History of Screwdrivers

The screwdriver is our trusty tool, present in every toolbox or set around, used for centuries to help us fasten things together. Today’s screwdrivers have evolved with various sizes, forms, brands, and even come wrapped as insulated screwdrivers. But how did it all start? Who invented the screw in the first place? We’ll discuss how the screwdriver came into existence and its implications on our civilization!

Later tools with the screw design were created from wood as well as screws made from wood. These were used in early agricultural tools such as wine presses and other tools.

The screw and screwdriver as we know it today begun its appearance in the middle ages, around the late 1700s. But the screw design itself was created much earlier in ancient greece by Archimedes who invented the screw design to help irrigate and transport water and other materials. The method is still in use today especially with sewage applications.

Today’s screws are referred to a metal shaft with a corkscrew design to help get two things to stay together, like two pieces of wood. A screwdriver helps turn a screw to fasten it into the desired target which a special design at the head of the screw that matches the design of a screwdriver.


Screws in the Middle Ages

In the middle ages, the introduction of metal screws and nuts started to be used given the advancements in metallurgy. Later in the 1770s, Jesse Ramsden (1735-1800) created the screw-cutting tool to create screws. Later other inventors created other tools to mass produce screws that were uniform and accurate in size, thereby allowing the screw to become more prevalent in building materials and other uses. Inventors from England (Henry Maudslay) and America (David Wilkinson) created such machines.

20th Century Screwdriver and Screw Innovation

Square-drive screws were created by P.L. Robertson, a Canadian before the popular Phillips screwdrivers created by Henry Phillips. Few people know that the Robertson screw was the first recess-drive screw that was mass produced in large quantities. Square-drive head screws were popular because compared to the slot head it would not slip out during installation. The Ford Motor company used nearly a thousand of the Robertson screws in their Model T cars.

an image of a phillips screwdriver (brand: southwire)
A phillips screwdriver by the company Southwire.

The Phillips head screw was patented and made popular with automobile production given the screws could more easily withstand the torque needs for production specifications – specifically tighter fastening. The Phillips head screws could also be used by automated screwdrivers.

Hexagonal / Hex Screws

Today hex screws are very popular with home goods and furniture and are turned with an allen key. An Allen key is a hexagonally shaped turning tool or a wrench and was produced by William G. Allen and his manufacturing company (Allen Manufacturing). There are various sizes of allen keys (to the frustration of many!).

What are the types of screws?

There are many types of screws today and that can be mind boggling to some – the most popular types include: Frearson, Phillips, Torx, Square, Hex Socket and Hexagon. For other popular types please refer to the image below – but keep in mind there are many others.

An image of the different types of screws with their names

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