Folks, I’m installing hinges for cupboard doors on a sideboard. As with most hinges I’ve bought, the screws are cheap and have the Phillips cross-hatch recess.
I’ve never had much luck with these kinds of screws. Not only do they get chewed up while driving by hand–with lots of downward pressure in line with the screw to minimize cam-out–but they seem to chew up my screwdrivers. With Phillips bits in a drill, if they wear out you just pop in a new bit, but wear out a good screwdriver and it’s hard to replace without buying a whole set. Plus driver bits seem to be made of a harder metal.
Can anyone recommend a REALLY good screwdriver set? One with Phillips heads that have wings whose surfaces are parallel and of very hard metal. And if there is a standard angle for the wings, a set that adheres to it. And with slot screw drivers that won’t slip when I’m forced to use that primitive type.
I prefer square drive and my square drivers rarely cam out and are durable. Whenever the choice of screw is mine, I use square. But I’ve learned that it’s hard to replace screws that come with hinge sets–their heads are milled for the leaf thickness and your heads may be fatter and stay proud when fully driven. That’s been my experience.
And god forbid I have to use brass screws and the careful pilot holes needed to keep those from stripping!
At any rate, what’s the best place for quality tools like screwdrivers? Is there a paradigm that the best manufacturer’s adhere too? To judge by the variety of drivers and screw heads I’ve seen, it would appear to be somewhat random.
In Canada, everybody uses square drive, even for household applications. There is a true story of how a Canadian museum sent a valuable painting to London by packaging it in a heavy wooden custom-made crate. They got a frantic call from London: what are those screws? Nobody knew how to remove them. The valuable painting remained in its crate, and they had an exhibit in 48 hours. The difficulty was solved when a screwdriver was put aboard an Air Canada jet en route to London, where the exhibit went ahead as scheduled.
I’m sure any of our readers could have hacked that crate open–give me a grinder and an old screwdriver and I’ll mill one custom.
Gun people have great screwdrivers. They are very particular about munging up the heads of screws on collectable firearms.
I got a huge screwdriver set from Brownells that has about 60 bits and a couple of handles in a case. Most of them are flathead, in every thickness and width you could want. They have Phillips bits as well.
For very well made individual screwdrivers, they have the Grace drivers. I'm not sure there are any that are better.
Off topic, but in the vein of illustrating how history can swing on the smallest of decisions:
Square Drive screws were actually invented by a Canadian, P. L. Robertson. Unfortunately, after a decades long legal battle with an unscrupulous English businessman who he licensed to produce the screws in England, patented his design there in his own name he became very suspicious of licensing his design, so when Henry Ford actually tried to license the screws for his use in the Model T he refused. Since his small manufacturing capacity could not meet Ford's needs only Canadian built cars used them. Soon after the Phillips head was invented and Robertson screws, although superior in many ways, we're relegated to being an oddity, confined to mostly Canada, at least until the patent expired and they started appearing more frequently in the US, but for many applications they are my favorite drive type.
When you buy screws in Canada, there is mostly Robertson head screws, then Phillips probably makes 20% of the offer. Although I also prefer Robertson mostly because they stick to the screwdriver so you save one hand holding the screw and they don’t strip as easily the Phillips the Phillips screws were more common in industrial and automated processes.
I don’t think there are superior screwdrivers that will ease the use of Phillips screws however there are many Phillips head sizes and selecting the correct screwdriver is not obvious since they all work so when I use them, I make sure there is a snug fit between the screwdriver I pick and the head size I have.
There are screwdrivers made for electricians which seem to be of higher quality than the standard ones available - milled better, better steel. Just be careful, as some are Phillips, some look like Phillips but are a cross between a flat and Phillips head - 1/2 flat, 1/2 Phillips shaped.
I agree with JohnC2.
I have 2 sets of gunsmith screwdrivers, one that I have had for 45 years. The parallel side bits make a huge difference on slotted screws, which I use most. Picking the best fit from the assortment of Phillips sizes help prevent camming. I actually use them on guns occasionally.
If you are stripping out the screws as well as your drivers, then it sounds like you are trying to drive them in solid wood/hardwood. You should be drilling a centered pilot hole before driving the screws. Try a vix bit.
I do use a vix bit and follow that with a regular bit to get the depth I need.
Three ideas from an Australian perspective:
1. As the original contributor suggests, use Robertson screws if you can; they are becoming increasingly popular in Australia - almost standard - for decking screws
2. If you use Phillips head screws make sure you have a driver or driver bit for each of the three standard sizes - to get a proper fit. If you are using a power driver with a hex bit, make sure you use one of the best made for impact drivers; in my experience stronger, with a wear-resistant tip which has "grippy ridges" milled into the wings.
3. If you can, use Posidriv screws from Europe instead of Phillips; they resist cam-out better. Make sure you can recognise Posidriv screws (nicks at 45 deg in the head between the slots for the driver wings) Common here on e.g. Ikea furniture.
There are 6 different Phillips sizes.
None of the screw-head types here in the US is rare. I see them all, more so in the construction field than woodworking. But there are definite trends. Robertson never really took off that big, and more and more the torn head seems to be the standard. I just wish they'd standardize the size. I get tired of switching between different torx sizes. Sure, an 8 inch lag needs a different size bit than a #8 screw. But a #10 can use the same bit as an 8.
I agree with Andrew re the Posidriv screws. I make timber crates for shipping knock-down furniture all over New Zealand and these screws are easy to use and kind to the driver bits.
I used posidrive when I was a ski mounter. It's a great system for industrial use and for home use, where you never see it. It should replace Phillips.
We used some of the first powered screw drivers with clutches--made by Millers Falls. That was 50 years ago. I quickly caught on to how posidrive is vastly supperior to Phillips. When we got a job in the shop that required Phillips screws, we gave the job to the junior technician.
Use a good screwdriver, whatever screws get your water hot, always pre-drill with a vix bit (it is adjustable for depth too) and poke the screw in wax before inserting in hardwood.
I use wax from toilet seals, new one of course, used ones are, uh, messy.
Yep...pure beeswax and inexpensive!
I have found that the screw bits made by the Chapman Manufacturing Co. in CT work very well with most screws. Also, you might try googling "When is a Phillips head not a Phillips head."
I heard that Japanese automotive companies have standardized on a screw that looks very much like a Phillips head, but it will be destroyed if you use an ordinary Phillips driver. I don't know when this "new" standard takes effect, but I think it's worth keeping in mind should cheap hinge screws turn out to be from this family.
I tool have been looking for a harder wearing Philips head screw driver. I recently completed a wall hung tool chest --the style with deep boxes for doors, and hung these with 36" long brass piano hinges. That's a lot of #5 x 5/8 brass screws. I decided that the Philips head would be less likely to cam out than the slotted style. But, as is the advice of Brusso whenever I use their butt or knife style hinges ...even after pre-drilling with a vix bit...screw in a waxed steel screw first to cut the threads in the wood (they dont make piano hinges, so these were not their product). Well after 72 screws the tip on my Grace Gunsmith screwdriver was totally chewed up! I like the Grace models ...the wood handles are nice looking and comfortable and the blued shanks have no glare. And Grace was amazing...I sent them a photo of the broken tool via email and they sent me a new replacement. But, I am still kind of surprised that such a small screw with only moderate torque required would do the damage.
I have been looking at the Wera brand from Germany. Lee Valley used to carry them and seem to have stopped. Woodcraft has a limited selection, but they are also on Zoro and Amazon.