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What Are the Different Types of Screwdriver Handles?

By Lori Kilchermann
Updated May 16, 2024
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There are many different types of screwdriver handle depending on the size of the tool and what it’s primarily designed to do, but most are organized based on three factors: what they’re made of, whether the handle is smooth or textured to provide grip, and what color it is. Handles vary in not only the type of material they're manufactured from, but in design as well. Smooth handles, angled handles and other handle shapes offer the user a firm grip when wet or when a screw is extremely tight. Different materials used range from wood and steel to plastic and hard rubber. A handle's color might also give the user valuable information about the tool, particularly when it comes to its type and size.

Most Common Materials

Screwdrivers come in many shapes and sizes, and for the most part the shaft part doesn’t vary much, at least in terms of what it’s made of. Steel and hard metals are by far the most common choices for this part, which is primarily responsible for actually interfacing with a screw or bolt and securing it into a given surface. At least in manual models, the power comes from whoever is twisting the tool, and that twisting happens from the handle.

The vast majority of screwdriver handles are made of wood or plastic, though some are made of steel, brass or aluminum. Still others are made from carbon fiber or a similar polymer. Metallic handles offer indestructible quality, good looks and durability, but they can be dangerous when working on or around electrical devices. Wooden handles offer protection from electrical shock, but there are often metallic collars on a wooden-handled screwdrivers to offer security and stability that can also be a dangerous component when working on an electrical device.

Handle Texture

Many of the simplest screwdrivers have smooth handles, but unless the material is textured or covered in something like silicone that gives some resistance, the tool can be hard for users to grasp. As a consequence, many of the most popular tools have some sort of gripping mechanism in order to help people get leverage and, therefore, exert more power.

An octagonal-shaped screwdriver handle offers a great amount of grip when twisted by the human hand. The force generated by this type of handle design is sufficient to remove most stubborn screws; however, in some situations, such as when working with wet or oil-covered hands, even this style of handle can slip from the grip when extreme pressure is exerted upon a tight screw or fastener. For the most torque and best grip in any condition, the tri-sided screwdriver is usually considered best. Three-sided handles permit the hand to grip a substantial surface and apply the most torque possible, even with wet or oil-covered hands.

Color Considerations

Color isn’t usually very significant in tools, but screwdriver sets often make use of differently colored handles to allow users to quickly and easily identify the most appropriate tool for the job. In most cases these tools come in two varieties, namely Phillips head and flathead. When these are sold together, they’re often two different colors on the handle. Sometimes the entire handle is colored, whereas other times a band or ring is used to identify it. Larger sets often come with color keys that users can study or refer to before beginning work. Noticing a color is often a lot easier than scrutinizing the tip, especially in a busy toolbox or in the middle of a job.

Choosing the Right Tool for the Job

Choosing the right tool for the job is usually a matter of the circumstances: the type of screws, the setting, and personal preference all matter. In general, only plastic or hard rubber handles should be used around electronic devices to avoid electric shock or even death. Some screwdrivers specifically intended for use on electronics use a rubber sleeve on the shaft to aid in protection against shock.

While the makeup of the screwdriver handles can protect a user against electric shock, the more important aspect to many users is the effect that the design of the handle has on torque and power when removing or tightening a screw. It’s usually important to find a driver that fits the screw head, and experimenting with tools that are larger or smaller can help. Switching between gripped and angled handles can also make a difference. Sometimes simply experimenting with different options is the best way to find the one that’s right.

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Discussion Comments
By KoiwiGal — On Jul 16, 2011

There used to be a joke, I don't know if people still say it, about a left handed screwdriver. You'd use it to raze the new guy on the job. Tell him to go and fetch the left handed screwdriver, and be quick about it!

He'd go and ask someone and they'd direct him to someone else and so forth. He'd keep looking for the screwdriver set that contained it, and never find it.

Of course, there is no such thing as a left handed screwdriver.

But, if you play that prank on someone you might need to buy them a beer afterwards!

By browncoat — On Jul 15, 2011

You really have to make sure you get handle that will give you enough control of the screwdriver.

I've been in a few situations where I needed to unscrew something, and didn't have a small enough screwdriver handy, so I've used something else, like a butter knife.

And screws are often made of quite a soft metal. If you don't use enough control and applied force, you can slip and eventually wreck the head of the screw. Then it will be stuck.

So, if you are looking for the right handle, I would say, buy something that has a grip that will provide you with the friction that you need to get the job done right.

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