In Shop Blog, Techniques

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There are few things worse than too-soft screwdrivers. Lima beans, Care Bears and eye surgery with a teaspoon immediately come to mind.

When I blogged about my favorite “perfect handle” screwdrivers before I headed off into the great Sausage Kingdom, I mentioned that I didn’t have the heart to test the imported ones sold by the Garrett Wade catalog. But then I had a change of heart and ordered a set. What the heck. It’s just my kids’ college fund.

The drivers arrived last week while I was teaching, but I had a chance yesterday and today to take them out and give them a good beating. I was skeptical. So far, here’s the good and the bad.

First the bad:

These drivers won’t win the “Miss Screw” beauty contest. The catalog company is up front about this on its web site. There are significant gaps between the metal and the wood. The wood looks like it was shaped in time to escape from a burning building. As to the finish, let’s just say there was someone’s hair embedded in one handle.

The tips need to be re-ground so they properly fit my screw heads , but that’s the case with every screwdriver I’ve ever touched.

The tools are covered in yellow stuff. I don’t know what it is, but our shop solvents cannot touch it.

Now the good:

The screwdrivers are indeed tough. If they are half as tough as the yellow goop covering them then I’m going to be happy. I pried stuff with them. Hit them with a hammer. Scratched them with a file. I’m satisfied with the way they work. And with some “perfect handle” tools going for $30 to $50 each, $29.95 for four isn’t bad.

But I’m going to have to do something about their appearance. Time to get the sandpaper. We’re out of #40-grit, which is about where I need to start.

– Christopher Schwarz

Other Screwdriving Resources Related to this Post

– A history of H.D. Smith & Co. at “I Like Rust.”

– A reprint of the company’s catalog from Martin J. Donnelly Auctions.

– A tutorial on repairing a perfect handle from Jim Thompson.

– Read a patent for the company’s wild adjustable screwdriver. And check out their patent for a chisel handle. Look familiar?

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Here are some supplies and tools we find essential in our everyday work around the shop. We may receive a commission from sales referred by our links; however, we have carefully selected these products for their usefulness and quality.

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Showing 11 comments
  • I always enjoy your prose. Thanks, Elmer

  • Clay C

    Assuming it’s Cosmoline on there, here’s one woodworker’s recommendation to get it off without poisoning oneself – WD-40. See

  • Tom Hargrove

    Appearance aside, paying this much for a set of screwdrivers that arrive encased in mystery goo, are poorly finished, and that need to be re-ground before use does not make sense to me. There are plenty of decent scredrivers available in this price range that work "out of the box" (i.e. Greenlee, Klein or even Craftsman Pro). These appear to be garage sale grade tools which are sold at full retail price. I can appreciate that they are good for prying things, but if I am going to take the time to grind a screwdriver bit so that it fits perfectly into a slot, I am not going to use it as a prying tool.

  • Conrad Mullins

    Although the design is appealing I find it hard to get excited about slot screwdrivers these days. I rarely use this type screw anymore and with so many things to spend money on in the shop….I have already started to build the Lee Valley set, already mentioned, and like them a lot.
    Thanks for the review though. Keep up the great work.
    Conrad M.

  • Eric R

    I wonder how many times "Miss Screw Beauty Contest" is going to show up in internet searches?…
    These are the best screwdrivers I’ve ever had. They are from Lee valley.,43411,43417&ap=2

    Thanks Chris, and welcome back.

  • Dean

    If the protective coating is Cosmoline it can be removed with a hand steamer and rags. Otherwise, you might look into the following, or you could try softening the coating first with a hand steamer.

    Household ammonia

  • Jeff Burks

    A straight blade screwdriver should be slightly hollow ground rather than a wedge shape. This prevents the screwdriver from raising a burr on the slot. You can find the practice of regrinding screwdrivers in old books, for example:

  • Petra Pope - Garrett Wade Tech

    Thanks, Chris. We like em, too. I’ll see about the yellow goo and let you know if you need to get shots.

  • Todd

    How do you grind the tips to make them better?

  • imperfect handle

    hrmmm a little more elaboration on this re-grinding process? I’ve only ground screwdrivers into special odd tool shapes. How should they be re-ground to properly fit screws?

  • Matt Cianci

    ….the "Miss Screw" beauty contest?!?!? Now that I’d like to see!!!!

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