I have four sets of screwdrivers. Three for loaning and one for using.
The set I never loan is made up of tools that were made (mostly) by the H.D. Smith & Co. company of Plantsville, Conn. Usually these are referred to as “perfect handle” screwdrivers. They are single drop-forged pieces of steel with a wooden handle that has been riveted into place. And they are tougher and more comfortable than any screwdriver I’ve used.
I’ve picked up my set of six drivers through the years since 1996, when I spied my first one at a flea market and picked it up for $5. Since then I’ve also noticed that the prices for these tools can be ridiculous. I’ve seen screwdrivers go for $40. I’ve never paid more than $10, but I’ve picked up mine at antique fairs.
The reason I was able to get mine so cheaply is that mine look like dogmeat. And they look like dogmeat because they were probably used on the devil’s locomotive they are so black and grungy. And they are as tough as hell.
Note that there are counterfeits out there that weren’t made by Smith. Some of the tools are stamped “Germany,” and some are stamped “Irwin.” And some are tools that have been cobbled together by a clever welder. But if you find the real thing, I know you’ll be pleased.
I’ve noticed that Garrett Wade carries a Chinese set that looks like my screwdrivers, but I don’t have the heart to test them. Anyone out there have these?
If you’d like to learn more about the line of “perfect handle” tools, here are some good resources:
– A history of H.D. Smith & Co. at “I Like Rust.”
– A reprint of the company’s catalog from Martin J. Donnelly Auctions.
– Christopher Schwarz
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