How to Use a Screwdriver

A screwdriver is a must-have tool to have in your toolbox, and as the name suggests is used for screwing (installing) and unscrewing (removing) screws. Screwdrivers were conceived in the late 15th century in either France or Germany, and were originally named tournevis (turnscrew), and Schraubendreher (screwturner) respectively.

Using a screwdriver is a no-brainer, where you put the screwdriver head into to the slot in the fastener to either tighten or loosen it. However, there are several more aspects that come into play when learning how to use a screwdriver more effectively and safely.

Parts of a Screwdriver

Screwdrivers basically have just four parts to them — handle, shank, blade, and head aka tip.

Handle – the handle is the widest part of the tool, and features a cylindrical design that fits well in the hand.

Some screwdriver handles can be hexagonally formed or equipped with a rubber grip to prevent it from slipping during use. This small feature can make a world of difference when using the screwdriver as it provides ease of use, and allows users to insert the screw with minimal effort.

Shank – the shank is a lot thinner at roughly 1/3-inches thick, and longer than the handle at a few inches long to over a foot. It is generally constructed from hardened steel, and is used to insert screws or to insert screws in tights spaces or where the screw is far away for the hand to reach.

Blade – this part is located at the business end of the screwdriver, and mated with the shank. It is typically flat, wedged, and even conical, and adds stability to the tip/head of the screwdriver. Even though the screwdriver blade is considered synonymous with the head, it does serve slightly different functions such as adding stability to the tip, and providing better torque.  

Head – head or tip is located at the end of the shank, and is the part that is placed into the screw head. It is built harder than the shank, and is the most important part of the screwdriver, without which the rest of the tool is redundant.

Types of Screwdrivers

You’ve probably heard about two types of screwdrivers, but there’s a lot more to choose from.

Slotted screwdrivers – also dubbed as flat blade, flat head and straight, this type of screwdriver features a chisel shaped head, and offer twofold benefits — can be used as a chisel, and sometimes on a Phillips head screw.

One of the downsides of flathead screwdrivers is that they are prone to slipping out of a slot when a lot of pressure is applied. But despite this, they are still a handy tool for many applications.

Phillips screwdriver – also known as cross head screwdriver, Phillips screwdrivers are used just about everywhere from furniture to appliances. They feature an angled head, making it easier to fit deeper into the screw head, with little or no chance of the blade slipping out.

Torx screwdriver – also called star, Torx security version, or Torx plus version, Torx screwdrivers even though considerably similar in design are not to be confused with Phillips screwdrivers, because they are distinct with their rounded off star or flower shaped blades.

Torx screwdrivers provide significantly higher torque tolerances, and are a popular choice in security, and appliance manufacturing fields. This is due to their top notch efficiency, and the fact that it is bit more challenging to take apart appliances that are fitted with Torx screws.

Hex screwdriver – this type of screwdriver is become increasingly popular, and sets itself apart from the other types for its lack of a tip among other things. Hex screwdrivers are also known as hex key, or Allen wrench screwdrivers, and are often included with packaged furniture including furniture from Ikea.

Robertson screwdriver – one of the least common types of screwdrivers, Robertson or square head screwdrivers are mostly used in the automotive and furniture industries. They are also included with large screwdriver sets, and have received a surge of appeal among American users.

How to Use a Screwdriver Safely  

Research from the U.S. National Safety Council statistics in 2017 indicates that there were more than an alarming 130,000 hospital admissions across the United States for hand tool injuries.

The Council further claimed that the screwdriver is perhaps the most improperly used tool in the workplace, which can result in hand injury. That said, here’s how to use a screwdriver safely and effectively.

1. First most important thing to do is get the right size screwdriver to match the fastener’s head. While there is an array of screw sizes available, screwdrivers come in a limited number of sizes such as Phillips — 0 to #4 — #0 being the smallest. So, before you go Bob Vila on a screw, make sure the screwdriver head fits snugly into the head of the screw.

2. Once you’ve figured out the right screwdriver for the screw you’re using, the technique to tighten or loosen a fastener is straightforward. Start by inserting the tip of the screwdriver into the head of the screw to ensure it fits securely.

If it doesn’t, the screwdriver can slip away as you’re tightening the screw. This can lead to you causing damage to the head of the screw (known as stripping the screw). For great support, it is highly recommended that you get a good grip of the handle with your dominant hand, and hold the shank as close to the tip as possible with your other hand.

3. Apply a bit of pressure when the screwdriver tip is secured into the screw head, and then turn clockwise to tighten, and counter-clockwise to loosen the screw. Refrain from applying more force than necessary, because the screwdriver may slip out, and keep the screwdriver aligned with the shaft of the screw as you’re tightening or loosening it.

If you should happen to damage the head of the screw, all is not lost as there are several ways to remove a stripped screw, so it’s not the end of the world, just very annoying!

Screwdriver Safety Tips

1. Screwdriver tips can be sharp, and have the ability to piece the skin in the event of sudden impact resulting from a fall. Therefore, it is advisable to carry your screwdriver in a tool box or work belt rather than your pocket.

2. Screwdrivers are designed to tighten and loosen screws, so don’t use it as a wedge, punch, pinch bar or pry.

3. The presence of grease and oil in the handle and head of the screwdriver can cause it to slip, and lead to injury. So, clean the handle of the screwdriver regularly to get rid of the of the accumulated dirt or oil for long service life, and to prevent any hazards.

4. Set the workpiece down on a flat table or vice when using a screwdriver, and not in your hand.

5. Screwdrivers that aren’t properly insulated shouldn’t be used for electrical work.

Final Thoughts:

A screwdriver is one of the most versatile tools to have in your toolkit, because it proves handy for on-the-go jobs or even simple household fixes. But it’s highly important that you learn how to use a screwdriver properly for best results, and to prevent any injuries.

A screwdriver in this condition should not be used!

Before using a screwdriver, check to ensure that its tip is in good condition, and not gnarled up, so that it slots in well into the head of the screw. Furthermore, make sure that the screwdriver is properly aligned with the screw, or else you risk causing damage to both the screwdriver, and the screw.