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What is it that draws you to one screwdriver over another? Is it the grip? Strength and durability of the tip? Price? I asked myself these questions this morning, and damn if I could come up with a simple answer. Read on for my take (such that it is), and please be ready to share yours. I’m interested, and I know for a fact a number of manufacturers would love to know what you think as well.

Until I was at least 25, I used whatever tools my father gave me, which in his case meant Craftsman. He was a fan up until the day he died, mainly because he saw them as reasonably priced tools that offered at least basic durability. The replacement policy turned him on, too, as I know it does for many of you. When I finally started buying my own tools in my late 20s, I bought what I already had — more Craftsman. I was smart enough by then to hang on to the expensive stuff, but hey — screwdrivers just seem to get away no matter what. So every couple of years I’d catch Sears with one of those big packs of mixed screwdrivers on sale and replenish my stash.

Then came Toolmonger and with it exposure to a hell of a lot of tools. I found myself seeing Craftsman a bit differently. Sure, they’re still quite decent tools. (I’m talking about the hand tools, here. And my definition of hand tools, not theirs.) But I also discovered that a lot of other companies offer tools of at least what appears to me to be similar quality. This especially applies to screwdrivers.

Take, for example, the Stanley-branded ones available everywhere from Wal-Mart to Amazon. We have a ton of these around the shop, and I can honestly tell you that at least in terms of the things we do with them — auto work, around-the-house stuff, etc. — they’re fine. They’ve held up at least as well as any other drivers in my home toolbox. Of course, I can’t help but notice that they’re quite a bit cheaper, too.

But what I’d never have come across if it wasn’t for Toolmonger was expensive screwdrivers, like those sold by MAC, Snap-On, or even Klein, like the one pictured above. Each of these incorporates slight differences, many of which fit right into what Sean and I have learned are the little tweaks in design and manufacturing that separate inexpensive-but-get-the-job-done from probably-will-outlast-you. I’m talking about things like extra machine work to add precise, tiny radii to corners to prevent stress cracks, additional finishing to add grip or smooth surfaces and ergonomically-designed grips made up of stacked layers of dissimilar materials to deliver balanced comfort, functionality, and durability.

That begs the question: What exactly makes you like one screwdriver over another?

It seems to me that this must be a very complicated question, with the answer tied deeply to use and personal preference. An auto mechanic, for example, might appreciate a TPR grip that keeps the tool from becoming slippery when it gets a little oil or tranny fluid on it, whereas a precision assembly worker might want something smooth to make detailed turns simpler to feel. A few years ago it was all the craze among manufacturers to create mutli-lobed handles to try to give you additional grip power without sacrificing comfort, but doesn’t that assume your hand is shaped like everyone else’s?

When it comes down to it, I have to say that I still reach for the Craftsman screwdrivers first, probably because I’ve used them for so long that they feel comfortable and familiar. But when it comes time to buy more — I’ve gotten better about hanging on to my tools, thank you — I’ll probably buy cheaper stuff because I’m just a seriously cheap bastard. (Not having any spare cash is good training for this.)

If you’ve got a minute, give this a little thought and share in comments. I’d like to know what you like best, but more importantly I’d like to know why. What is it that makes your favorite screwdrivers better than the rest?

 

54 Responses to What Makes A Good Screwdriver?

  1. John Seiffer says:

    I’m not sure I can really answer the question either. But I do know that whenever I try to thin my herd of screwdrivers I always remember that one time there was a really tight screw that only this driver grabbed well enough to loosen. And it seems like there’s a story like that for every damn one of them.

    PS I don’t buy expensive ones. Maybe that’s the problem

  2. I have a couple of screwdrivers that I love, BAHCO brand, with a simple but very very durable traslucent green plastic grip, and a very strong and durable tip. Which alloy they use I don’t remember, but it doesn’t have the chrome-like finish.
    What i love about them is the strenght of the tip and the grip (i even usually use the grip as a hammer :P for small stuff when I cant reach for the proper hammer), they can fall from the top of the stairs and dont break, etc. But besides that, they just feel balanced and comfortable in my hands :)

  3. PeterP says:

    I got a set of these screwdrivers for Christmas and they have rapidly become my favorite:

    http://www.highlandwoodworking.com/heavydutyscrewdriverssetof4.aspx

    Full tang, so no worries about the hand ripping off the shaft. Wooden handles, which I think look nice, and a good variety of sizes. My only complaint is that they do not come in Philips!

  4. stagepin says:

    I work under the assumption that my phillips screwdrivers need to be better quality than my flatheads. I pack a Klein phillips in my toolbag because it’s comfortable and I get an excellent grip on it. The bag also contains a generic all black 6″ flathead and a l2″ husky. The 12″ flathead has been used for everything except turning screws. Which is why I get cheap ones. I can only spend so much when it’s primary purpose is to get hit by a heavier tool as a means of leverage.

    • Ben Granucci says:

      I love your handle, Stagepin.

      An older coworker of mine once said, “I’m too poor to afford cheap tools.” This of course meant that in the long run, the really cheap stuff will end up costing you more than something of better quality as you replace it over and over again.

      For most tools, Craftsman is my starting point. They are reasonably priced, easy to come by, and dependable. The warranty doesn’t hurt either. That said, while the selection is far from limited, they don’t make every variety of every tool. While my screwdrivers are primarily Craftsman, my workbox also has an xcelite 14″ #1 philips driver along with a set of Vaco wedge-type screw holders and a small assortment of Pozidriv screwdrivers from SD I believe.

      As for the “expensive” tools, while I have no aversion to paying for quality or a specialty item (I will pay a premium for a Fluke electrical tester), I just can’t justify Snap-On or Mac pricing for the basic tools in my inventory. I have been using my go-to Craftsman #2 Philips screwdriver for over 10 years now and it is still going strong. Sure there are drivers with better grips and better tips, and some day it might get replaced, but thus far it has served me well.

      • Ben Granucci says:

        Ahh that was SK, not SD for the Pozidriv screwdrivers!

        I also forgot to mention, for precision drivers, I won’t go with anything but Wiha. I haven’t found any that worked better!

  5. Steve says:

    ACR tips are best on Phillips drivers. I use Snap-on hard handle drivers exclusively.

  6. mnoswad1 says:

    Its about the tip and the grip.

    Should be very easy to check this off our list of things to do, the world does not need so much variety. A basic screw driver should have been figured out by now by our grandfathers and we should be working on things more important…..like flying cars and horseless carriages.

    • Ambush27 says:

      Agreed, tip then grip. I don’t have anything too expensive, but when I can justify the expense I’ll probably go with snapon.

  7. Paul says:

    I like the Craftsman in the photo above and Fuller make good ones as well. Both brands have real Robertson tips for us Canadians.

  8. Frankie says:

    I buy Wera or Felo’s both german companies Felo is made in germany and wera is engineered in germany but most are made in CZ. That said it’s not why I buy the tools. I buy them becuase the tips hold up to beatings, the torque driving capabilities are outstanding, and for the most part I buy the chisel style drivers which are full tang with bolsters. Also the grips on both are high comfortable and easy to spin fast. As a electrician I beat alot of stuff, from knockouts to locknuts and even as a cold chisel and Kleins have failed to hold up, and anything cheaper can’t even hold shape for long on professional jobs. I perfer the Felo grip, but in a torque test I found Wera’s have more torque so I am almost all Wera now, Felo however has just a great tip as Wera.

  9. Chris says:

    I’m definitely a Klein guy; I especially like the Philips screwdrivers that have the little spud on the handle, next to the shaft, that allows me to quickly bend 12 gauge wire in the loop you need to attach it to duplex outlets and switches.

  10. Mike says:

    Klein for actually screw driving. Wera for all specialized. Cheap Wal-mart ones to use for not really screw driving activities (chipping, prying, lending, etc).

  11. fred says:

    For years our screwdriver purchases were made via our industrial suppliers who sent us brands like Bridgeport-Crescent, Williams, Klein and Stanley. Occasionally we’d have to pick up a few tools at a local outlet – maybe a Sears – but their screwdrivers probably came from OEM’s like Pratt-Read or others. Now if I were to ask any of the mechanics or installers for their choice – I’d likely hear one of the European brands – with favorites being Wera and Wiha – but probably no complaints about the ergonomic varieties from PB Swiss, CK or Knipex. I personally like the Wera variety that has laser etched gripping lines on their tips.

  12. joe says:

    as a commercial electrician who owns tons of klein, I love Wiha. such a comfortable grip!

  13. Cameron Watt says:

    I have no brand loyalty but do have two things to say about screwdrivers:

    1: For flat-heads, fit is everything. I have several that I’ve ground to precisely fit different screws I use at work.

    2: If my screwdriver is slipping I dip it in lapping compound before I make too much of a mess out of the screw head. It makes the driver grip much better and has saved my backside a few times.

  14. Dana Dawes says:

    In the shop, we’ve got a whole range of ‘em, Kleins, Craftsman, acme, etc. In the field, my go-to drivers are Kleins: one of the 11-in-1s, and a handful of their Rap-Drivs. Most of the time, though, we use some sort of power drivers, either cordless or corded.

  15. Phill says:

    100% the Craftsman screwdrivers in the picture. Since my 1 st set of tools that my father gave me for Communion up until now in my mid-40′s and counting.

  16. Christopher says:

    Received a set of Felo Ergonics for Christmas and couldn’t be happier. My previous screwdrivers where like the Craftsmans pictured above. The comfort, engineering, and gripping capability of the Felos blows the Craftsman away.

    You know what my biggest complaint is about the Craftsmans? They make a tool drawer smell like dog vomit. Anyone else notice this?

    • Kevin says:

      I have always used Xcelite drivers (with the translucent hard plastic yellow handle) I had my old set for 5 year and they were working fine. I think my #2 Philips walked away in in someone else’s tool bag, so I bought a set of Xcelite ergonomic drivers, which turned out to be rebranded Felo. They are definitely more comfortable in the hand than my old drivers and I have had coworkers complain that I’m over tightening screws, which isn’t something my 160lb self usually does, so I feel like there must be something to the amount of torque you can get from the bulbous shaped German Ergo handles

  17. Brau says:

    I prefer square shaft drivers for the ability to get a wrench on them at any point from handle to tip to add turning torque if needed. Some Craftsman drivers are made with square shafts, Kleins only offer one point just below the handle, while the Stanleys offer none at all.

    I find the rubber Klein handles slip in my hand if they get even a tad oily, the newer Stanleys (and Snap-On too) are too round for my liking, while the age-old notchy Craftsman handles seem to offer the best grip in my bare hand.

  18. Mike Lee says:

    I like the craftman because of its warranty and price. I have taken many of screwdrivers back and got new ones. I even go to yard sales and look for broken ones. The tool feels good in my hands. I have other screwdrivers, but most of them are craftmans. I just brought the cobolt ratching screwdriver, good grip. However,
    sometimes it will jam up. If this continue, I will take it back for a new one.

  19. cronin says:

    I developed a simple rule: If pliers then Knipex, if screwdriver then Wiha, if chisel then Narex. You can simply guess that I live on east side of Atlantic. :-)

  20. browndog77 says:

    I only carry a couple of smaller screwdrivers, both slotted & phillips, for the small screws used for adjustments on various items as well as the disassembly/assembly of products like electronics, etc, and a couple of pretty large ones for heavier industrial/automotive use. I do have numerous magnetic driver handles, some ratcheting, some gear-increasing in different form-factors (palm type and T-handled as well as straight). I have bits for just about any fastener made to use in them as well as in my cordless drivers. These get used for 90% of what I do.

  21. Matt says:

    My first reaction to this was “good vodka and fresh orange juice.”

    But for real… I use a mix of Craftsman and Stanley. I’ll take anything with the older-style grips… I don’t like the rubberized or square versions, they slip too easily. Since what I prefer is also cheap… that works quite well.

    I’ve never tried the real expensive ones though, so perhaps I just don’t know what I’m missing…

  22. Joe says:

    I too started with the bulk sets of Craftsman. The replacement policy was the seduction. About 30 years ago was given a 5 pc set of Klein. Over that past 30 years I’ve gone through several sets of Craftsman and Rigid, but the Klein are still there, and tips are still really good. I recently bought a set of Wera and the look to be really good as well but time will tell. I don’t plan to buy any more Craftsman.

  23. Alex Brooks says:

    I work on a lot of antique printing machines with hardened, hundred years stuck screws. And brass screws that get buggered easily. My dad’s craftsmen screwdrivers quickly got bent into ‘s’ shaped tips. Rubbish. I found some secondhand snap-on screwdrivers and the difference is amazing. Finely ground, hardened, and most important: they have flats near the handle for a wrench. To get a really stuck screw, you get a screwdriver that fits perfectly, push down (on top of the handle) with all of your weight, and turn with a 12″ wrench. Snap on are well worth the money if you are a serious mechanic – and you can hand them down to your grandson.

  24. Andrew Chantrill says:

    Wera; I like them all!

  25. Michael says:

    Alex covered it well for me. Screwdrivers are probably the only Snap-On item I would consider purchasing again. There may well be another brand with similar features and quality, but I haven’t seen them.

  26. Loock says:

    I prefer chromium and molybdenum steel screwdriver, 200 daN ( 449.62 lbf )/square mm, and Wera as brand.

  27. Greg says:

    I agree with you that it is very difficult to say what my favorite driver may be.
    I know from back when I was in the old country that Stanley tools were the way to go.
    As I’m getting older and buy tools more frequently, I look for innovated designs. I also know that my eye sight is not what it used to be and with that said, I just recently purchased some really cool screwdriver by Stanley. I believe they’re called basic. The multi color coded grips really help when you’re reaching in your pouch for the right driver; for an example, the Phillips is color coded Blue, the slotted is coded red and so on…. very cool!!!
    ….and by the way, cost is almost nothing vs the quality you get..

  28. Chuck says:

    Really – it’s what I have. I think I’ve bought 1 screwdriver ever. It was a Ridgid and was crappy. The rest of them were a various bunch from my dad and my granddad’s shop when he died. I’ve never seen a reason to go buy any others, so I’d say that I prefer the ones that I have. So, the reason why I like them is because they’re in my shop, do the job, and were free.

  29. Colby says:

    I’ve been a fan of Husky for much the same reason as the author is a fan of Craftsman. That said, I worked for a summer in the machine shop of my school’s physics department and got to handle a lot more tools than I had previously. I have to say that my favorite feature on a screwdriver (and something I look for) is that the shaft of the driver is a square. I find that I am usually turning with that part (a huge “whatever” mentality to physics) and that a square shaped blade makes it easier to manipulate.

  30. Tom says:

    Craftsman screwdrivers STINK! no really! anyone else experience this? I have several older sets (most do some don’t) of Craftsman screwdrivers and when I open the toolbox it smells like very bad foot odor! It is definatley the screwdrivers, cleaning, washing, etc no help. They also grow a white “mold” on the surface. No it is not any organic mold.
    Other wise OK screwdrivers.

    • russ says:

      I was waiting for someone to say this. Yes, I have Craftsman screwdrivers and boy they stink! The odor they give off goes a distance. I tried to return them but was turned down because they weren’t broken. So I broke one and I received the same smelly screwdriver in exchange. I should have packed them up and sent them to Sears. Boy, they would have loved opening up that package. The real old ones were good. I don’t know about their current screwdrivers since I get Klein and others now.

  31. Bren R. says:

    For most household stuff – Craftsman line color screwdrivers… for any precision/gunsmithing work… ALWAYS hollow-ground tips. Tapered slotheads have ruined more guns than all other tools combined.

  32. Chad says:

    For me, I use the craftsman professional line. Excellent quality tool, the tips hold up so much better than the regular craftsman line. I do own many snap on screwdrivers as well, the craftsman pro have held up just as well for about half the price. Also a fan of SK tools screwdrivers as well, but don’t own a set of them.

  33. Gary Z says:

    I have a set of Stanley Pro’s. If you compare the Stanley to the Klein, you’ll notice they look similar. That’s because Stanley made screwdrivers for Klein for years.

  34. craig says:

    klein is hands down the most durable tool i’ve ever used. that said i have to admit they were so expensive when i bought them that i only use them as screwdrivers. no prying, no drilling, no lock picking…nothing but driving screws.

  35. Dr Bob says:

    I have a mixed bag of Craftsman, Stanleys and some Xcelites, but the one driver I like the most is a Stanley with the three-sided grip and it has a square shaft to put a wrench on it.

    I like the handle because it is very comfortable any doesn’t rip your hands up when attempting to turn a stiff screw.

    I’m not a big fan of rubber-handled drivers either – I prefer the three-sided Lexan/Lucite (or whatever plastic) handles.

    And yes, my Craftsman screwdrivers, some of which are over 25 years old, still smell a bit funny. Just don’t sniff the handles.

  36. pete says:

    i bought a set of klein uninsulated screw drivers from the Home Depot and am thoroughly disappointed. the tips are like butter. after proper use, used only a few times, they are close to useless (assuming you have no interest in tearing up any screw head you use it on. i don’t)

  37. Cameron Watt says:

    Never use a crowdriver like a screwbar.

  38. Bill from Maine says:

    As said above, tip and grip are what’s important.
    I purchased a 20+ piece set of Craftsman screwdrivers back in the 70′s and they’re still fine, never broke one, close to having some Phillips tips worn out, though. BUT I learned a long time ago to buy 1 big cheap screwdriver and use that for everything else, use the screwdrivers for screws only.

    I buy Klein now because I have this fear the modern Craftsmans wont be as good as the older ones.

  39. Robert says:

    Yep, tip and grip, I like tri-lobal handles and I’m a new fan of Bosch’s titanium coated driver bits, sooner or later that will make its way to the hand held stuff, or you can just use a bit driver with the current ones.

  40. Violet says:

    I found this post while searching for why my craftsman screwdrivers smell. They reek so bad it makes me sick to my stomach. I need budget replacements that won’t turn smelly. Any recommendations?

    • Jeff says:

      I love the old school hard handled Snap Ons. No bad smells and precision tips. Plus I just love the way the handle feels.

      The only bad thing is even though the warranty is the same as Craftsman you have to track down a tool truck to swap them. If you aren’t a pro this can be a PITA.

      For guns and precision screws (like those found on some old cars, tools and machines) its hollow ground Magna Tip all the way. Nothing says amateur like a buggered screw head.

  41. Harris, Dean L. says:

    Im looking for a company that I can trust everything they make, and just fill my screwdriver drawer. Years ago (about 1987, 1989…?) I bought a screwdriver set from Costco’s, I think they are made in Taiwan but all the letters have long rubbed off. The straight slots handles are black, the Philips, red handles. They are hallow ground, incredibly hard steel shaft with a wrench cross section just below the handle.
    Speaking of handles, they are shaped like a flatened ball, just small enough to fit right in the palm of your hand. The BEST handle I’ve ever found. You NEVER lose your grip and they allow awesome purchase when you have to put all your weight on them when you’re going to turn a wrench on the shaft.
    I’ve been searching for years to replace all the ones that volunteered to end up belonging to other peoples’ tool box. I gues thats a testament to a tools usability, your friends all steal them. haha.

  42. Harris, Dean L. says:

    My next favorite would have to be a the French S&K’s I ran acrossed by accident. They’re green and black handles and are great small, but not micro, screw drivers.

  43. Rod Betts says:

    High quality tools are great. I used to like Craftsman. No more. I’ve had waay to many failures, especially in power tools. They’re likely fine to two to three times a year do-it-yourselfers. Every day, no way.

    When my flat blade drivers get really bad, I sharpen the ends and use them for chisels. I beat the dickens out of them until the shafts protrude out the side or end of their plastic handles and then throw them out.

    I’m going to check out some of the purported high quality drivers suggested here but that’s not my real problem. I hate throwing things away, especially tools and Philips screwdrivers don’t last long, not even the very best ones I’ve been able to find.

    What I want, and would be willing to pay a good price for is a Philips screwdriver sharpener. They’re just too #@%!!* hard to accurately grind freehand. You’d need to be able to set them up to semi-automatically grind them for different sizes of screws, both the flutes and outer tapers. Then, of course, you’d need to turn the screw driver four times to grind all sides.

    I’ve looked and looked and there just doesn’t seem to be any such animal. Maybe some day …

  44. Dave says:

    I’ve been a small engine/ marine mechanic for many years. I don’t see any justification for a weekend warrior to break the bank on screwdrivers but, if you use your tools to pay the rent and want to save yourself lots of heartache and bloody fingers I’d stay as far away from Sears screwdrivers as possible. I do use some of their tools from the Pro or Premium series and they work fine but most are no better than Harbor Freight Taiwan specials. I haven’t used any of the German drivers (yet) but in my opinion Snap-on is a good choice. They get screws out others won’t…simple as that. Klein makes a decent driver as well and would be a great choice for the savvy DIY’er.

  45. Tom says:

    I probably have at least one of most of the screwdriver brands mentioned. I liked the Stanley 100-plus line, now discontinued, with basic acetate hex handles. Like old Craftsman, but better quality. Some were forged bolster style, either full-square or round with hex. Ergonomically, the (also discontinued) Stanley Workmaster with a tri-lobed grip was my favorite. I’ve put a new blade in the No. 2 Phillips in that set. I do have some older Craftsman drivers. Over-all craftsman tips seem a bit soft. Irwin (before Rubbermaid) plastic handle and the forged perfect handle drivers were very good. My electrical work belt-kit has Klein cushion grip. Some of my electronics kit is Vaco others are Xcelite, both good for that class of work. I have a few of the German obrands in square tip & Pozidrive, all very good. I only have few Snap-On drivers; I find the blades excellent, but the classic smooth square style is a bit slippery. I also have a smattering of oddities, like the 2 foot Proto 5/8″ tip, more like a pry-bar, and Hunter magic tip screw holders (unlike any other screw holder, they would follow any screw head down a deep recess full blade length), but Hunter is gone, too.

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