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?