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Every year we see a couple of new screwdriver releases. Hell, every now and then one of the manufacturers even mentions the screwdrivers in a press release. But most of the time they linger just out of sight behind the “tool count” in kits, or behind the new whiz-bang specialty tool at product seminars.

But the screwdrivers in our toolboxes probably see more use than damn near any other tool in the box. And we know for a fact — having met a few of the guys in person — that tool engineers put a lot of thought into designing screwdrivers that’re more comfortable in your hand and less likely to chip or cam out a screw.

That said, we want to know what YOU think. Who, in your opinion, makes the best screwdrivers? And more importantly, WHY are they great? Are they slip resistant? Easy to control? Durable?

Let us (and your fellow readers) know in comments!

 

43 Responses to What Makes A Good General Purpose Screwdriver?

  1. Jeff says:

    All of mine are craftsman, only due to the fact that they are easily replaced if or when they break. They get the job done.

  2. Joel Spangler says:

    The drivers that find my way into my most used toolkits are ones that grip a wide variety of screws well. I’m not super concerned with comfort – I just want a screwdriver that’ll work on 95% of screws that I come across.

    My most treasured drivers are both models that are no longer made – one from Xcelite that I can’t seem to find anywhere, and the discontinued Craftsman black rubber handle drivers with the hexagon shafts.

    Of course to keep working well, the tip should be hardened (Usually the tip is black colored)

  3. Stan says:

    Most manufactures got the straight blade down pat, it’s the Phillips that they have trouble with. There isn’t any “perfect” Phillips screw driver one out there. My favorite is the Klein 15-in-one. Has most of the bases covered, the shank is a little thick for some apps, but for 95% of the time it’s my go-to driver.

    I like the Klein because the Phillips seem to hold up longer than most before rounding at the tip. Xcelite would come in 2nd, followed by Craftsman at a distant 3rd.

    Personally I’d like to see all screw heads replaced by Torx. I know it will never happen, but would be nice.

  4. fred says:

    @Stan

    We’ve been trying WERA Phillips and Pozidriv screwdrivers – Stainless steel with serated tips that seem to grip and prevent camout better than some others – the feedback so far has been very positive

  5. Geoff says:

    Are we talking drivers with dedicated bits or drivers that have interchangeable hex bits? For the former, hardened tips are a must, and a hex shaft or at least a section with a hex shaft is nice for extra torque with a wrench, if needed.

    For interchangeable bits, I have a few. One I’ve had for years & years is a Jensen with a hollow handle that holds about 8 bits. It’s perfect for 95% of the driving I need to do. My favorite, but impossible to find anymore. I also have another, an SK driver that ratchets. The handle changes to a pistol grip for extra torque, and it holds 6 bits in the handle. A little heavier than the Jensen, but the ratchet can be handy at times.

    One other I keep in the toolbox is the Lee Valley ratcheting driver with double-ended bits that store in the handle. It also has bigger slotted and Phillips bits, but it’s pretty heavy compared with the others. A good, solid driver.

    SK driver: http://www.skhandtool.com/Default.aspx?fusemode=10&pid=73675

    Lee Valley driver: http://www.leevalley.com/US/wood/page.aspx?p=53912&cat=1,43411,43417

  6. travis says:

    I have been the recipient of a large number of all-in-one screwdrivers and screwdriver sets. I do light-medium weight DIY of all sorts. Sometimes a broad screwdriver set is best, but when I need something to carry around in my back pocket all day, it’s the Klein Tool 10-in-1. It holds up well, so long as you don’t try to use it as a chisel. The bit storage is what makes it for me intuitive, efficient, and beats the hell out of a mess of tiny bits. It doesn’t come with every bit I might ever need, but what it has handles 98% of my needs.

  7. Terry says:

    Generally a nicely contoured handle is very important to me, and it shouldn’t be rubberized or have any other fancy-dan coatings. Ideally the handle has some ridge-ey grip assists parallel to the shaft. And I like being able to change bits, standard magnetic selections are fantastic.

    But the *mOSt* important feature that a screwdriver can have is really hard to find (which is why I have a small stockpile of screwdrivers with…) a gearless ratchet drive. I don’t know exactly why it’s so important to me, but the smooth and quiet torque, and increment-less “ratchet” action are so much nicer to use than a normally geared ratchet. I don’t even own a standard ratcheting screwdriver; threw them all out.

    Northern Tool had these as a checkout-line, impulse buy item years ago, and I don’t know the maker, because the paint has worn off all of mine. (Something that started with “Power” I think.) Considering that the logo was painted on, you might think they were cheap (they *were* inexpensive, even for the time) but they’ve held up extremely well, very durable, and have a very handy container for extra bits in the handle.

    For grins and comparison – I also adore the Stanley 41 push drill for starter holes before I use my mystery-brand gearless ratcheting screwdriver! And if I really need torque, I break out my brace and special-bit – 3/4″ socket adapter for the big mama screwdriver bits. (These are from Garrett-Wade.)

  8. Chris says:

    Personally, my favorite drivers are my Robertson (square head) drivers. I love jobs where I get to work with Robertson screws.

    Sadly, it is hard to find such screws in the US, so my screwdrivers sit mostly unused…

  9. Dan Richards says:

    I have a set of Snap-On soft grip screwdrivers in my box that I use daily, and I don’t like them. They’re prone to failure in the handle where the shank ends and I wouldn’t say I’m really that hard on tools, I believe it to be a design flaw. I made the mistake of buying two sets off the truck when they came out and should have gone with a full-shank proven tool. At least I was supporting a good cause, my SO guy’s wife’s fake +2’s. *sh*

    I have a China 100-bit set in the box with a couple of Kobalt’s soft grip speedfit bit drivers. I regret not going with the aluminum handles for a couple of bucks more at some points, but I’m generally happy with those. They’re just bit drivers, one ratchets and one doesn’t, and if the static one ever fails I’ll be shocked. The other one, not so much; I’ve never had much luck with ratcheting bit drivers. I’m pretty sure they’re made by Danaher in China.

  10. Terry says:

    Follow-up: It took just a couple minutes searching to find:

    http://www.forlongs.co.nz/products/hardware/49-tools/9879-gearless-ratchet-screwdriver.html

    or

    http://www.envcoglobal.com/catalog/product/screwdrivers/24pc-ratcheting-screwdriver-and-bit-set.html

    That’s my screwdriver! Readily available in ANZ area of the world.

    Alternate brand stubby versions are on Amazon. And eBay “gearless ratchet” turns up a few alternates in the UK.

  11. Coach James says:

    “What makes a good general purpose screwdriver?”

    A hard handle that is larger rather than smaller diameter. Some kind of serrations parallel to the shaft for grip. A hex bolster is nice too.

    On a straight tip, the tip should be perpendicular to the shaft.

    On a Phillips, a tip that doesn’t round off easily.

    I like Klein 6 in 1 and 10 in 1 drivers. I like Stanley and Craftsman less and less due to tips rounding off.

  12. DaveH says:

    Enderes makes some nice 4-in-1 drivers that I really like. The tips last a long time and the sizes of the bits are just right.

    http://www.enderes.com/screwdrivers.htm

  13. BJN says:

    The screwdriver that gets the most frequent use in my house is the Craftsman Autoloading Multi-Bit Screwdriver. I wish it ratcheted, but I find the auto tip loading and storage makes this screwdriver always fast to set up for a variety of screws and ready to use.

  14. JohnB says:

    If you’re looking for precision, you won’t find any better than the ones from Wiha from Germany. Especially in miniature sizes.

    http://www.wihatools.com/

  15. Kris says:

    I tend to use a cordless drill-driver for most of my screwy encounters, but for quick use my vote is also to the Klein 10-in-1. It has slotted, philips, torx, and square drive in one handle. I keep this one in my shop apron – I use square drive screws from Spax & McFeelys on my projects, and have a router with Torx screws in it’s base.

  16. george says:

    as a pro mechanic my whole life i used many many screwdrivers. i found that i always had a favorite for a certain situation so i would say that there is no one good or perfect screwdriver.

  17. Kai says:

    I’ll second Wiha for precision tools – the range they have is simply amazing. They even have specialty items like non-metallic (ceramic) screwdrivers for adjusting parts (eg, in microwave rf applications) where the interference of a metal tool would change the behaviour of the part you’re adjusting.

    My other favourite screwdrivers are from Wattmaster – general purpose electrician’s screwdrivers. Good sizes, comfortable grips and well hardened tips. And, for a geek fact, the handles are shaped like a Reulaux Triangle so they don’t roll off the table, but if you use them as a roller to roll something on top of them, it rolls as smoothly as if they were round.

  18. Larry says:

    I have a set of early Snap-On triangular handle screwdrivers. They allow me to apply a good amount of torque and don’t cause blisters after a full 12 hour day of use tightening screws on an assembly line. I’ve had to have the shafts replaced several times so far (always for free!). My next favorite is my Snap-On ratcheting screwdriver with a square handle.

  19. Jerry says:

    I have several that I really like but I think one gets the most use of all the bunch – my Klein 10 in 1. I actually have 3 of these. One is always in the tool belt, on ein the tool bag and the other on the bench.

  20. Painter B says:

    Klein’s 10 in 1 is great, but the grip on mine is loosening up from hard use. Greenlee’s multibit seems to be just as good, but I haven’t used that one near as much. I’ve used/owned so many multibit screwdrivers that are complete garbage.

  21. dm says:

    As an electrician I have and use tons of screwdrivers. After buying plenty of them and continuing to look for the holy grail I found the Felo brand; a German make comparable to Wiha or Wera. All three of these makes work well and are high quality; I have a set of the 550-series felo drivers; they have hex-shaped full shanks (hammer-able on the back with a metal cap and easy to reef on with a wrench), have hardened tips and very comfortable grips that are very easy to turn quickly with one hand.

    http://www.amazon.com/Felo-0715750707-Slotted-Phillips-Screwdrivers/dp/B000E62NX2/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&s=hi&qid=1280447007&sr=8-3

    I don’t care much for Klein 10 or 11-in-one’s, as the bits tend to stick to the screw and fall to the ground. Greenlee’s 6-in-one is a great tool and I have ordered Milwaukee’s new 11-in-one (has a special tip made for electricians that works especially well with conduit fittings (it is a combo flathead and square drive).

  22. keithm says:

    I like the square drive and use them whenever I can. My favorite screwdriver is the Gearwrench 35 pc. microdriver. As long as I have swing room, it is fast, plenty of torque when needed and convenient. My other go-to is the Klein 10-in-1 and I’m surprised how popular it is. Not that it isn’t nice, just that so many others found it, too.

    What I hate are the screw heads that are made to fit two or three different drivers (slotted, Phillips, square, etc.) These really don’t work well on any of them. My philosophy is that if you don’t have the right driver, maybe you shouldn’t be tinkering with it.

  23. AggieMike says:

    My vote is the klein 10in1. I’ve used it to take apart many appliances, it has all the needed nut driver sizes and bits along with a comfortable handle. I carry it with me to work everyday.

  24. Nigel says:

    picquic

    The full size with 8 bits is my go to screwdriver
    had great luck on philips heads and no little bits
    to disapear.

  25. DoItRite says:

    As a county Electrical Inspector I use a screwdriver all day every day. I see every type of screw used for panel covers and access hatches. Sometimes I will see a Torx, straight, phillips and robertson and hex all on one job. I don’t want to carry a dozen screwdrivers around with me, and I want something that won’t make me cry if I drop it into a 10′ deep concrete form (in other words: cheap).

    I’ve used all kinds over the past 25 years, but the best I found was a 10-in-one Acre Hardware brand with a yellow handle. The shank slides out and reversed and each end of the schnk has slide-out tips. Perfect! And only about $6.

    Here’s a slightly different version:
    http://www.amazon.com/Klein-32477-10-Screwdriver-Driver/dp/B0002RI5EY/

  26. I’m not sure I really understand all the love for Robertson drive. I’ve bought some boxes of screws (3″ +) where I couldn’t drive the screw halfway in without the driver popping out of the head no matter which bit I tried. Yeah, I’ve had some good luck with them too, but no more than any other type of head. They all have their place.

    Slotted – hard to beat when you really need to torque something down, but hard to keep the blade in the screw.

    Phillips – the shape of the screw and screwdriver heads can vary widely, if you get a good combo of head and screw you can get some good torque, but where they really shine is if you can’t get a straight shot and have to drive from an angle.

    Robertson – again in my experience quality varies, but when they do work you can really torque them down. If the screw shank is slightly bent or you can’t get a straight shot they are almost worthless.

    Hex (Allen) – tiny sizes have a real tendency to cam out. I think because the smaller sizes are much more sensitive to slight variations in size. The larger the head the better they seem to work.

    Torx – you have to get them straight on, but when you do they are hard to beat for how much torque you can apply.

    That said I think the best screwdriver for general purpose work is Klein’s 10in1 or 11in1. It’s a pretty good compromise between utility and quality. You don’t have to carry a bucket full of screwdrivers for odd jobs. I agree with dm that the bits don’t stay in the driver as well as they should.

  27. R.Morris says:

    For multi-bit I use http://www.amazon.com/Mariner-Rustproof-Fullsize-Multibit-Screwdriver/dp/B0018IXS7A/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&s=miscellaneous&qid=1280501957&sr=8-4 Its hard to beat IMO.

    For fix blade I use craftsman. Both company’s will will replace in screwdriver.

  28. Brice says:

    I’m a huge fan of the Klien 11 in 1. I used to use the 10 in 1 but the addition of the 3/8 driver means that I rarely need to bring more than one tool to completely disassemble any HVAC equipment that I’m working on. Drawbacks, it’s easy to loose the tips, the 1/4 drive can get worn out. The shaft can be a little thick.

  29. fred says:

    @ Benjamin Johnson

    What no comment on Pozidriv ans Spax Screws which have been showing up at big box outlets?

    Also glad that those weird screws (Linehead) that were on my kid’s Nintendos – never became popular for other applications.

  30. John says:

    Vaco makes the best!

  31. Dan says:

    My favorite is my pocketknife Swiss Army Cyber Tool because I always have it with me. Between the different size philips, straight and torx bits I can use it for about everything I run into, from dissasembling a harddrive for one of those great magnets to putting together a loft bed kit for my daughter.

  32. Mr.Miz says:

    I have a Philips that I got from my grandfather. It has a old style wood handle that looks hand made. I know everybody loves their hardened tip drivers, but I’m pretty sure this thing was made before they even did that and it never fails me. What really amazes me is it always seems to work no matter what the philips head looks like. I try to keep it in once place because no matter the project I end up looking for it. I don’t see any signs of a manufacturer or even a date of any kind. Definite proof they don’t make them like they use to.

  33. fred says:

    I know that folks often rail about cam out with Phillips screws – but that was a design feature not a failure. The original idea was that the driver would cam out of the screw head before the screw was over torqued. In the absence of a torque screwdriver this may have seemed like a good idea in a manufacturing environment where operators were trained to stop turning at the first instance of cam out. For most of us knuckle heads – we just apply more pressure and torque and continue to twist usually messing up both the screw head and the driver. As we know, manufacturing and the auto and aircraft industries seem to continually be seeking better fastener-driver configurations: Pozidriv, Torx, Torq-Set, Tri-Wing, Triple Square, Allen (Hex) , Bristol Spline, Double Square, Clutch Head (have any old washing machines?) and now Polydrive on European cars. Robertson seems to be popular on a lot of stainless steel fasteners made by folks like Grip Rite and sold at HD – Some of my Paul Bunyan types who insist on using high torque 18V tools – bugger these up too – probably as much via inattention to seating the drive bit as anything else. I personally find that I like our Milwaukee M12 drivers better and better for driving most fasteners – resorting to larger impact drivers and sockets for big lags – but hey – I grew up driving screws with several different length Yankee push screwdrivers and North Brothers bit brace.

  34. Bubbub says:

    I am a DIYer out of necessity (i.e. not a heavyweight tool user). I have a set of Stanley screwdrivers that I like just fine. They look like these
    http://www.instawares.com/100-plus-5-pc-combination-screwdriver-sets-set-680-66-150.ors-680-66-150.0.7.htm
    No moving parts and “small” shafts come in handy some times. Admittedly, the all plastic handle will slip in sweaty palms under high torque.
    I did get a stubby multi-bit tool as a present for someone, but don’t own one myself.
    http://www.smartprotools.com/spt6510.htm

  35. PutnamEco says:

    For day in day out work I need the versatility to work with any fastener I’m likely to encounter with out having to run to the toolbox so I carry a multi bit driver, If I’m working with a single type fastener I prefer a dedicated driver that will not be uncomfortable to use for an extended period.
    I’m another one from the Klein 10/11 in one camp. although I often carry a Crescent ratcheting screwdriver where less precision and more driving is called for. If I’m going to be doing a lot of one type of fastener I usually grab one of my older Snap-on square handled drivers, as I find they don’t cramp up my hands as bad as most common round handled screwdrivers. I have a Snap-on ratcheting drive and old school (pre Chinese) Marple oval wood handled screwdriver set in my shop.

    A lot of the problems I see on site are that there are actually many different drives that resemble Phillips, like from Phillips themselves, they have Phillips II and Phillips II plus (a.k.a. ACR), and some old furniture and boats have Frearsons, and the Posidriv and Supadriv. not to mention JIS(which gives a lot of problems to people working on Japanese cars and motorcycles who don’t know they are not Phillips heads). They all have there own drivers.The regular Phillips will work in them, but it does make stripping them out that much easier. I’ve also noticed differences in square drives, Robertsons which have a slight taper and regular square drives that aren’t as tapered (bits are labled like sq-2 vs R2). Using the straight bit in a Robertson screw make it real easy to strip as the square drive does not fully contact the taper, vice versa is also true. There are also different Torx drivers, Torx, Torx plus and TTAP.

  36. fred says:

    @PutnamEco

    We like Hozan drivers for JIS – The sets we have use a baby blue translucent plastic handle – not as nice at WIHA or WERA – but distinctive enough that we can set them apart.
    I thought thet the Fearson (Reed and Prince) cross point screws had been mostly phased out – but your’e right that they aint Phillips.

    At least some folks like Spax include the proper bit – when you buy a box of screws – and some retailers – display the Phillips II bits along with the screws.

  37. dave 399 says:

    Being a maintenance engineer , for the most jobs i found that the Crescent 7 in 1 works the best for me. the nut drivers hold their shape even when used extensively in a drill. these have rubber grips, which are easy on the hands and they are cheap under $5 at Menards.

    Only gripes with multibit screw drivers, is the shanks gets in the way in minimal clearance situations.

    ive tried the kleins, the bits tend to get lost once the nut driver portion rounds off and i dont use the square drive bits that often.

  38. Average Joe says:

    I have three sets of screwdrivers: 1) Wiha Softgrip – the ones I use myself every day and carry around in my 1 ton Pelican briefcase. Second to none. 2) Craftsman – the ones I keep in in my tool shrine in the garage. My son tends to “borrow” (then lose) these. Easy to replace and really a pretty good tool. 3) My leftover lips and assholes. The same thing they make hotdogs with. These are the ones my wife uses or I lend to a neighbor. Hell, they’re doing me a favor by carting them away and I can’t bear to throw any tool away. Oh yeah, in my glove compartment of the pickup, I have Lutz 8-in-1 or something like that. You can always buy more bits at Ace Hardware Stores.

  39. Dave says:

    I found a generic branded screwdriver in a bin at Sears. They were on sale for $2 each, and are very similar to the clear and red handled Craftsman drivers that are common; but without the blue in the handle. I grabbed a phillips and a flat just to have some extra for throwaways, howver that night I used the phillips and it was outstanding. Turns out that it’s magnetic, hardened top, and the profile fit nearly every screw I could find. I went back the next day and bought 5 more phillips and 2 more flat, and use them for EVERYTHING. They have never boogered up on the ends or bent even under severe prying abuse. Good grip too, even when sweaty- which is great considering that they have hard plastic handles.

  40. rick says:

    Funny, everyone has a favorite but no body’s listed the absolute best multibit driver on the market.

    http://www.megapro.net/

    I’ve got a bunch of other drivers, although my Kleins get the most use, and the Wihas for the highly precision jobs.

  41. Heather Steinmiller says:

    Please help! I’ve somehow managed to dis-assemble my husband’s Craftsman multi-bit screwdriver and he’s understandably upset. I pulled the two parts completely apart and the bits are scattered on my computer desk. I would really appreciate it if someone could help me reassemble this disaster. Thank you so much for your time. (http://www.craftsman.com/shc/s/p_10155_12602_00947380000P)

  42. Joe says:

    I’m a big fan of the Pratt-Read acrylic-handled drivers. For the old Hondas I work on, it’s important to have a correct #3 Phillips, and having a set of good quality P-Rs makes me excited to tear something down.

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