tools are suitable for a range of general-purpose applications.