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Get to Know Your Screwdrivers

Like a scalpel to a surgeon, the screwdriver is an essential functionary in any DIYer’s tool box. 

An electric drill may be superior for big builds, but the screwdriver maintains its dominance in building where precision and a level of delicacy is necessary.


Patent for a Phillips Screwdriver, 1933

While the electric drill revolutionized how quick and consistent we can be, the screwdriver is still an important addition to any DIYer’s tool box. There are a variety of types of screwdrivers (and screws), but generally speaking, a screwdriver is a hand tool that translates torque into linear force manually.

The first screwdriver was invented in Germany or France in the 1500s, as the Schraubenzieher (screwpuller) and tournevis (turnscrew) showed up in medieval documents in reference to inventors from both countries. Not surprisingly, it wasn’t until the First Industrial Revolution in the 1800s that both screws and screwdrivers were standardized and produced more widely, with a constant stream of inventions and patents from enterprising industrialists focused on refining the screw and its driver. As the design became more refined, we settled on a general understanding of what constitutes a screwdriver.

Parts of a Screwdriver


Crafted from wood or metal in the past; now most often made from molded plastic with ergonomic design enhancements, like indentations for fingers or a rough grip to prevent slipping. You can find screwdrivers with a wider handle diameter to apply maximum torque or smaller diameters for precision work.


The long piece of metal connecting the handle to the drive tip. Many modern screwdrivers offer varying shanks to slip into a single handle as well as open tips to switch out the type. 


The shaped end of the screwdriver. The screwdriver’s function (and name) is determined by the blade (i.e. flathead, crosshead, etc). 

Drive Tip (the head)

The most important part of the screwdriver; it’s the very end of the screwdriver that helps lock the blade into a screw head. Jamming or slipping is often caused by a mis-matched drive tip size and screw head type. 

Screwdriver measurements are listed by the shaft length and head width. Longer shaft lengths are most often used for fitting into deeper spaces (like into the body of a car). Shaft lengths are often in proportion to handle lengths, so the shorter the shaft, the shorter the handle.

Types of Screwdrivers

Flathead (Slotted)

The most common type of screwdriver with a straight linear blade. Flatheads are considered the most universal blade types. 

Phillips (Crosshead)

The crosshead’s common name, the Phillips, comes from Henry Phillips, who bought the crosshead patent from an Oregon-based inventor named J.P. Thompson.


Most commonly used to assemble furniture or securing home hardware. The hex key at the tip is designed much like an Allen wrench. Can also be used as effective nut drivers. 


Not to be mistaken with posi vibes, this screwdriver is an upgraded version of the Phillips. It was invented to prevent cam out, which is when the screwdriver slips out of the screw head when a lot of pressure is applied. A Pozidriv usually has “PSD” or “PZ” engraved on it and Pozidriv screws four notches engraved into the head.

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