What is Phillips Head Screwdriver?
A Phillips screwdriver has a head with pointed edges in the shape of a cross, which fits neatly into the cross slots of a Phillips screw. Phillips’s screwdrivers are available in five different sizes, ranging from zero(smallest) to four (largest).
The Phillips head screwdriver was created and patented by Henry Phillips in the 1930s and was originally used on the 1936 Cadillac. The great thing about it is that unlike the flat head screw (with a single ridge at its tip to slide into a screw with one slot), the Phillips screwdriver is self-centering. Its “X” design won’t slip out of the X-slotted screw. Instead, it grips the screw firmly in the center, provided it’s the suitable size for the screw.
If you like to build things yourself, you’ll probably need a few Phillips screwdrivers in various sizes, and having a cordless electric Phillips screwdriver in your toolset can really come in handy. Phillips screw heads allow a tighter fit than a flat head screw, which is why most factories and handymen use them. The screws tend to be lightweight and relatively small.
The trick is to match your screwdriver to the type and size of screws you’re using. Your choice of the screw depends on the type of job you’re doing. Use crosshead screws (which include both Phillips and posidrive screws) for most of your power driving. Use single-slot screws for carpentry and joinery. Use only a Phillips screwdriver for Phillips screws.
If you’re not sure which screwdriver to use, be gentle as you begin to drive it. If your screwdriver starts wobbling or slipping out of the screw, you know you’ve chosen the incorrect type or size screwdriver.
Phillips Head Screwdriver Sizes
Phillips head screwdrivers come in sizes indicated by numbers rather than measurements, such as is the case with regular or flathead screwdrivers. Screws, too, are designated according to number, from 0 to 24. Screws may be machined to fit single-slotted drivers or crosshead drivers. Flathead, single-slotted drivers are measured in inches and fit a particular size of screw, in some cases more than one.
Phillips head screwdrivers are built to work with the same screws, only those with crossheads instead. Since there are only five sizes of Phillips head screwdrivers, they each fit at least two sizes of a screw, but sometimes can even fit up to five like with the #2.
The #0 Phillips head drivers fit screw numbers 0 and 1 while the #1 Phillips head fits screw numbers 2, 3, and 4. #2 Phillips head screwdrivers fit screw numbers 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9. The #3 Phillips head works on screws with the numbers 10, 12, 14, and 16, and the #4 Phillips head corresponds with screws numbered 18, 20, and 24. The numbering system, while a bit hard to keep track of, is one way to determine which screwdriver works with which screw. The other way requires trial and error.
Phillips Head Screwdriver Sets and Additional Types
Any complete screwdriver set will feature both flat head and Phillips’s head screwdrivers, with the size of the drivers ranging from 0 to 4 while the handle and shaft will length vary. In a set, you might find a special stubby Phillips-head driver with a 1½-inch shaft, and several drivers with four-inch shafts as well.
There are numerous other types of these screwdrivers, though, with shafts as long as eight or nine inches. Also available are crosshead screwdrivers that feature quick-rotating shafts. These have a slight bend in the middle of the shaft before straightening out again. The design facilitates a much faster rotation of the screw and added torque.
Dozens of Phillips head screwdrivers exist with slight variations on the handle, shaft, and driver tip, but they all come in one of the standard five sizes. They are available in sets and individually and are useful to have in a tool kit for the day you inevitably work with crosshead screws.