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DIY Helpful tips: Don't get screwed with a screwdriver

DIY Helpful tips: Don't get screwed with a screwdriver

Unlike a hammer, which can hammer nearly every type of nail around, a screwdriver needs to be matched with a particular screw in order for it to work properly.

The most common heads for screwdrivers are slotted, named for the vertical slot in the screw head, and the Phillips, which are screws with a crossed slot. Other common screw heads include:

The Robinson, with a square slot in the screw head,
The Allen, containing a slot shaped like a hexagon
The Torx, a six-pointed star-shaped screw head.

Screwdrivers, no matter what type of screw they're used with, are made up of a metal rod with a handle. Phillips screwdrivers come in four basic sizes, numbered from #0 to #4, #0 being the smallest. The blades of slot screwdrivers are measured in fractions of an inch. Screwdrivers also come in various lengths. Short, or stubby, screwdrivers are useful when you don't have much room to work.  Longer screwdrivers are useful when you need more driving power.

Before starting to use a screwdriver with a screw, make sure that you are using the correct screwdriver for the job you're doing. Never try to use a slotted screwdriver on a Phillips screw head, or vice versa. If you do, you may end up damaging the screw, and a damaged screw may be very difficult to extract.

Next, determine whether the screwdriver fits the head of the screw you're trying to fasten. The tip of your screwdriver should completely fill the slot of the screw. Too narrow of a tip, and you risk stripping the screw or damaging the tip of the screwdriver. Too wide of a tip, and you may damage the surface that you're trying to screw into. Too thick of a tip, and the screwdriver's blade will slip out of the slot.

If you're installing a screw into wood, drill a pilot hole first. This will help you drive the screw in straight.  Driving a screw without a pilot hole runs the risk of the screw following the wood grain, resulting in a crooked screw. The screw will follow the wood grain, resulting in a crooked screw.
Use screwdrivers only for driving screws, not for any other use not for stirring paint, prying open boxes, or as a chisel. Doing so will damage the screwdriver and, depending on how it's misused, may also damage you.

Never use a screwdriver near live electrical wires. If you need to use a screwdriver for electrical work, turn off all electricity at the breaker box before starting the job.

If your screwdriver's handle is broken, toss it out and buy a new one.  Broken screwdrivers can result in injury.


Follow these tips, and odds are you won't get screwed by your screwdriver.

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