Interesting facts about screwdrivers

A screwdriver is a tool, manual or powered, used for driving screws.

The screwdriver shank is made of tough steel, and the tip is hardened to minimize wear. The handle is made of wood, metal, or plastic.

Around the 1st century AD, screw-shaped tools became common, however, historians do not know who invented the first. Early screws were made from wood and were used in wine presses, olive oil presses, and for pressing clothes. Metal screws and nuts used to fasten two objects together first appeared in the 15th century.

The earliest documented screwdrivers were used in the late Middle Ages. They were probably invented in the late 15th century, either in Germany or France. The tool’s original names in German and French were Schraubenzieher (screwpuller) and tournevis (turnscrew), respectively. The first documentation of the tool is in the medieval Housebook of Wolfegg Castle, a manuscript written sometime between 1475 and 1490.

In 1770, English instrument maker, Jesse Ramsden invented the first satisfactory screw-cutting lathe. Ramsden inspired other inventors. In 1797, Englishmen, Henry Maudslay invented a large screw-cutting lathe that made it possible to mass-produce accurately sized screws. In 1798, American David Wilkinson also invented machinery for the mass production of threaded metal screws.

According to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, toolmaker Joseph Whitworth devised Britain’s first standardized screw in 1841. American engineer William Sellers did the same for his country in 1864. Standardized screw heads and screwdrivers emerged later.

The Robertson screwdriver, also known as a square screwdriver, was invented in 1908 by P.L. Robertson, a native Canadian. The screwdriver presented a solution to the frequent problem users encountered with flathead screwdrivers: the driver often slipped out of place and slowed down the process of securing the fasteners. But slotted screws and their associated drivers were easy to make. Robertson’s design depended on the corresponding square shape on the top of screws that enabled the square-shaped screwdriver to make secure contact with the screw. As the screwdriver was rotated, it was far less likely to slip out of place and the process moved a lot faster. The internal square drive required a bit more manufacturing ingenuity than did making the cheap yet popular slotted head, however.

In the early 1930s, the Phillips head screw was invented by Oregon businessman Henry Phillips. Automobile manufacturers now used car assembly lines. They needed screws that could take greater torque and could provide tighter fastenings. The Phillips head screw was compatible with the automated screwdrivers used in an assembly line.

A hexagonal or hex screw head has a hexagonal hole turned by an Allen key. An Allen key (or Allen wrench) is a hexagonally shaped turning tool (wrench), was first produced by William G. Allen of the Allen Manufacturing Company in Connecticut; who patented it first debatable.

Not much changed until 1967 with the introduction of the Torx driver which was designed to prevent the driver from “camming out,” that is popping out as even the Phillips does by design or on occasion accidentally. This driver was also used frequently as a way to prevent tampering, however since this driver has become incredibly common, security Torx (Torx with a hole or a peg in the center) and other screwdriver types have been invented, probably the most famous of which is Pentalobe made famous by Apple in 2009. Besides these, there are literally a dozen other types of drivers or more, the most tamper proof being probably the One-way screws that cannot be unscrewed to the lament of pranksters everywhere.

Gunsmiths still call a screwdriver a turnscrew, under which name it is an important part of a set of pistols. The name was common in earlier centuries, used by cabinetmakers, shipwrights, and perhaps other trades. The cabinetmaker’s screwdriver is one of the longest-established handle forms, somewhat oval or ellipsoid in cross-section. This is variously attributed to improving grip or preventing the tool rolling off the bench. The shape has been popular for a couple of hundred years. It is usually associated with a plain head for slotted screws, but has been used with many head forms. Modern plastic screwdrivers use a handle with a roughly hexagonal cross-section to achieve these same two goals, a far cry from the pear-shaped handle of the original 15th-century screwdriver.

The largest screwdriver is 6.6 m (21 ft 7 in) long, and was created by Muhammed D (India) and was presented and measured in Dubai, United Arab Emirates on 18 January 2022. The wooden handle measured 2.5 m (8 ft 2 in) and the shaft measured 4.1 m (13 ft 5 in). Muhammed D attempted this record to be Officially Amazing!

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