The Elemen’tary Screwdriver Gets it Right

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After writing about the parallel-tip screwdrivers from Grace USA and Lee Valley, I received lots of suggestions about other makers I should check out.

However, in my wanderings through the netherworlds of screwing and unscrewing, I stumbled upon this English-made driver on my own. After getting my hands on it, I can say it’s like the makers were reading my mind. It’s called the Elemen’tary No. 1 Screwdriver, and here is why it makes most screwdrivers look as intoxicating as a Shirley Temple.

1. It has a wooden handle that is turned in the shape of a vintage turnscrew. So it won’t roll off your bench thanks to the flats. And it fits my hand like a baseball glove.

2. The finish on the beech handle is oil. It’s tactile, like the finish on the Grace drivers. Not slippery like a plastic screwdriver.

3. The screwdriver chuck has an O-ring that grips your standard bits, even snapping them in place. Many of these bits have a small groove that receive the O-ring. That’s nice. However….

4. The Elemen’tary driver also has a screw chuck that locks the bits in better than any other magnet or O-ring. This small knurled knob allows you to secure your bit so it won’t pull out of the tool. If you own any four-way screwdriver, you know how this is one of their major downsides.

The Elemen’tary driver includes six bits, though it will use almost any standard bit. This driver is going on the road with me this year and will replace five screwdrivers I carry to adjust tools and drive slot-head and Phillips screws.

While the bits that come with this driver are good, I upgraded mine by substituting ground gunsmith bits from Brownell’s. More on that in a future post.

I have only one quibble with this tool. (Don’t I always have quibbles?) Like all drivers, I think this one doesn’t need to be so long. This driver could easily lose 1” or 1-1/2” and be ideal. With woodworking, we almost never say: This screwdriver is too short. Usually the lament is: This driver is too long to get inside the cabinet.

Yes, I know that there is a stubby version of this tool.

You can purchase this tool from several sources. I bought mine from Hand-Eye Supply for $35.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Chris Schwarz

Publisher of woodworking books and DVDs specializing in hand tool techniques.
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27 Responses to The Elemen’tary Screwdriver Gets it Right

  1. Robert Justiana says:

    Is that one of the gunsmith bits in the pics?

  2. Brian O. says:

    I saw these a few years ago and my reaction was, “I can make that.” So I did. I started out using a cheap magnetic bit holder but have since moved on to the Wiha click lock bit holder and now the FastCap bit holder. The FastCap holds bits like a vise. I eventually made a hex broach using a 1/4″ allen key to convert the drilled hole to a tight hex hole. The tighter fit means less epoxy and more strength.

    Another really useful thing to do with these screwdrivers is to put a small three jaw chuck (search for Jacobs Adapt-a-drive for one). This is a great little hand vise for round parts like knobs, dowels, &c.

    I can’t wait for the Brownell’s post: I checked their website and they have quite a few interesting bits, including split drivers that might be useful for saw nuts.

  3. I can’t wait for the post about the ground bits – something I will pass along to Bosch. Also, any bit you get in a power shank bit you should be able to get in an insert bit (~1″). That may help the search for the perfect driver.

  4. Dean says:

    I noticed that The Elemen’tary driver on the Hand-Eye Supply website looks like it does not have a screwdriver chuck. Is it possible that The Elemen’tary driver has dropped that feature? I found several other suppliers of The Elemen’tary driver and only one looks like it has the driver with a screwdriver chuck. The one with that looks like it has the screwdriver chuck is below.

    http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/heirloomquality-screwdriver-se-139150

    • lostartpress says:

      Dean,

      My guess is the chuck is a recent addition. The ones shipping this week from Hand-Eye have the chuck.

    • tony roberto says:

      The length of a screwdriver is proportional to the torque you can apply.

      • lostartpress says:

        Tony,

        I’m sure the physics experts can weigh in here – I wish they would. But I don’t think the length of the driver does increase torque.

      • ChadS says:

        Only if you use it as a pry bar(not allowed on this website even though we all have) or if you are an octopus and need to get your other seven tenticals on it
        torque = force x distance from center
        you can get more torque if you increas the handle diameter or pump iron(

      • Matt says:

        I’ve been debating wether not to give my 2 cents because its really not much but Tony you said,”the amount of torque you can apply.” In some instances it is possible to get better force on a driver with a longer shaft especially in a tight spot. If the shaft can extend away from the work your body can be positioned to apply better force on whatever you are turning. That being said Chris you are correct in that a screwdrivers length doesn’t (“in normal situations”) Have any effect on the amount of torque you can apply to a screw. That being said I hope no ones intelligence is insulted.

  5. Kristian Faulkenberry says:

    Gunsmithing?!?!? Tell me you are going to show us how to cut a custom stock with hand tools! Man that would be great!

  6. Gavin says:

    Wiha makes bit holders like that with the o ring and screw clamp.
    Good for a DIY. Plus the bit holder was well ender $10.
    Do a quick search and you can find them.

    • lostartpress says:

      Gavin,

      A good choice if you don’t mind plastic. I have a lifelong aversion to it that I cannot explain.

      • Gavin says:

        Chris, The ones I found online looked exactly the same as the bit holder on the Elementary driver, only 3″ long though. No plastic at all. You would have to add the wooden handle yourself.

        Harry Epstein tools in K.C. has blank grace tool handles. They would make a cool custom driver to match a grace set.

        I am with you on no plastic too. I am potter by trade and cant stand the stuff. Its just not natural.

  7. John Callaway says:

    I don’t know….. I bought a Snap-on ratcheting driver years ago, and it is my go to hex bit holder for anything that requires a non drill application. It was expensive, at around seventy five bucks in 1997, but it was obviously worth the money. It does have a plastic handle, but is quite honestly one of my all time favorite hand tools from before and since becoming a wood worker. I have a decent set of bits and drivers for screws and hex head bolts , both metric and standard, and it seems like a good idea to check out the gun smithing bits you mentioned for it.

  8. Brian Dormer says:

    $35? I’ve seen them (yes – same brand, not a knock off) for significantly less. I don’t mind paying for quality (can you say “Lie-Nielsen”) but there’s no reason to overpay.

  9. Eric Erb says:

    Quibbles, and bits. LOL

  10. Bob Davidson says:

    Who’d ‘a thunk it, after all these years, a new way of screwing!

  11. Brian O. says:

    It looks like this screwdriver is using the All Stainless Steel – Rubber O-Ring & Screw On Cap Wiha bit holder listed on this page:

    http://www.wihatools.com/700seri/700_bitholders.htm

    • Gavin says:

      Towards the bottom of the page are the bit drivers for drills with the same locking collar. That’s what I was thinking for a DIY stubby bit driver.

  12. Russ Morin says:

    Cool screwdriver but the real excitement is the Hand-Eye Supply site! Lots of drooling happening over here. Thanks for the tip.

  13. Paul says:

    Rockler sells 4_ln- one kits that you make the handle. As a gunsmith I have been aware of Brownell’s bits/inserts, been using them longer than I care to remember. I also have the Grace drivers. Have been making my handles for years, never thought to mention it, assumed it had been mentioned before now!

  14. David Pickett says:

    If anybody wants new wooden-handled ‘traditional’ screwdrivers, both Joseph Marples (www.marples.co.uk) and Crown Hand Tools (www.crownhandtools.ltd.uk) make beech round handled ones. Marples also do a small range of crosspoint ones. I’ve had one of the Crown ones for years, and it’s a very decent tool. Advantages over inserted bit drivers – handles graduated to size of screw, no bits to go missing. Disadvantage – you need several to cover all screw sizes. (Of course, Ebay can supply any number of vintage ones.)

    In passing, the steel these are made from is hard enough to give good service, but it can be reshaped with a decent file, provided you take it slowly and use a fair bit of pressure on the file. It doesn’t need doing often – I just fitted the tips of all my Ebay specials and Crown driver to individual screw sizes, and angled the sides off at 45 degrees to match the countersink. When the tips are so shaped, they seem to grip screws much better without slipping out of engagement so often. In twenty years of hobby use, I’ve only needed to reshape them once.

  15. Graham Burbank says:

    luckily, none of us have a TOOL COLLECTING HABIT WE NEED TO KICK…my therapist will be sending you the bill.

  16. Jason C says:

    I bought this based on your recommendation and it is a great screw driver. It replaced six screw drivers in my tool chest, freeing up a lot of space. The screw chuck on the end is a perfect solution to the pit falls of other such drivers. Thanks Chris.

  17. Mike Wirth says:

    Sold out at Hand-Eye Supply :(
    After a little digging around I ended up buying one from the UK: http://www.dykeanddean.com
    Mike

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