The screwdriver is arguably one of the most common tools you use around your home, and it was one of the first tools introduced for home improvement projects. Even though various types of screwdrivers come with very simple and straightforward designs, picking the correct screwdriver for your current project can be a process, especially when you know that there are dozens of types of screwdrivers available.
There are so many types of screwdrivers on the market that it makes sense for you to have multiple ones in your toolkit to help you complete various projects around the house. Screwdrivers by eltpics / CC BY-NC 2.0
Screwdrivers originated back to a time where tools were originally created to tighten newly-invented screws on suits of armor or engines. The screws during this time frame were a sharp threaded needle that had a slot on the head to allow you to tighten it. As the screws started to evolve, the screwdrivers did too to help keep up with them. Without the correct screwdriver head, it’s not possible to remove specific screw types.
However, there hasn’t been a lot of change to the various types of screwdrivers since the Middle Ages, except the invention of different materials, handle designs, and the general shape. This is part of the reason why the screwdriver is one of the most important tools in the home improvement and manufacturing industry.
Today, there are dozens of types of screwdrivers available on the current market, and each one gets designed to take on different applications. To help you narrow down which is the best tool for your needs, we invite you to take a look at the following guide to get a better understanding of what is available.
24 Popular Types of Screwdrivers
Almost everyone has heard of various types of screwdrivers before, and you have even used several of them for various projects. However, they’re not one size fits all, and some have very specific uses.
1. Battery-Powered Screwdriver
As the name suggests, this type of screwdriver runs on smaller batteries. You can get them in very compact designs that allow you to get them into tight spaces without an issue. They’re not as powerful as some of the entries on the list, but they can fit neatly into your tool belt for smaller-scale projects.
2. Bolster Screwdriver
A bolster type of screwdriver has a nut welded to the top of the shaft that sits between the handle. If a screw gets stuck tight to a surface, you can exert extra torque to help loosen it up using a wrench for help. This allows your tool to survive the added pressure without cracking or breaking it.
3. Clutch Head Screwdriver
Better known as the bow tie type of screwdriver, this tool will work with a screw that has a bow-tie shape for the slot. You’ll find this screwdriver used regularly in the auto industry, and they were very popular with GM (General Motors) vehicles.
A clutch type of screwdriver offers you additional torque that can easily withstand a higher amount of turning force than other screwdrivers. However, you can also loosen or tighten these screws with a slotted screwdriver. There is also another version that is more secure that you can screw in with a slotted screwdriver but can’t loosen with one. You’ll find these screwdrivers used in places that aren’t maintained a lot, like prisons.
4. Computer Screwdriver
Very similar to a jeweler’s type of screwdriver, this option has a precision-sized head on it with several blade types. You can find both uncommon and common blade types like Torx and tri-point in this screwdriver set.
5. Corded Screwdriver
As the name suggests, a corded type of screwdriver comes with an electrical cord attached. This isn’t a very popular screwdriver type because you get tethered to a nearby power source for it to work. However, it’s also a very efficient screwdriver to have as it gives you a constant power supply for bigger projects.
A lot of people don’t like corded screwdrivers because they can hinder you as you work much more than they can help due to the need for a constant power supply. Ryobi Power Drill Screwdriver by missellyrh / CC BY 2.0
6. Cordless Screwdriver
This screwdriver comes equipped with a rechargeable battery pack, so they give you the benefits of both a battery-powered and electrical type of screwdriver. Unfortunately, this also makes this choice heavier and more bulky to handle, and the battery charge can wear down relatively quickly. When this happens, the screwdrivers tend to lose torque until they die.
7. Electric Screwdriver
Electricity will power this type of screwdriver, so you don’t need to use any of your strength to apply torque to your screws. You may hear this type of screwdriver referred to as a power screwdriver or a screw gun, and they’re capable of easily and quickly working the screw, even if it has a broken head.
8. Frearson Screwdriver
Also called the Prince or Reed screwdriver, this option is very similar in the design to the more traditional Phillips one, but there are very subtle changes. The tip of this type of screwdriver comes outfitted with a sharper point, unlike the Phillips model that has a bluntly rounded point. The angle of the tip of this particular screwdriver is much closer to 45-degrees than a flat Phillips screwdriver.
The unique shape of this type of screwdriver lets you exert a lot more torque than other options on the list. It also gives the screwdriver the ability to work on Frearson screws in different sizes and various Phillips head screws. This is why you’ll find this screwdriver used a lot on nautical equipment.
9. Hex Screwdriver
As the name suggests, this type of screwdriver has a hexagonal recess instead of a tip or a blade. You may hear this screwdriver type referred to as a hex socket, hex key, or an Allen wrench. It’s a very unusual hybrid screwdriver form that you use to fasten bolts instead of screws. The straight handle on this type of screwdriver lets you turn any bolt without having a lot of space to maneuver.
The most common use for this screwdriver is to maintain your bicycles, and it’s also popular with furniture assembly (IKEA). However, you really want to get a two-handled hex screwdriver when you take on these projects because it gives you a lot higher torque application than a traditional narrow screwdriver handle.
10. Japanese Industrial Standard Screwdriver
Also referred to as JIS screwdrivers, they come with a cruciform shape like you’d get with a traditional Phillips head screwdriver. However, they come designed to resist camming out. You can find these screws on many high-quality products that get imported from Japan.
You can also open JIS screws using Frearson and Phillips screwdrivers, but the process isn’t nearly as easy and you’re very likely to damage or split the head. Screws that are compatible with this type of screwdriver will have a small dot by the slow that sets them apart from other screw types.
11. Jeweler’s Screwdriver
You may hear this type of screwdriver referred to as eyeglass or watch screwdrivers. They are precision devices that work on very tiny screws you’ll find in eyeglasses or pocket watches. Usually, these screwdrivers are slotted or a Phillips head.
Jeweler’s screwdrivers are typically much smaller and more precise than traditional screwdrivers as they are specially designed to work with tiny, delicate screws. Jewelers Drivers by Earl / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
12. Left-Handed Screwdriver
One of the biggest problems you run into with tools is that it can be very hard to find ones that are compatible with people who are left-handed. However, the screwdriver is one that will work with either right or left-handed use without a problem. You can purchase any set you like without worrying about it being hard to use.
13. Magnetic Screwdriver
As the name suggests, these types of screwdrivers come with a magnetic tip on them that holds your screw in place to allow you to pull out or put in the screw one-handed. Today, more and more manual screwdriver types are getting made with a magnetic tip built in.
14. Nut Screwdriver
Nut screwdrivers are something that most DIYers will never have to use to tackle a porch build or project around the house. However, they’re very popular in the mechanical industry. They come designed with a socket instead of a tip or blade, so they act very similar to a traditional socket wrench.
The advantage of using this type of screwdriver comes when you’re trying to work with a recessed bolt. Socket wrenches come with a handle that runs parallel to the surface where your bolt embeds, and this means you need more space to turn it. There is a straight shank and handle of this type of screwdriver that allows you to turn the bolts with little clearance. It works nice for low torque applications, but you want to keep the traditional ratchet and socket for bigger-scale projects.
15. Phillips Screwdriver
The Phillips screwdriver is also called the crosshead type of screwdriver because it has a cruciform head. However, the quality level that you get with Phillips screwdrivers is phenomenal, and they come with a rounded tip. These screwdrivers fit into screw heads that are made in the West and they won’t have sharp heads like you’ll get with slotted screws.
There are thinner blades with an angled tip on this screwdriver, and this means that you can slot your screwdriver much deeper into the screw head without risking the screwdriver slipping out a side. This is a common problem with slotted screwdrivers. Because of this, you’ll find this type of screwdriver used in virtually every field, and it’s one of the most popular options on the market.
16. Pozidriv Screwdriver
This type of screwdriver is widely considered to be an upgrade of the traditional Phillips screwdriver. It was originally created to reduce the risk of screwdrivers camming out when you apply higher pressure to them. It is characterized by four shallow lines that radiate out from the center. The tip is more blunt and smaller than the tip on the Phillips screwdriver, and it has ribs amongst the blades. This works to increase the contact with the screw head, so you can apply more turning force without the screwdriver slipping.
The Pozidriv screwdriver and screw system is very efficient. You’re also far less likely to break the screw head or the screwdriver’s tip when you apply the correct pressure. They come in sizes ranging from one to three.
17. Ratcheting Screwdriver
This type of screwdriver allows you to apply torque in one direction. Turning it in the other direction will let the ratchet disengage, and this gives you free rotation allowances. You can use this screwdriver to keep a hold of the screwdriver while you turn it until your wrist reaches the maximum twist point.
Once you hit this point, the screwdriver head can get left in the screw, and you can twist it back again when your wrist is ready. This is a very useful type of screwdriver for projects where you have to remove the screwdriver and try to find the screw head again, like working in darker corners as you install cupboards.
18. Robertson Screwdriver
Also called square head screwdrivers, these are the least commonly used types of screwdrivers today. However, they are still fairly popular in Canada as they originated here. They have a very high torque tolerance too, and the torque tolerance is one of the highest out of any screwdriver you can use.
You get a recessed square socket with this type of screwdriver. Since it doesn’t have a tip, it’s very unlikely that it’ll fall out of the recess mid-use. So, you can easily apply a higher turning force using it. It’s even more probable that your bolt will snap or shear off from the force before the screwdriver slips.
This screwdriver is popular in the automotive and furniture industries due to the durability factor. You won’t usually find it tucked into most residential toolboxes, but they’re part of many comprehensive screwdriver sets.
19. Slotted Screwdriver
Slotted screwdrivers are also called flat head screwdrivers, straight screwdrivers, or flat blade screwdrivers, and they’re the oldest type of screwdriver out of any on the list. You use them on screws that have a slot spanning the screw’s width, also referred to as a slotted screw.
The blades are very flat-planed, and they come in varying sizes to help accommodate screws of the same size. The most common two sizes you’ll come across are the 8mm and 5.5nn screwdriver. High-quality screwdrivers in this category have a virtually parallel taper on the tips that help them grip the slot of the screw tightly to prevent anything from slipping.
You must use care when you use this type of screwdriver because harder pressure can cause it to slip very easily and scratch whatever you’re applying the screw in or embed itself into your hand. A lot of cabinet makers prefer to use slotted screws, and they take the time to align the slots to make the work look very neat. There are two big categories of slotted screwdrivers, and they are:
- Flared – A flared slotted screwdriver has a tip that is very slightly flattened. This makes the width of the tip wider than the shaft’s width.
- Parallel – This screwdriver will have an edge that is the same width as the shaft on the screwdriver. This is a useful feature when you tighten or loosen screws that are in pre-drilled holes.
20. Spanner Screwdriver
You don’t want to confuse this with the British term that means wrench, but this type of screwdriver is also called the pig nose screwdriver, Snake Eyes screwdriver, and the drilled head screwdriver. It’s a slightly strange tool that comes with a two-prong tip that you use to work flat-head screws that have two rounded, tiny depressions on either side of the head. If you don’t have a spanner, it’s virtually impossible to remove these screw types.
Since they’re very secure, you typically find these screwdrivers used by maintenance workers on elevators, bus terminals, subways, and restrooms. You can get a spanner in the size range starting at 4 and going up to 12.
21. Torx Screwdriver
This is a trademarked type of screwdriver. They were once very popular in the manufacturing and security fields, but they’re now very popular in the commercial fields. There is a blade on this screwdriver that is shaped for a six-point star that is recessed, but it has rounded off sharp angles. The shape of the blade will increase the contact area between the screw head and the tip of the screwdriver to help improve the torque. Because of this design, this screwdriver can withstand maximum torque levels without slipping out or breaking the screws.
If you want to buy this type of screwdriver, it comes in a host of sizes starting at 0.03 inches and going up to 0.81 inches. They get designed using a number system that starts at T1 and goes up to T100. The most common sizes you use for building projects is size T15 to T25.
22. Tri-Angle Screwdriver
Better known as TAs, this type of screwdriver comes with a tip that is triangular-shaped to slow into place on any screw head that has a triangular depression. You find these screwdrivers useful when you work on electronics, toys, or in the appliance industry to increase the security. However, a hex screwdriver can grip these screws too, so you won’t find this screwdriver in many home tool kits.
23. Tri-Point Screwdriver
Also called a Y-tip screwdriver or a three-prong screwdriver, you’ll get a tip with three blades that are set at 120-degree angles to form a Y-shape. The screws that work with these screwdrivers are used a lot in the electronics industry. Apple and Nintendo use them in their gaming systems, phones, and in other devices.
They also help to address the security issues that surround tri-angle screwdrivers and the compatibility with hex screwdrivers. Tri-point screws only work with this type of screwdriver.
24. Tri-Wing Screwdriver
The tip of the final type of screwdriver on the list looks like a pinwheel. You use it to work with screws that have triangular sockets with triple wing extensions. Since you get a unique slot on these screws, you can’t remove them unless you have a tri-wing screwdriver to make them more secure.
These screwdrivers were originally made for the aerospace industry, but you can now find them in the electronics industry too. They are more expensive, and they’re not nearly as readily available as other screwdriver types. However, the biggest benefit of using one is that they have very high torque values. They come in sizes ranging from one to three.
We’ve gone over 24 types of screwdrivers, including ones that are extremely common and ones that are hard to find. You should consider adding a few to your toolkit so you’re prepared to take on whatever project you have on your agenda without worrying about delays or having to go out and buy more tools.