If you look at my best precision screwdrivers review, every single design features a free-spinning end cap. The question of why comes up regularly, and I tried to answer it in the comments section of my recent Milwaukee precision screwdrivers preview post.
Take a look at the above image, which shows a Milwaukee precision screwdriver being held in place with a model’s pointer finger while the thumb and middle finger twirl the handle.
That’s one way precision screwdrivers can be used, although it’s now not how I use them.
Most of the time, I press my palm into the cap so that my thumb and pointer finger can reach the meaty part of the screwdriver handle. I then twirl the driver gently and with a controlled motion.
Precision screwdrivers usually work best when there is a small amount of pressure keeping the driver tips engaged with fastener heads. My palm provides this slight pressure. Because the cap is able to freely spin a full 360°, there is little loss of energy of control due to friction. Additionally, this keeps the screwdriver in place and accurately positioned.
With my palm handling the job of applying gentle pressure to the handle, my finger tips are free to turn the handle with control and finesse.
There might be other ways precision drivers’ spinning caps can be used. The example shown above is probably best for reaching down into project enclosures, or for applications where the usage I described might be a little awkward or hard on your wrists.
Do you grip precision screwdrivers in a different way that takes advantage of their spinning caps?
I tend to use even regular screwdrivers the way you describe. Small precision screwdriver handles would make some really nasty blisters if they didn’t have spinning caps.
I find that putting you finger on the spinning end of precision screwdrivers only works when the screws were not torqued down much.
The same is true of Jeweler’s Screwdrivers. Starrett, in describing theirs say “The swivel knobs are concave to fit the finger”. With a larger handled screwdriver that you grip in the palm of your hand – the hand-arm can be used to apply force along the axis of the screw to avoid cam-out. With a precision screwdriver – I guess finger pressure is enough to do the same.
When I started working – Yankee spiral screwdrivers were the cordless tools of their day – and when you needed something more powerful – you grabbed a bit brace – chucked a screwdriver bit – and then leaned on the swivelling pad of the brace to apply pressure to the screw. This was pretty effective in driving or freeing many larger wood screws (typically slotted flat head design)
I still have two yankees in the tool chest, along with the bic brace, great tools still!
I use the small screwdrivers the same as you Stuart, Plenty of pressure with the palm and the thumb and finger do the turning !!!
Even with my small snapon drivers without a spinning cap I still use the same way
Working on watch and clock screws, you need all the control you can get! Marking up screw slots is a no-no and some of those screws are so small you need a 10X loupe to see the threads clearly:
I’m not an overly muscular guy, but if I’m using a little screwdriver on a little screw, my index finger stays on the end (like the photo) or else I’m worried about busting off either a screwhead or a screwdriver tip. And I use the Wiha drivers that aren’t likely to snap.
And I think the only time any muscle is used on these things is the initial break-loose turn. After that, it’s all control, and keeping things corralled so that, when something pops loose, I can still find it. Control is more necessary during reassembly than breakdown, too.
Look at old watchmaker’s benches – they’re up at face height. That’s also got a lot to do with how you’d hold these things.
It all dates back to Watches. Precision Screwdrivers are a leftover tool from making watches by hand. Back when watches were still on a fob, and every tiny tooth was hand cut and fit to the movement, the design of the screwdrivers involved was set up.
Before Electronics, before fine-gauge Electrical wires, before all our modern uses for the Precision Screwdriver, they were designed for Pocket Watches, and the screws that hold the gears in place, as well as the body housing it all. When it’s made out of tin, or brass, or even gold or silver, the gears and gear wheels would be extremely sensitive to pressure you put on them. So… The screwdrivers were re-designed so you could hold it as the model in the photo is doing so. So you are incapable of putting too much pressure on the gear while tightening the screws.
Today, it’s entirely unnecessary for anyone other than watch-repair and antique-watch restoration fanatics to use it this way. Now, the way Stuart describes the use, with the free-rolling end pressed against the palm or meaty part of the knuckle, and the fingers free to rotate it easily, it makes more sense to use the same feature in a new way. Watch-sized screws used in Jewellery and Electronics tend to be a bit larger than they used to, and are attached to stronger materials. So, the “Precision” screwdrivers we have today tend to just come in sizes and head types that they didn’t when they were first invented.
The fun things you learn when you have a parent who used to repair Watches for a living. I just like my precision screwdrivers I already own. Mastercraft (Canadian Tire Store Brand), came in a big kit of 100 pieces or something. Plus another set that is Electrically Insulated. Great grip, Lifetime Guarantee, Thorough selection of sizes and shapes.
Sorry Stuart but for this time, you have been discovered the hole in the donut 🙂
Just in the other post, someone asked about what this feature is used for. If one person asks it, many others are thinking it.
I generally place the spinner in the callous at the base of my pointer finger. That let’s me use my thumb and middle finger mostly but some with the pointer finger too. That’s a good compromise from the gross muscle of the palm and the light pressure of the pointer finger.
Some really interesting feedback above – which I have read a few times now as I am a Screwdriver Product Manager for a large brand in Europe. We are considering the concept of a ‘Powered’ Precision Screwdriver given that screws are typically larger than in the past and electronic applications (unlike watch restoration) requires speed / instant solution. I would like help to understand if this would appeal.
If it helps, General Tools’ model seems to be somewhat popular: https://toolguyd.com/general-tools-cordless-precision-screwdriver/ .
Yes for laptop removal! Thank you for asking…
Reading through the article and comments no one mentions that the free-spinning end cap has threads inside. Why would that be?
For which brand/model?
bro why do you spend your time talking about a screwdriver…
You do realize that this entire site is focused on tools, right?