Introduction: Enhance the Functionality of Many Screwdrivers.

Picture of Enhance the Functionality of Many Screwdrivers.

Most of the phillips (or "crosspoint") screwdrivers that I've come across have tip geometry that can be improved a great deal with a little grinding. The simple process shown here probably delivers the most improvement for the least effort, in the largest number of cases... it consists of slightly squaring off the tip with a grindstone.

Step 1: The Problem:

Picture of The Problem:

Aside from the poor general machining of most low quality screwdrivers (or bits), there's one particular oddity that degrades the functionality of even some pretty decent ones -- the fact that the tip comes to a little bit too much of a point, to where the blades actually effectively become a cone that prevents the tip from seating all the way into most of the screws you will come across. This is a problem, for instance, when trying to remove a stubborn or frozen screw, and instead of turning it, the screwdriver merely destroys the head of the screw, making removal vastly more difficult. Note the picture inset showing how much of the blade is being kept from seating in the screw head due to the excessively pointy tip.

Step 2: A Proposed Solution:

Picture of A Proposed Solution:

The quickest way to improve the "grab" of most screwdriver tips is to carefully grind away a small amount of the tip. It may intuitively seem like this would make the screwdriver useless for small screws, but since the portion being removed has no ability to turn a screw, it really just makes it less useful for puncturing things. You don't want to use a powered grinder, since you want to remove (usually) less than a millimeter. The best thing is a fine diamond file, or a sharpening stone. Some fine sandpaper on a block will work if you're carefull not to shred it. Most normal files are too coarse to drag smoothly across the tip without snagging. In any case, you want to grind it squarely, without rounding it off, and the easiest way to do this is to place the grinding surface perpendicular to another flat surface, and slide the screwdriver back and forth while resting on that surface, holding it securely and close to the tip.

Step 3: The Result.

Picture of The Result.

Shown is the subtly squared tip, showing a distinct "X" in the cross section. This is what grabs the screw, and what you want to end up with. If in doubt, try it with a screwdriver you don't care too much about, periodically checking the fit with a few different types of screw heads as you grind it, and stop when you notice a distinct improvement in fit. I would be interested in feedback from other people as to whether they find this situation to apply as generally as I do, and from anyone who can explain why most screwdrivers sold suffer from this "pointy-ness" problem (is it just a matter of quality control? are they designed for ideal screws that no one manufactures?) and I hope this helps prevent a few mangled screw heads. If someone knows of a reason why this is a bad idea, please comment about that, too. Happy screwing.


Jedi_zombie85 (author)2015-10-28

apparently its not new lol cheers for the info this will save me alot of messing about

gedcousins (author)2014-11-05

its not new, but good advice anyway

gedcousins (author)2014-11-05

its not new, but good advice anyway

gedcousins (author)2014-11-05

its not new, but good advice anyway

gedcousins (author)2014-11-05

its not new, but good advice anyway

gedcousins (author)2014-11-05

its not new, but good advice anyway

RawleM (author)2014-10-05

good advice. it works until the tool is too worn

arionisa (author)2012-03-13

Poorly made tools, "Jap" made tools etc etc etc/

There are two main types of "philips" screwdrivers out, which happen to PERFECTLY match the two main types of "philips" screws.

First there is the cross point, aptly named as they are the ones that come to sharp point, these also have the flat,square flutes. The point has NOTHING to do with being able to use the wrong size and still have it "kinda" work. It has everything to do with the fact that the screws it was designed to fit have a pointed recess with perfectly flat and square sides.
Then there is the cross TIP, which has a blunt end (hence the name tip and not point) and angled flutes, designed to fit perfectly in the screws made just for that type of driver.
Easy to tell which one to use, if the slots in the screw are flat, you need a cross point, if the slots are tapered, you need a cross tip. If the screwdriver you selected does not fit the screwhead PERFECTLY, then you have the wrong screwdriver, go dig in your tool box and grab the right one.
The right tool for the right job, use the correct screwdriver for the type of screw and guess what, NO more stripped screws and or chewed up screwdriver tips.

pfred1 (author)2006-10-12

Phillips screws are designed to strip. Better to strip the screw than the hole of the work when the work is say a car body! So quit cursing your tools they're doing exactly what they were designed to do. From

"The Phillips screw drive has slightly rounded corners in the tool recess, and was designed so the driver will slip out, or cam out, under high torque to prevent over-tightening."

Some car manufacturer I forget which decided to go with phillips screws because their workforce was ill trained I suppose. Google it I'm sure it'll come up with all of the gory details for ya.

And yeah, you can get more life out of any phillips screwdriver with some skillfull grinding and filing on it.

So in short phillips screws, and screwdrivers suck by design, but they're everywhere so we all gotta deal with it I suppose.

DIY-Guy (author)pfred12011-09-13

Interesting quote from Wikipedia. Wonder when it will change!?

I take Wikipedia with a grain of salt. The nature of public editing (should we say because of human nature?) provides a reasonable doubt of accuracy. It's not an authoritative reference and by it's very nature it never will be unless procedures are changed.

I do like the idea that the Phillips tip was designed as a fail-safe.

RadBear (author)pfred12007-04-04

I read a book that was all about the history of the screw. The reason the car manufacturers chose the phillips was effciency. As the screws would cam out the workers wouldn't have to stop to remover the drivers from the screw. When it was tight enough the driver would pop right out and they could go to the next screw. This added up to a great time savings.

ScrewdriverMfg (author)2006-06-11

Good conversation. One point I would like to make - most screwdrivers sold in the US, are actually made in the US. In fact, I manage the world's largest screwdriver manufacturing plant right here in the good ol’ US of A. Our screwdrivers are made to far exceed ANSI specifications for fit and finish. In fact, we have some of the most exacting quality criteria in the industry. I have taken a note of the comment regarding the fact that there are too many straight-blade screwdrivers in most screwdriver sets. I need to do a bit of research on that as I simply make them and do not make the marketing decisions around packaging, but I know the man who does! We are constantly looking for new and innovative screwdriver products as well as better ways to serve the public’s demand for high-quality screwdrivers. Consequently, I welcome any and all comments and suggestions regarding ways we can improve how we manufacture and package our products. I’ll check this board from time to time so if you have questions about screwdrivers, I’ll be happy to answer them if I can

How about grinding a small concave on the face of the straight blade screwdrivers to make the driving edges able to slightly bite the face of the screw slot and drive better.  I also slightly taper the drive bit inward a bit from the bottom of the bit to a point about screw slot depth.  This seriously improves anti-cam out, and can be done with a dremel and some patience is worth a few minutes for the dependable drive you get as a result.  Practice on a few of the cheap Chinese drivers to get the hang of it first, no sense ruining a good driver right off!

smokehill (author)ScrewdriverMfg2007-11-11

I've always been puzzled as to why no one has really revived the old torque-handle screwdrivers made by Swallow Airplane Co. in the 40s and 50s. They were cranking out 100,000 a month and selling them to professional mechanics everywhere. Most mechanics took one look at their fold-down torque "wing" and immediately bought a couple, plus their nutdriver. Several small companies have cloned some really cheesy, low-quality copies that didn't sell well, but I suspect their big mistake was not marketing quality tools to real mechanics. Considering the price SnapOn gets for their screwdrivers, price isn't much of a consideration to anyone who needs quality tools. The patents & even the original trade name "Tuffy" are wide open, since the company folded in the 50s ... I've got dozens ot the things since they turn up on eBay all the time, but I think someone is missing a tremendous marketing opportunity.

brmadeira (author)2009-12-08

It may be because the manufacturers know that a lot of people don't know the difference between a #1, #2, #3, etc. Phillips. If they make a precise #2, it won't fit screws that need a #1 Phillips, so a lot of people would complain.
But more likely it is just sloppy fabrication techniques.
I have also ground down the outside edges of the wings, very slightly, just enough to give a square edge to them, they grip better that way. But the best technique is to buy the best quality magnetic tips that you can find. 

laznz1 (author)2008-09-24

Great Idea if you look closely at the higher cost screwdrivers in Hardware store they already have this feature BTW Kingchrome is slowly bring back torque screwdrivers

Kirtai (author)2007-06-06

One thing to watch for is that there are two crosspoint screwdriver specs and they're not compatible: Philips and Pozidrive. If your crosspoints are too long for the screwhead, it's possible you're trying to use a philips driver in a pozidrive screw. (BTW, length isn't the only difference)

dan (author)2006-02-17

i suspect they are pointy because a lot of them are really JIS (japanese) standard, which is supposed to be like that and has screw heads to match it. but US phillips screws are designed for a non-pointy end and any proper phillips driver will be flattened as well.

Al Toid (author)dan2007-04-21

I am in the Survey and Construction instrument (Lasers and Levels) business and our technicians have for years had to grind the tips off their philips screwdrivers to repair Japanese made instruments. Not so for American made instruments. Japanese philips head scews are very shallow making it necessary to grind. Al Toid

Alma (author)2006-02-19

The Phillips Screw has been highly over-rated since WWII, when it became highly used in American war supply factories. Anyone would think the Phillips is an improvement over the slot-head screw (especially in production manufacture), but to my mind, the Robertson square-head screw stands head and shoulders above the Phillips. I've used Robertson screws in my projects for 50+ years, and still prefer them. The Torx may well be better, and I'll have to investigate. Thanks for that!

RadBear (author)Alma2007-04-04

In the book I mentioned above about the history of the screw the author says that the Robertson is a superior screw. It never caught on b/c no one could reach a licensing agreement w/ Mr. Robertson as he wanted to keep control of his invention.

Andsetinn (author)2006-12-26

Lot of people are using Philips headed screwdrivers or bits on Pozi screws and vice verse. They don't mix well and since lot of people don't know the difference the Philips screws get bad undeserved rep. The Pozi screws and bits are recognisable by the "slots" in the screw-head and the screwdrivers and screwdriverbits are marked with Pz for Pozi and Ph for Philips.

Myself (author)2006-09-13

I just had occasion to try this, and it worked like a *charm*. Took 1/32" off the tip of a Craftsman #0 Philips and it stopped riding out of the screws on the Thinkpad I was tearing apart. Now if only Drill Doctor made a Screwdriver Doctor sharpener/grinder. I just sent their customer service department a note to that effect. As I said to them, I'm sick and tired of throwing out screwdrivers because part of the tip geometry is a few mils out of whack.

Myself (author)2006-05-31

Another theory is that cheap screwdrivers are made for mechanics who don't know better, and the pointy tip is to allow them to fit a wider range of screw sizes. A proper #2 Phillips drver will only work in a #2 screw, but with the point, it might work in a #1 also. The exception is the weird tip geometry on the SwissTech tools. I carry a black Micro-Plus and have been left speechless by the superiority of the screwdrivers. The large tip fits #1, #2, and #3 screws with alacrity, and the small tip is good for #1, #0, and #00. They don't slip out, they don't strip screws, and they don't break. If I could buy 1/4" insert bits with this particular tip grind, I'd throw out my existing junk in a heartbeat and replace them all with Swiss-Tech bits. Unfortunately they only make keychain tools. (On an odd note, I tried a stainless Micro-Plus and it sucked. Only the black anodized version seems to have the right combination of geometry and finish.) And while I'm rambling about screwdrivers, has anyone else been pissed off by the way screwdriver assortments include twice as many straightblade drivers as they do Phillips? C'mon, you only need two or three sizes of straightblades, but they give you four or five. And where you legitimately need five or six different Phillips drivers, you get two. Buying piecemeal is expensive, but it's the only way to get the tools I need. Hate!

ironsmiter (author)2006-05-16

part of the reason, is the way cheap-o screwdrivers are manufatured. it starts with Six sided stock(for the removable bits anyhow). A computer driven lathe "faces' the piece(trues the end) then turns the diameters from right to left, starting with the taper where the blade will be. a second part of the machine then mills the slots to form the blades of the screwdriver. this is all done by realitivly unskilled labor that is paid by the piece finished, not by accuracy, or skill or care taken. that leads to sloppy tips, poor fits, and the like. To see an example of a screwdriver tip made by quality, skilled labor(still probably indo-china though) visit your local gunsmith. his presicion screwdrivers are cut with precision tips that fit so tightly to a well formed screw(also made by a skilled machinist. gun screws are machined, not forged or rolled like what we normally see) that the screwdriver, fully inserted, will hold onto the screw, without either being magnetic! For those really small screws, you can use a small file to reshape the tip of a poorly made driver, but afterware, maek it, so you don't accidentily use it on a normal screw, and mees up both the screw, AND your new specialty screwdriver.

Randy (author)2006-04-13

I can't find a tool manufacturer (not even Vessel)that offers a size 0 Frearson (Reed & Prince) power bit. I also need a reduced shank to use with a screw presenter.

aeray (author)2006-02-18

The robertson is good, but I am a professional carpentrer, and in my opinion, the Torx, or stardrive screw/driver is the best, especially if you are using a cordless drill/driver.

yawfle (author)2006-02-18

Thanks for the insights... I'll go do some research via the pointers in your comments and settle my disgruntlement once and for all. :)

mattgyver (author)2006-02-18

Good tip (no pun intended). In my opinion the Robertson is the way to go (Go Canada).

Pauwcarn (author)2006-02-17

The pointed screwdriver is for the Reed & Prince Recessed Head screws. They were made that way to accomodate any size screw. The Phillips screws require screwdrivers sized for the desired screw size i.e. No. 00, 0, 1, 2, 3, etc. all of which have squared off points. The Chinese (who make most of the screwdrivers now)probably don't know the difference.

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