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What Is a Precision Screwdriver?

Andy Hill
Andy Hill

Used primarily for work on small, intricate devices, a precision screwdriver is a hand tool with a similar intended use as a standard screwdriver but possessing a smaller form factor and a sleeker handle design. Sometimes referred to as a jewel screwdriver, these small tools feature narrower sizings of the flat and cross-head designs as seen on their larger counterparts. The handle of a precision screwdriver also differs from a standard design in that it is most commonly straight and thin as opposed to the bulky handles on regular screwdrivers, which are designed to provide purchase to grip the tool while twisting.

Small devices, such as watches, calculators, mobile phones, and computers, require the use of a precision screwdriver to undertake repairs. Rather than grasping the handle to apply force, these smaller tools are designed primarily to be rolled between the fingers to tighten or loosen screws. The shaft of a precision screwdriver handle commonly features shallow ridges, which run from top to bottom to provide an element of grip while the handle is being rotated.

Precision screwdrivers are often used by watchmakers.
Precision screwdrivers are often used by watchmakers.

It is very common to find a precision screwdriver fitted with a freely rotating bezel on the bottom, or heel, of the screwdriver handle. This feature allows some pressure to be applied to the screwdriver with one hand or finger while the handle is being rotated beneath the bezel. By providing the option of controlling applied pressure with one hand and rotational force with the other, a far more controlled operation is possible.

Precision screwdrivers are often purchased in sets, normally consisting of between six and eight tools with three or four of each screwdriver head type in different diameters and widths. It is also possible to purchase precision sets of torx-style or star-head screwdrivers, which are required for some electrical devices. The range of available styles of precision screwdrivers is very large; the choice of which handle style to select is only really decided by personal preference. Some precision screwdriver sets are available with magnetized shafts, which can be useful when working in restricted locations where there is a risk of a small screw being lost. Due to the effect that magnets can have on computer components, however, regular sets are also available.

The requirement for precision screwdrivers has become more prevalent as technology has progressed to a point where several very small-scale home repairs are being carried out. This change in the way electronic devices are maintained, along with hobbyist electronic works, has led to these tools becoming increasingly easy to locate and purchase. Due to the size of electrical components utilized in devices in the home, regular-size screws would be awkward to install and impractical in smaller-form devices.

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    • Precision screwdrivers are often used by watchmakers.
      By: Daniel Wiedemann
      Precision screwdrivers are often used by watchmakers.