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Because screws hold by friction, they require screwdrivers to securely tighten and loosen them; there are three styles to choose from:

  • manual screwdrivers - the traditional tool comprised of a handle and an integrated bit. When buying a screwdriver, make sure the grip is comfortable in your hand (check the diameter), that the shank of the bit is securely attached (these tend to loosen or pull out in cheap screwdrivers), and that the bit is sufficiently strong. Among screwdrivers, Craftsman from Sears has perhaps the best reputation and warranty.
  • jeweler's screwdrivers - very small manual screwdrivers with sharp bits designed for work with jewelry, watches, and eye glass frames.
  • ratchet screwdrivers - an improvement on the traditional screwdriver, the ratchet screwdriver allows you to turn a screw without having to adjust your grip and allows interchangeable bits.
  • electric screwdrivers- similar to an electric drill, an electric screwdriver is designed to deliver high twisting power at the push of a button for faster and easier work. Look for a high and variable torque.

Types of Bits

Like drills and socket wrenches, screwdrivers can have fixed or interchangeable bits. With a manual screwdriver, the bit (i.e., the tip where the screwdriver meets the screw) is integrated into the handle and thus not changeable. As a result, you need a variety of screwdrivers to meet the most common uses since screw heads vary in slot design and size. Interchangeable bit screwdrivers (most ratchet and electric drives) allow you to use one handle with a multitude of bits.

The most common bits are for single slotted or Phillips head (a double slot in the shape of a plus sign) screws. However, the width, length, and depth of the slots vary, and hence there are a variety of bits to match. When choosing a bit, it is important to match the bit to the screw accurately so that the bit becomes an extension of the screw; if not, you risk deforming the screw head and making the screw unusable (in which case you have to drill it out). There are other types of bits, such as a TORX or spline, which have various unique patterns.

The length of the bit can be important, and this is most often seen with the manual screwdriver. A long shank allows you to twist a screw that recessed far from where

you can reach, while a "stubby" allows you to work where there is only a small area for the handle (another solution is the use of an "offset screwdriver," which looks like an Allen wrench -- a single bent piece of metal with a screwdriver tip on the end and the shank for a handle that serves also as a crank).

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