You probably already own a set of screwdrivers, a 1/4″ hex bit screwdriver or two, multi-bit all-in-one drivers, and a variety of 1″ and 2″ hex screwdriver bits for use with cordless drills and drivers. But do you have a T-handle driver? If yes, feel free to skip ahead to the comments and tell us why you like you T-handle driver, or whether it sits in your tool box unused and unloved.
Even if you don’t own one, you have probably seen T-handle drivers before. Maybe not with universal 1/4″ hex bit holders, but T-handles are very commonly found with hex or Torx screwdriver tips. A lot of people ignore this without giving it a second thought, figuring that it’s just how these types of drivers are made.
In actuality, T-handles offer a number of advantages over ordinary handle styles. Obviously, T-handles are wider than most screwdriver handles, which is important for two reasons. First, this means that you can potentially deliver greater torque with a T-handle than you can with a regular screwdriver. Even if you don’t need to drive a fastener just a little bit tighter, greater torque offers you the ability to achieve similar results while exerting less effort.
Second, the way T-handle drivers are designed, you should be able to comfortably apply greater pressure with your palm than you could with an ordinary screwdriver. This can this make starting and tightening screws easier in certain applications, and can also help avoid cam-out when using Phillips bits.
There are additional benefits as well. Commonly featuring low narrow shafts and low-profile handles, T-handle drivers can sometimes access fasteners when a regular screwdriver is too short or bulky to reach them. Have ever had to twirl a screwdriver with your fingertips because of low clearance issues? It’s not a pleasant experience.
T-handled drivers can also be spun quicker to speed up the initial driving or final removal of threaded fasteners. Simply loosely support the shaft with one hand, and twirl the T-handle with the other. At least one brand adds free-spinning plastic collars to their T/P handle hex drivers to make this even easier. This usually works best with machine screws though, and not wood or sheet metal screws which encounter higher frictional forces.
Although not really an advantage, T-handle hex bit holders are cheap. If you go the generic no-name import route, you can probably buy a handle and bit set for $5. Quality drivers can be found for $10-15, and decent ratcheting T-handles, sometimes with bit kits, start at $20-25. I don’t know about you, but I have accumulated dozens of 1″ screwdriver bits. When I purchased a T-handle hex driver set, I gained a couple of new drivers. When I purchased a T-handle bit holder, I gained dozens of new drivers in a wide range of sizes and bit styles.
The most common individual T-handle drivers have hex or Torx tips. That is not to say that you cannot find other screwdriver bit styles in this form factor. Although, while I have seen nut drivers and Phillips drivers with T-handles, I don’t recall ever seeing slotted tip T-handle drivers. For casual use, a T-handle screwdriver bit holder may be all you need. If you find yourself using it quite a bit, you can always add individual T-handle drivers or sets as necessary.
T-handle drivers have two notable disadvantages. First, most do not really offer the same comfort as today’s ergonomic, bimaterial, and super-cushioned screwdriver handles. The way they must be gripped just does not allow for that, although manufacturers have been getting better.
The second disadvantage is that T-handle drivers can provide too much torque. Forget about using smaller ball hex bits with regular T-handle drivers. If you lose your focus for a second and apply a little too much torque, you’re probably going to twist the ball off inside the fastener head. That is not a position you ever want to be in. When dealing with Phillips bits, greater palm pressure and higher torque can lead to bit or fastener damage, if you don’t yet have a controlled feel for how tightened things are.
Overall, the benefits of a T-handle bit holder greatly outweigh the slight disadvantages, at least in my experience. Although I regularly use quite a few different T and P-handle screwdrivers, I find that my T-handle bit holder sees almost as much use by itself. With universal 1/4″ hex bit compatibility, I can quickly swap in whichever bit I need for the job, especially if on-the-go with a limit to how much I can carry.
Which to buy? Well, that’s really a story for another time since there are many recommendable options, but if you’re looking for a great quality non-ratcheting driver, the Felo 5-inch T-handle is a good place to start.