you'd think this would have been invented by now
December 18, 2009 12:45 PM   Subscribe

does anyone make "plastic" or "non-marring" screwdrivers? For delicate crafts work?

I need a non-marring screwdriver, I'm imagining one made out of plastic (both in phillips and flathead, in various sizes). Does anyone make these, for maybe the arts and crafts industry? Even just plastic screwdriver bits that can maybe fit into a regular screwdriver multi-bit handle.
Googling has not brought me fu. Wondering if anyone has come across anything like this.
posted by jak68 to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (18 answers total)
tools designed for tweaking old TV sets and radios were often made of plastic. IIRC they were kinda soft though, not designed for high torque requirements. Used mostly to adjust pots.
posted by Gungho at 12:52 PM on December 18, 2009

Like this?
posted by fixedgear at 1:33 PM on December 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Some people use this coating on metal pliers to make them non-marring - not sure if it would be equally effective on screwdrivers.
posted by zepheria at 1:42 PM on December 18, 2009

Try wrapping a small piece of masking tape around the end of a regular screwdriver. You can replace it if it tears or gets worn out. I make jewelry and that's how I keep from scratching the wire with my metal tools.
posted by Ochre,Hugh at 1:47 PM on December 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

For the flat-head side of things, try a Black Stick spudger. They're used to fix (Apple) computers. They're hard plastic and have a screwdriver at one end and a pokey thing at the other.
posted by The Potate at 2:11 PM on December 18, 2009

Response by poster: fixedgear, those are pretty close but I wonder why someone cant put a normal screwdriver handle on them.

Gungho - i'll google for old tv/radio screwdrivers...

Zepheria - tool magic sounds a lot like plasti-dip. Not sure it would work on screwdrivers cuz the coating can be quite (too) thick.

Ochre - Masking tape/elec tape can work on a flathead screwdriver but not so well on a phillips I think.

Potate - I have a spudger, but when I need a little bit of torque I really miss having a normal screwdriver handle to hold...
posted by jak68 at 2:52 PM on December 18, 2009

Response by poster: I cant help but wonder if what I need to do is go to the toys-r-us website and find a 'kids play toolset'. I bet it would have plastic screwdrivers, lol.
posted by jak68 at 2:53 PM on December 18, 2009

The kids' tools would be too wide and thick for them to be of any practical use. You wouldn't want little Johnny to be able to stab someone with his toy screwdriver.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 3:26 PM on December 18, 2009

Perhaps a brass screwdriver? Brass is soft enough that it shouldn't scratch and hard enough to deliver a bit-o-torque.
posted by crenquis at 3:27 PM on December 18, 2009

What, in particular, are you trying to do/turn/screw? Generally all you need in most applications is the proper-sized screwdriver.
posted by electroboy at 3:36 PM on December 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

I was going to ask the same question as electroboy. If the screwdriver is of the proper size, it shouldn't mar anything. The proper size for a screwdriver is generally larger than you think.

(Also, the bits that are in the 4-in-1 screwdrivers tend to be better than regular screwdrivers. I have no idea why, they just seem to bite better.)

Or are you using the screwdriver for things other than screwing? In that case, they do make plastic scrapers that might get the job done.

In the (old school) laptop repair game, we had a tool that was called a case cracker. It was a plastic wedge that would separate the plastic cases of laptops that were clipped together. Because if you used a screwdriver it would mar the finish.

And if this is for unscrewing stuck screws like in old fixtures or something, a plastic screwdriver isn't going to do the job.
posted by gjc at 3:57 PM on December 18, 2009

The key to not messing up screws is using the right size of screwdriver. Far too many people seem to think that screwdrivers only come in flat and Philips! Finding a good set of 'drivers can be tough; the best one that I have is a set of gunsmith's screwdrivers from Brownell's. It's flathad only, and I only use it for fine work (not prying the lids off of paint cans or freeing stuck screws), but I definitely recommend it. For smaller work (like jewelry or microelectronics), Starrett has excellent precision sets for flat, Philips, and Torx. They're expensive but worth every penny.

When you use the right size (both width and thickness) of driver, you spread out the force across the entire driving area, so it's much less likely to mar. If you overtorque, it will eventually distort the screw, but it doesn't create messy little divots in the metal like the more-common situation of using a too-small driver does.

The alternative is to use a driver that's made from a softer material than your screw. Generally, screwdrivers are made from tool steel, fairly well-hardened. Although I've never seen a set (aside from little adjustment screwdrivers or toys) made from plastic, I have seen ones made from brass. Since brass is softer than steel, they won't mar (as easily). However, that same softness would make it easy to ruin the driver... I've never seen the point. Although it sucks to mar a screw, screws are replaceable. Doesn't make sense to sacrifice a good precision tool — which is what a good screwdriver ought to be — to protect an inexpensive fastener.
posted by Kadin2048 at 4:46 PM on December 18, 2009

I wonder why someone cant put a normal screwdriver handle on them.

That handle is for applying torque. These are not about torque, they adjust dials, not drive screws etc. The blades couldn't handle torque anyway so who cares about big fat handles?
posted by caddis at 10:25 PM on December 18, 2009

Response by poster: on the question of what i'm trying to do -- brass or right size wont do -- i'm working with finely finished and gloss-lacquered guitars at the moment, tho this question has come up before for me, while working and opening up finely finished electronic/consumer tech gadgets too. In both cases, one stray slip or even putting a steel tool down on the wrong surface can easily leave a mark because steel tools are that hard. Plastic tools in these situations, I think, would be so much more appropriate. The torque needed isnt that much for most of these screws (tho more than a spudger can comfortably give, i think).

thats why I thought (and still think) what i wanted (and what a lot of people could probably use in these situations) is literally a hard-plastic or other non-marring, non-metal material for their screwdriver tips.
posted by jak68 at 10:36 PM on December 18, 2009

jak68: "In both cases, one stray slip or even putting a steel tool down on the wrong surface can easily leave a mark because steel tools are that hard."

Maybe you should go the opposite way: I recently used some WERA screwdrivers that had laser-etched heads to increase their grip on the screw. They almost never slip, and you have much more control than if you have just a smooth metal surface.
posted by PontifexPrimus at 4:45 AM on December 19, 2009

Response by poster: pontifex - its an interesting idea, but there's another issue too -- on these expensive guitars, for example, a lot of these screws are chrome-plated. I've already marred the chrome plating on top of one of these screws from the screwdriver biting down too hard on the screw -- which was yet another reason I envisioned a softer screw-tip...
posted by jak68 at 9:22 AM on December 19, 2009

The only nonmetallic screwdrivers I've seen are made for adjusting pots inside radios and other types of sensitive equipment. I doubt they would handle much torque but they might do what you need. One is included in the set at the top of this page. It's flat only.

The only other plastic screwdrivers I've ever seen are the basically-single-use "spudgers" supplied for computer repair. I think Dell used to send one with some DIY install parts, but no idea if you can order it by itself. Most computer equipment seems to use Torx, probably for exactly the reasons you're trying to avoid (regular flat screws mar easily and the driver can jump out and scratch the device being repaired; Torx generally don't mar and the driver tends to stay locked into the screw).

One trick that I've seen people working on firearms use ... get a piece of plastic or cardboard, and punch / cut a hole in it the size of the screw head. Put it over the screw and hold in place with your other hand (this assumes the work is clamped) and it will cover everything but the screw. At the very least, it'll keep the screwdriver from slipping and scratching the surrounding area. I saw this being done (with a prepunched plastic piece, homemade I think) by a guy who was working on brass-framed firearms (Henry replicas) that scratch easily. I'm pretty sure it was just a piece of 1/32nd sheet styrene with holes in it corresponding to the screws he had to work on commonly. Maybe you could do something similar?

If you want to DIY, you might want to get a piece of Delrin and then grind it (using a Dremel or something similar) into a screwdriver bit of the appropriate size. Delrin rods are pretty stiff, inexpensive, and easy to find. (Check big hobby stores, although I'm sure it's available online if you can't source it locally.)
posted by Kadin2048 at 3:53 PM on December 19, 2009

Response by poster: thanks much for the ideas kadin. i guess i'll have to improvise along those lines.
posted by jak68 at 2:06 AM on December 20, 2009

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