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I’ve seen a number of different sources claiming that you should use a stainless steel screwdriver or bit insert to drive stainless steel screws, but Wera does the best job of explaining why:

Stainless steel does not rust. However, if conventional steel tools are used on stainless steel elements or stainless steel screws the wear debris of these tools can adhere to the surface an begin to rust. This effect, known as extraneous rust, can impair the visual impact and even cause structural damage, resulting in high costs for the necessary repair work.

This sounds all well and good, but stainless steel screwdrivers aren’t as hard as screwdrivers made from other materials, so Wera solves this with their new vacuum ice hardening process. If I understand the process correctly, they allow the steel to cool in a cryogenic vacuum chamber.

Wera uses their multi-material Kraftform handles on all their stainless steel screwdrivers. They designed the handles to fit the shape of your hand and not roll away when you put them down. Many of these stainless steel screwdrivers also feature their Lasertip etching, which grips the screw head when engaged.

You can buy the stainless steel screwdrivers in a variety of types and sizes — for example, a set with 2 Phillips head and 4 slotted head screwdrivers plus holding rack┬ástarts around $40 before shipping.

The Stainless Steel Difference [Wera]
Stainless Steel Screwdrivers
[Wera]
Street Pricing [Google Products]
Via Amazon [What’s This?]

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23 Responses to Driving Stainless Steel Screws

  1. A.Crush says:

    Ok well that’s all fine and good, but now where do I buy stainless steel sockets, ratchets, and extensions for installing stainless steel nuts and bolts so the same thing doesn’t happen to them?

  2. fred says:

    @ A.Crush

    If you really want to get carried away – why not use bronze sockets:

    http://ampcosafetytools.thomasnet.com/viewitems/wrench-sockets/wrench-socket-6-point-inch-?

  3. fred says:

    @A.Crush

    I should have linked you to Amazon. Say you need an 11mm socket – well in non sparking – no corroding bronze that will set you back the better part of $200

    http://www.amazon.com/Ampco-5506-Socket-Wrench-6-Point/dp/B0007WSH10/ref=sr_1_10?s=hi&ie=UTF8&qid=1291691725&sr=1-10

  4. loaks111 says:

    just so you don’t get the wrong idea stainless steel will rust. remember it is stain LESS not stain free. your higher grades of stainless will take more abuse. the 300 series has a little more chrome in it which helps with corrosion but can be brittle. you’ll find it in reastaurants and such or alot of your out side hardware for decking. it is a pain to weld.

    I brought this up cause every time we ask about our product rusting (i work for a stainless tubing manufacturer) it is pounded in our heads stain LESS…….you see it stains LESS………..damn i hate my job sometimes.

  5. Brau says:

    Can anyone explain why the screws pictured are *not* rusting where they were contacted by the ferrous tool and instead seem to bleeding rust from the backside of the screw seat? I call BS. I have a trailer I built, all stainless screws turned in with ferrous drivers, and not a speck of rust on any of them despite 4 years of rain, snow, ice etc.

  6. Aleksejs says:

    Also if debris from screwdrivwer is the real issue – why then not clean/brush the screw head afterwards. I might be wrong, but it seems to me that you’d have to use really rusty/poor quality screwdriver to begin with to get result in picture.

    As to “stainless” – perhaps better term would be “stain resistant”: this or that alloy has better/worse sain resistance.

  7. Dave P says:

    @ Brau:

    If I had to guess, I’d say that’s an illustration, not a photograph. And it’s not BS–it does happen. In my experience it is pretty rare from using the wrong driver. I’ve most often seen it from folks wire-brushing with plain-steel brushes or (worse) sanding stainless with paper that was previously used on regular steel.

  8. browndog77 says:

    In my experience, and the illustration seems to bear this out, the eventual corrosion in SS applications comes from the bits used to drill & the taps that follow. These are rarely SS tools, & the holes are where most of the “rust” seems to start.

  9. naturall_mystic says:

    If you look at the graphic of the “rust” curiously both of the “rusted” screws have the exact same rust pattern. Looks like sloppy photoshop work to me.

  10. mike foley says:

    Actually, it appears that they used some lovely Christmas sparkly gold glue. Reportedly, rust itself was just too “rusty”.

  11. Joe says:

    Are we trying to create another urban myth? Contact rust? Sounds like a lame marketing idea because someone wants to sell screwdrivers, didn’t realize until too late that the marketplace for such items is rather crowded.

  12. Rick says:

    Or you can just brush away any “debris” with a stainless steel brush.

  13. Steve says:

    This doesn’t really make sense to me…If you have a screwdriver that is a harder material than the screw you’re turning, there shouldn’t be any of the screwdriver’s metal rubbing off onto a softer screw-head.

    Secondly, who would use a straight-up stainless steel screw without some form of coating on it? Every screw I’ve ever used has been nickel or zinc plated to prevent rusting. I’ve never had one of those screws rust on me (so far anyway).

    Oh, and I’ve always hated that they call stainless steel “stainless”, when it rusts. Like Loaks111 was saying, what they really mean is stain LESS, which is a ridiculous play on words. In the English language, when something is *something*less, it means it’s lacking. “Pennyless” means not having any money, “jobless” means not having any job, “clueless” means not having any clue; So “stainless” should mean not having any stain or rust.

  14. Benjamen Johnson says:

    First I didn’t think anybody would have confused the illustration I posted as a real picture, sorry for any confusion.

    Second, I’d probably lump this kind of tool into the last 5-10% type of issue. You know, you spend just as much or more to get that last 5-10% of performance as you did to get the first 90-95%. In other words, probably not a tool that I’d think about unless I was driving stainless steel screws all day on a critical or flashy project.

    Still, it’s interesting none-the-less.

  15. Paul says:

    Corrosion from tools on stainless (or better still CRES for corrosion resistant steel) is a well known problem in aerospace (though not usually from screwdrivers). When you machine CRES, the cutting tools leave traces of non-CRES steel on the part. This minute amount corrodes and corrodes the base CRES part. To prevent this, CRES is often pickled and/or passivated. These processes are sometimes confused try: http://www.euro-inox.org/pdf/map/Passivating_Pickling_EN.pdf

    I think this company is going a little overboard with the problem with screwdrivers, but the reason behind it real.

  16. Mac says:

    Pretty sure galvanic corrosion is real. But I agree with Ben about obtaining the last few degrees of benefit/performance, though I think it’s more along the lines of the last 2%-3% at best. For most all of us, not worth it. But there are applications where they’d be necessary.

  17. olderthanyou says:

    @loaks111, In Swedish and German, stainless steel is called rost frei. No matter how you translate it it always comes out”rust free.”

  18. Beans Baxter says:

    In Spanish it’s acero inoxidable which translates to rustproof steel.

  19. Gary says:

    Maybe I’ve just gotten lucky, but I haven’t had any staining or rusting problems when using SS fasteners for outdoor projects. Wera makes some very nice tools, but I don’t think I need SS screwdrivers.

  20. Marco says:

    Sounds like a load of male cow backside output to me.
    If you use a decent screwdriver, it’s hardened, much harder than a screw, and I can’t see no way “debris” from the tool can “contaminate” the screw. If screws could wear “debris” out of a screwdriver, it wouldn’t last a month.
    As for stainless steel being soft, I have a pocket knife I’ve been carrying for some years now It has a stainless steel blade (ATS34) hardened to some 61 HRc.
    Yes, crio heat treatment can further improve a good heat treating for stainless steel, but unless you use really crappy carbon steel tools, you shouldn’t get “debris” from the tool!

  21. Marco says:

    PS: I can see much more problems arising from galvanic corrosion between two different grades of stainless (the plate and the fastener’s).

  22. Marco says:

    PPS: There is no such thing as rust free steel. ALL steel rusts, given enough time and appropriate conditions.

    @ Paul: the degree of stress (and the amount of wear) a machine tool has to bear is nowhere comparable with that of a screwdriver.

  23. Old as Dirt says:

    A NO Laser

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