It’s sad to say, but all of the so-called “lifetime” screwdrivers I’ve tried over the years are sorely lacking in one way or another.
On many of them, the tips are soft or poorly shaped. Soft tips are, of course, worthless and soon become useless (unless you need a shank in prison).
The shape of the driver’s tip is perhaps even more important. Most drivers for slotted screws feature tips that simply taper to their final thickness – like the taper on a table leg. When the tip is a simple taper, it contacts the screw’s slot only at the top of the head. This arrangement works, but it is less than ideal because the tip tends to slip. A slippy tip tends to mung the screw’s head. A munged head looks terrible.
A better tip is ground so its sides are parallel and fit exactly into the slot. In fact, you should be able to put a screw on the tip and wave it around like you are conducting an orchestra without the screw flying off – that’s how close the fit should be.
A couple months ago I purchased a set of Grace USA screwdrivers from TheBestThings.com. I’ve long known about Grace USA’s drivers used in the gunsmithing trade, and I wondered how the tips would fit wood screws. Grace USA offers a set of drivers for the home, but the measurements seemed off to me.
Lee Richmond at The Best Things said he asked Grace USA to make some screwdrivers with tips made for wood screws. I purchased the set of seven slotted drivers from The Best Things for $69.95 and could not be happier with the tools.
With all the campaign furniture I’ve been building since December I have been driving hundreds of slotted screws – so many that I wore out a couple of my German-made SKGs. So I was ready for some new drivers. What I wasn’t ready for is how sweet the Grace USA drivers are.
The handles are birch and have a matte finish, which makes them easier to grip (I hate slick handles for drivers). The handles are graduated in size, another indicator of their quality.
But the standout feature of the drivers is the tip. These fit perfect – hand-in-glove. Driving a screw is much easier as a result because you don’t have to apply as much downward pressure.
In fact, their precision is their only problem. If you use cheap, plated screws, the tips won’t fit as well. In fact, you might have trouble getting the tip into its slot. This isn’t a problem in my shop – I dislike plated screws for furniture and buy solid brass screws or unplated steel screws for my work. In the coming weeks, I’ll write about some of my sources for these fasteners. If you need some now, check out the screws sold by marine supply stores – they sell solid stainless, brass and bronze screws for boat hardware.
I’ve heard a lot of good things about the longevity of Grace USA drivers, so I’m hopeful these really will be a lifetime set for me. If you need a great set of drivers, I highly recommend the set from TheBestThings.com.
— Christopher Schwarz
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