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Screwdrivers: how many and what kind?

Everyone has a screwdriver or two tucked away. It's important to have the correct sizes for those common household tasks.

How many screwdrivers do you own? Chances are, you have no idea as they are probably spread out around your home. You can probably locate the larger ones in the garage and maybe a smaller one tucked away in a desk drawer somewhere.

The fact is, we can't live without them. A tiny screw pops out of your reading glasses and you reach for the repair kit and the minuscule driver. You need to tighten a light switchplate - where's the right size for that job?

Like wrench sets, you may have an overabundance of cheap screwdrivers. That's fine, except they probably won't last very long. When you're ready to start padding your screwdriver supply, you really don't need more than a half-dozen sizes and only a couple of shapes: the common, or slotted, and the Phillips.

When shopping for screwdrivers, price does matter. Cheaper composition means they may break off even during simple tasks. Check to see if the handle feels comfortable and that you can maintain a good grip. Larger handles that are rubberized may work best. Be forewarned: the rubber does not prevent electric shock. Six-inch shanks are common, but you should also have a couple of longer ones and what is called a "stubby" for tighter spots.

When inspecting a Phillips screwdriver, make sure the tip does not really come to a point. A more rounded end ensures that the driver will fit into the cross-slots of the screw. Size-wise, you should own at least a No. 1 and a No. 3 Phillips screwdriver.

For slotted drivers, start with tips in these sizes: 1/8-inch, 3/16th-inch, and 5/16th-inch. These will fit most standard-sized screws used around the home.

There are two additional styles that we recommend. An offset will get you into tight, angled places. A ratchet is also useful for gripping power and quicker work. Both of these will be available in standard sizes at a reasonable price.

Lastly, once you have made a decent investment in screwdrivers, don't use them for anything but their intended purpose. They are not for prying things apart or to slice things open; nor are they hammers or other utensils. No scraping or chiseling, either - not even in the most dire circumstances. They're screwdrivers. That's what they do.




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