Different Types of Screwdrivers - Learn About the Various Screwdriver Heads, Blades and Bits and What Screws and Fixings They Should be Used With

Summary: In this project we take a look at the different types of screwdrivers and the huge variety of heads and blades including the Phillips, Pozidriv and Slotted heads and what different screws and fixings they should be used with. We also take a look at the various types of screwdriver design and operation that includes the ratchet, impact driver, nut driver and the insulated VDE screwdrivers for electrical work. We also take a look at the huge range of screwdriver bits and kits that are available today and how these can save time on many DIY jobs and space in the toolbox.

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Screwdriver is one of the most commonly used words in the home improvement field but the phrase “Pass me a screwdriver” is now one of the most complex of tasks; there are dozens of them.

Screws have evolved from the original idea of a pointed threaded nail with a slot cut in the head, to security screws that are almost impossible to remove, without the right type of screwdriver that is.

The Types of Screwdriver is Decided by the Type of Screw

The list that follows is as complete as we can make it today. If you have used, or own any other type of screwdriver please do get in touch. Of course the type of screwdriver you use will depend on the type of screw you are working with so do please go along to our project page on the different types of screw

Click on any images throughout this section to find out more about the tools shown and buy them if the mood takes you.

Types of Screwdriver

The Slotted Screwdriver

The "Daddy" of all screwdrivers. The slotted, flared or flat screwdriver precedes all other types of screwdriver and fits neatly into a slot on the top of the screw. Quite often used for opening tins of paint, the slotted screwdriver comes in many sizes from tiny precision or watchmakers screwdrivers to huge industrial sizes. Usually in a DIYers toolbox you would expect to see two sizes which are the most common - 5.5mm wide and 8mm wide.

Care must be taken when using a slotted driver as, unless the pressure is applied directly down the length of the screw, the driver can slip out of the slot and scratch the surface of your work or in some cases, embed itself in your hand or finger.

A standard 5.5mm wide slotted screwdriver

Slotted screwdrivers come in a variety of sizes

Cabinet makers and the old breed of joiners prefer to use slotted screws as, when fixing many times, they can line all the slots up to make the job look really neat.

Some joiners even insist that their apprentices make sure that each slot is in the same direction in hinges. There is no doubt about it that this really shows pride in ones work.

If you are considering using a slotted screw please be very careful if using it with a power driver or any kind of electric screwdriver. Slotted screws are not designed for power driving and the head can easily be spoiled by a powerful drill-driver simply tearing one side of the slot away. The result usually is that you can't get the screw either in or out!!

Screw heads in row

All slotted screw heads lined up in a row - Image courtesy of popularwoodworking.com

Flared and Parallel Slotted Screwdrivers

There are two types of slotted driver.

  • A Flared driver is one which has a tip which has been flattened so that the edge is slightly wider than the shaft
  • Flared slotted screwdriver

    Flared screwdrivers have an edge slightly wider than the shaft

  • Parallel screwdrivers have an edge which is the same width as the shaft. This is a really useful feature when tightening or undoing screws which are in a pre drilled hole which is the same diameter as the screw head. An example of this is the battery compartments to most electrical appliances and this is why VDE screwdrivers have parallel tips
  • Parallel slotted screwdriver

    Parallel screwdrivers have an edge the same width as the shaft

Phillips and Pozidriv Screwdrivers - What is the Difference?

The image below shows that the Pozidriv screwdriver has a slightly blunter point than the Phillips. This means the end of the driver does not go so far into the screw. There are plusses and minuses to this.

On one hand more of the screwdriver blades are in touch with the sides of the screw aperture giving, theoretically, more control and the potential for greater torque.

On the downside however, because of the greater depth of the drivers blades, they have to be a little thinner and are more prone to shearing off when the greater torque is used.

The shorter, stumpy Pozidriv system is very robust and is less likely (in DIY Doctor's opinion) to slip out of a screw, or break, providing the correct pressure is applied when using the driver.

Difference between Phillips and Pozidriv screws

The main differences between Phillips and Pozidriv screws and screwdriver heads

Screwdriver Bits and Bit Holders

Modern technology soon realised that carrying 15 different types of screwdriver around was a little cumbersome and the screwdriver bit was invented. The “bits” are simply the ends of several different types of screwdriver and they slot into bit holders which are often magnetic. This keeps the screwdriver bit in place when the bit is facing downwards.

Screwdriver bit set with bit holder

Screwdriver bits need a bit holder to keep them away from the driver

Screwdriver bits can be used in hand-held bit holders or electric screwdrivers, drill-drivers or combination drills. For more about combination drills, which allow you to drill holes in masonry, steel, plastic and timber as well as being able to use them as a screwdriver. A great example of one of these versatile tools is the Einhell 18V combination drill and Impact Driver set. It really is fantastic value for money.

Slotted Screwdriver bit

Specialist screwdriver bits can be bought individually

When buying a screwdriver which is a holder for screwdriver bits, whether it is hand held or electric, but especially when it is hand held (like the one shown in the image below), make sure the bit holder is magnetic. It really is a nuisance using a bit holder which allows the bit to fall out every time the holder is held vertically downwards, Similarly, sometimes the fit of Posidrive or Phillips is a little tight and, if the bit holder is not magnetic, the bit can stay in the screw when you withdraw the driver.

Hand held screwdriver with magnetic bit holder

Screwdriver bits need a bit holder to keep them away from the driver

Impact Screwdrivers or Impact Drivers

Because of a system which rotates the screwdriver bit as well as bashing down on it with a hammer action at regular intervals a lot of torque is created which drives the screw into the timber very quickly with the minimum drain on the battery.

Combination drill and impact driver set

Using an impact driver makes driving screws very easy

It is always better to use a high impact screwdriver bit in an impact driver as the torque can soon sheer off the fins on a Phillips or Posidrive screwdriver bit if the metalis not strong enough.

Impact rated bit holder and screwdriver bits

Use impact rated screwdriver bits for harder timbers

Angled Screwdrivers and Angled Screwdriver Bit Holders

When working in kitchen cupboards and awkward places an angled screwdriver bit holder is essential. The screwdriver bits themselves are the usual ones but when placed in an electric screwdriver or even a hand held quick change screwdriver, the angles bit holder makes it possible to put screws into the most inaccessible place.

Angled Screwdriver bit holder

Fix screws at awkward angles with an angled screwdriver bit holder

Ratchet Screwdrivers

A ratchet is a piece of engineering which, via cogs and other bits, allow the moving part of a tool to only move one way with any torque.

A ratchet screwdriver therefore, can only apply torque (To understand torque, see the section on a torque screwdrivers below) when turned in one direction. Turning it the other way will be very easy as the ratchet disengages from the screwdriver and allows free rotation.

Fatmax Multibit Xtreme Ratchet Screwdriver

Make sure the grip is comfortable when using a ratchet screwdriver

This system then allows you to keep hold of the screwdriver while turning it right, to tighten it, then when you have reached the maximum your wrist will turn, you simply leave the driver head in the screw and twist it back so your wrist is ready to tighten again. This is especially useful in tight spaces where removing the driver and finding the screw head again could be difficult.

Stubby T handle ratchet screwdriver

T handles are easy to hold when using a ratchet screwdriver

Ratchet Screwdriver kits

Ratchet screwdrivers come in the slot or flat headed variety, Phillips and Pozidriv. They also come in the form of a kit with a ratchet bit holder and several different types of head.

Bit holder handles with different bits are a brilliant idea but it pays to spend a little bit more for a kit which is contained in a strong case. With screwdriver kits of all kinds where a bit holder is required, the case is as important as the driver itself as lost screwdriver bits, especially the popular sizes, pretty much render the kit useless.

Ratchet screwdriver kit with 22 pieces

Get plenty of screwdriver bits when buying ratchet screwdriver kits

Offset Ratchet Screwdrivers

An offset ratchet screwdriver is a ratchet spanner into which special screwdriver bits are inserted at a right angle to the spanner arm. The bit is placed into the bit holder in the driver arm and placed into the screw.

This system of fixing or undoing screws this way is absolutely great as it means that the action of your hand on the screw can happen in a much more confined space than with a conventional screwdriver.

Offset ratchet screwdriver with 4 bits

Offset ratchet screwdrivers help fixing in tight places

Stubby Screwdrivers or Stubbies

Stubbies, or stubby screwdrivers are simply shortened versions of ordinary screwdrivers. Very useful for tight spaces such as between the kitchen units and the wall. They are also very good, if you have strong hands, for undoing very tight screws because your hand action is close to the screw head with a stubby and because there is no flex in the shaft you are exerting more torque directly on the end of the screwdriver

Stubby fixed screwdriver

A good grip is essential with a stubby screwdriver

Ratchet Stubby Screwdrivers

Ratchet stubbies are one of the most useful tools in the box for kitchen fitters. They allow for massive manoeuvrability in the most confined spaces.

Operating in exactly the same way as a conventional ratchet screwdriver, they often contain screwdriver bits in the handle making this a very versatile tool indeed.

Stubby ratchet screwdrivers for tight spaces

Stubby ratchet screwdrivers are ideal for tight working spaces

Nut Drivers or Nut Spinners

A nut spinner is essentially a screwdriver for nuts and bolts. A cylindrical shaft is attached to a socket which slides over the nut or bolt to undo it in the conventional screwdriver or spanner technique.

Nut Spinners can be bought in fixed sizes and these usually have hollow shafts which allow a long thread to be swallowed up by the shaft while the socket at the end sits over the nut.

It is more common however, as with screwdrivers and bit holders, to buy Nut Spinners in a set with a socket holder on the end of the shaft so many sockets can be attached as required.

Once again, when buying a kit, pay special attention to the case it comes in. Losing sockets of any size can render the kit pretty useless on occasions.<>

A nut driver for small nuts and bolts

Nut drivers give easy access when spanners will not fit

Insulated or VDE Screwdrivers

Insulated screwdrivers are used when working on, or anywhere near electricity. The term VDE is now accepted as a description for this particular type of screwdriver but is actually from the German Association of German Electrical Engineers or Verband Der Elektrotechnik.

VDE electrical Screwdriver safe up to 1500 Volts

1500Volts is a good safety barrier for an electrical or VDE screwdriver

Precision, Instrument or Watchmakers Screwdrivers

Take a look at this set of screwdrivers here that are a great example of a set of precision screwdriversand you will see that, for the price, it is everything you need it to be.

Precision screwdrivers, because the body is so thin, almost always have a rotating cap at the end. This allows the driver to nestle in your palm while you twist the shaft with your fingers. Suitable for most little grub screws and tiny hinge screws when it comes to removing batteries from torches or other electrical items, its always a good idea to have a precision screwdriver set in the toolbag.

Precision screwdriver set for slotted and Phillips heads

Precision screwdrivers sets need to have both slotted and Phillips heads

Instrument Screwdrivers with Bit Holder and Bits

These screwdrivers can also be bought with different bits just as the screwdriver bit sets above. Obviously much smaller, the bits are often kept inside the driver for safe keeping.

The instrument driver in the image below shows, as many of them do, a pen clip on the body of the driver to keep it safe in your pocket, especially the top pocket of overalls when bending over in the workshop.

Instrument screwdriver with pen clip and 6 bits

Keep instrument screwdriver bits safe using a pen clip for your pocket

Mains Testing Screwdrivers

Not the most popular tool amongst electricians, mains power tester drivers work by allowing current to flow up to a resister which reduces the level to a safe one. By putting your finger, or other body part, on the brass cap you are completing a circuit. This is shown by a neon light.

They can develop faults, they can be easily dropped into puddles or any other water, they can be dangerous if not used properly. If used properly and safely however, they are a very useful tool for checking if something is live quickly.

Mainstester multi function screwdriver

Use mains testing screwdrivers safely

Torque Screwdrivers

Torque is a force which tends to cause rotation. By turning a screwdriver, spanner, steering wheel etc.... you are applying torque. Objects of all kinds have a breaking point and when too much torque is applied to say a screw, the screw breaks or at the very least, twists in distortion. This is called the yield point.

Very clever people have lists of materials and objects and have formulated the yield point of all of them in some very clever tables. Your local garage for example, has a table of torque values for the wheel nuts on your car.

Torque can be measured by having a gauge connected to the arm that is applying the force. The gauge can be preset (as in the case of a battery drill driver or a wheel nut air spanner). When the correct torque is reached, a built in clutch separates the motor  (in the case of a hand-held screwdriver, the motor is you!) from the torque bar so no more torque can be applied to the object. That is how a torque screwdriver works.

Torque screwdriver prevents damage

Torque screwdrivers allow the setting of certain levels of torque to prevent damage

Torx Screwdrivers

The word Torx as a brand-name is a play on the word torque as these bits, and associated drivers are considered to be the way of applying maximum torque to any fixing.

The Torx, because of its many splines, has a lot of surface area in touch with the screw or Torx bolt and as such is much less likely to slip off or break. Really it is a mix of a Phillips, Pozidriv and a Hex bolt all in one.

Again, Torx screwdrivers can be bought as individually sized drivers but most often come in kits as shown below

Torx bit offering great torque

Greater torque can be applied with a Torx bit

Torx Kits and Torx keys

Ryobi offer one of the least inexpensive Torx kits on the market today that would be acceptable as tradesman standard. You are looking for very strong splines that fit snugly into Torx sockets with no slip and maximum pressure. Once more, the case is very important. The Ryobi kit shown in the image comes also with a bit holder.

Ryobi Torx Kit with bit holder

Strong Torx bits and bit holder coming from Ryobi

Torx Screws

30mm Torx screws can be bought by clicking on the image but of course Torx screws come in all lengths. The image is there to show you what the head of a Torx screw looks like and you can see at a glance that providing the correct size Torx bit or key is used, there is little chance that it will slip or break and that a lot of pressure can be applied.

Torx screw

Torx Screws are very strong with a large surface area in the Torx slot

Torx Keys

Much the same as Hex keys, Torx Keys offer more leverage than a Torx screwdriver and the kit form of a Torx set is such that in most of its formats it is difficult to lose an individual Torx key. The folding sets, like the Stanley Fatmax Torx Set shown here allows the whole bunch of keys to fold away neatly in the handle.

Torx or hex key set

The strong Stanley hex key set with bit lock to prevent sliping

Chisel Screwdrivers or Chisel Drivers

It is quite common for home improvers, and indeed tradesmen to be caught opening cans of paint with both chisels and screwdrivers. It is also very common to see anyone chipping bits of paint from the head of screws with the screwdriver.

While you can do exactly what you like with your tools, they tend not to last as long as you would like if they are used for purposes other than the intended one.

The Chisel Driver is a great tool to have. With a much stronger tip that those generally on normal screwdrivers and a shaft set much more securely into a handle that will not split when hammered, Chisel Drivers really do provide the missing link when something a bit more robust is required.

Chisel Screwdrivers with strong tips

Chisel Screwdrivers...The link between screwdrivers and chisels

Demolition Screwdrivers

A Demolition screwdriver is one that has been especially made to do the jobs that we already do with other types of screwdriver! A metal cap is part of the handle and the cap is connected directly to the shaft of the screwdriver so with any banging onto the head, the force id directly applied to the tip of the driver.

The shafts are also made of reinforced metal also allowing some use as a pry bar. In many cases a demolition screwdriver will also have a soft cushioned grip to protect the hand from the vibrations when it is being hammered.

Demolition Screwdrivers have metal striking plates

A Demolition Screwdriver takes the force of a blow directly to the tip

Hex or Bolster Screwdrivers

A Hex or Bolster screwdriver is one which has a kind of nut welded to the top of the shaft so if the screw you are trying to shift is stuck tight, you can put extra pressure on by turning the shaft with a spanner on the hex or bolster section.

These screwdrivers are sometimes confused with demolition screwdrivers as people see the word bolster and understandably think of a bolster chisel. Bolster however, also means to give aid and the hex bolt on the screwdriver shaft most certainly does that as the video below shows.

Bolster screwdriver provides added torque

Bolster screwdrivers can be used give added torque by using a spanner to turn the shaft

Storing Screwdrivers and Screws

It is really easy to mess a whole job up simply by picking up the wrong size or type of screwdriver and persuading yourself it will do for now. You can rip the head off screws, damage the furniture or scratch the bookcase you are building. It can cost money and be very very frustrating simply because you could not put your hands on the proper tool immediately.

Using proper tool storage solves this problem and this need not be as arduous or expensive as you might think. Companies like Faithfull Tools are forever producing low cost storage solutions for tools and fixings. The image below shows a low cost storage solution and one of the best bargians we have ever seen.

Faithfull tools storage set

Faithfull tools, tool, bits, screws and bolts storage solution

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