There are dozens of different types of screwdrivers on the market. Generally, they’re classified by the type of drive tip that corresponds to a specific screwhead. The three most common types for woodworkers and DIYers are slot (a.k.a. flat), Phillips (a.k.a. crosshead) and Robertson (a.k.a. square). There are also application-specific screwdrivers such as insulated (preferred by electricians), torque (widely used by mechanics and machinists) and tri-point (used in the digital industry). Ratcheting screwdrivers rely on wrist power but use an internal ball-bearing mechanism that enables you to make multiple turns of the screw without removing the tip from the screw, saving time and reducing effort. The most important part of the screwdriver is the tip, which can be made of high-speed steel, stainless steel, tool grade steel, titanium or a blend of metals. Tips on low-cost screwdrivers tend to deform prematurely. Handles can be made of wood or plastic, and in a variety of shapes, sizes and configurations. Select a handle that best suits your hand size. Screwdriver sets can consist of a single type (e.g. Robertson) in a range of sizes or a range of screwdriver types in various sizes.
Price: $5 to $50 (per single); $10 to $300 (sets)
Any good-quality screwdriver will last about a lifetime, provided you don’t abuse it. Don’t use it as a pry bar, chisel, punch, paint scraper, wedge, pinch bar or whatever.
Use a screwdriver with the right tip for the job at hand. A slot driver isn’t meant for Phillips head screws, nor a square for hex screws.
Just as most common wood screws come in different sizes, so do screwdrivers. Select a screwdriver that’s designed for the specific size of screw you’re using. For example, Robertson screwdrivers are available in five sizes (#00 to #4) to match Robertson screw sizes, which range from #1 (1/16″) to #12 (3/8″).
Don’t use a standard screwdriver when doing electrical work. Even those with plastic or rubber handles won’t protect you from an electrical shock. Use a properly insulated screwdriver.
Pre-drilling holes puts less stress on screws (so heads are less likely to break off) and the wood is less likely to split. Putting a dab of wax or paraffin on the screw threads makes setting the screws easier, especially in hardwoods.