Everyone knows how to use a screwdriver, right? Apart from a hammer, it’s one of the simplest tools to understand in principle. But what if I told you that many professional and amateur craftsmen today are using their screwdrivers incorrectly or inefficiently.
You may even be included in that crowd and not know it yet.
As such, there’s never been a better time to refresh your knowledge and understanding of the humble screwdriver. This guide will help you do that by taking you step-by-step through the proper screwdriver usage techniques.
From there, it will highlight a variety of tips and tricks to take your screwdriver usage to the next level. I’ve also included several screwdriver safety tips to ensure that you and your fellow craftsman stay safe while using this simple tool.
How to Use a Screwdriver
You may already feel like you have a grasp on using a screwdriver.
How hard could it be, right? However, you may be glossing over several important steps that allow you to use this simple tool to its full capacity. As such, you should review these following steps to ensure that you are always using your screwdrivers properly.
Step 1: Check the Screw Head and Match the Type
First and foremost, you need to choose which screwdriver you are going to use.
To do that, you actually need to check what kind of screw you intend to drive before reaching for your tool chest. Screws today come with a wide variety of heads that are only compatible with certain screwdrivers. Regardless of what head type you are working with, you should only ever use a screwdriver with a tip that matches both its shape and size.
In most cases, you’ll probably be working with flathead screws or Phillips screws.
These can be distinguished based upon their flat, slot-like divots or cross-shaped divots, respectively. These can be driven in with a flathead or Phillips screwdriver, which typically comes in a basic toolset.
If you are working with some types of electronics or pipework, though, you may find yourself using screws with a square-, pentagon-, or hexagon-shaped head. These require a specialized screwdriver that features a head with a precisely-shaped tip.
Step 2: Check for a Snug Fit
Line up your screw at its intended destination. If possible, set the tip of the screw in the hole. Alternatively, hold the screw up to the hole with one hand. In either case, grab your chosen screwdriver and set its tip against the head of the screw.
Ideally, the screwdriver’s tip should fit snuggly within the screw head. This will ensure that it does not come loose as you drive in the screw. At the same time, a snug fit ensures that the maximum amount of torque from your hand and wrist make it to the screw during the driving process.
If your screwdriver’s tip does not fit your screw, grab either a larger or smaller screwdriver of the same type. Always do your best to match your screw heads and screwdriver tips by size and type. This ensures that the screw is properly protected from damage as it is driven in.
Also, this kind of matching prevents accidental injuries caused by the screwdriver tip slipping.
Step 3: Hold the Tip and Begin Screwing
Once you’ve found a good match between your screw and screwdriver, you’re ready to actually begin the driving process. To start, firmly grasp the screw between your thumb and pointer finger on your non-dominant hand.
Then, grab your screwdriver in your dominant hand. Once you have both items in hand, you can approach your pre-drilled hole and place the screw up to the hole’s opening.
While still holding the screw in place, begin twisting the screwdriver.
Do this a couple of times while also applying some forward pressure so that the screw winds down into the hole. Once the screw is stable enough to remain in the hole on its own, you can remove your fingers and place them near the tip of the screwdriver.
These can be used to keep the screwdriver stable and level, which in turn will keep the driven screw level as it enters the hole.
As noted, you should be pressing inward while also turning the screw. Don’t apply too much pressure, though, as this can cause damage to the hole. Also, too much pressure will make it more likely for the screwdriver’s tip to slide or jump off.
Not only can that be aggravating, but it can also be dangerous if you are working around other people.
Screwdriver Safety: The Basics
Here again, many people feel that they know how to be safe when using a screwdriver. After all, as a manual tool, few people foresee risks associated with using it. But like any other tool, all users of a screwdriver should practice caution when they take it in hand.
These following safety considerations can help you prevent injuries when a screwdriver is in action.
First off, never use a screwdriver for anything other than its intended purpose. In particular, this means avoiding the use of a screwdriver as a pry bar, a crowbar, a punch, or a pinch bar. Doing so will not be effective and is more likely to lead to injury. Using your screwdrivers in this manner may also damage them, making them unusable for their intended purpose.
Next, always keep your entire screwdriver clean. This includes the handle, which should be free of dirt, grease, and oil to prevent slippage and loss of grip. Along the same lines, a screwdriver’s tip should be free of all liquid and solid debris. Materials like that can cause slippage as well as create a poor connection between the tip and screw head.
Though it doesn’t apply in all situations, standard screwdrivers should never be used in environments with “live” electrical wires. If those wires cannot be deactivated, you should seek out insulated screwdrivers like the ones that an electrician might use.
Screwdriver Tips & Tricks
One of the best-kept secrets of screwdriving involves caring about the material the tool’s shaft and tip are made from. Specifically, you should always purchase magnetic-tipped screwdrivers if they are available to you. They make it easier to drive screws in tight situations without needing to hold the screw straight or steady.
Though most craftsmen know this, you should always drill pilot holes in advance of placing a screw with a screwdriver. Unless you are using a special type of screw that can dig into wood, this is the only way to successfully sink a screw.
Finally, always stay focused when using a screwdriver. While it may feel easy to place screws, complacency can lead to misaligned screws. Always be mindful of how much pressure you place on your screwdriver, as well. Too much can cause its tip to hop off the screw head if you meet and resistance.
Now that you’ve had a quick refresher on proper screwdriver technique, you’re ready to get back out there and drive screws like a pro.
Though the process may feel simple, it’s worth your time to follow every step every time you place a screw. Doing so (while also following my tips and safety recommendations) will ensure that your screws are placed as evenly as possible every time.