A few of my favorite screwdriver hacks that make my life and my DIY projects easier. Plus, my personal picks for the perfect screwdrivers for around-the-house use.
Welcome back to my latest in the DIY Basics series, where I’m covering some of the things you’ve asked me about, like sanding, measuring, and the correct way to use a paintbrush. Today we’re covering screwdrivers.
I can hear you now, saying, “Screwdrivers? Who doesn’t know how to use a screwdriver? Lefty loosey, righty tighty. Done.”
Well, maybe so, but I’ve got a few hints and hacks that might help you out, including how to figure out which way is left or right when you’re upside down in a small space trying to reach that last screw.
So read on to find out what you should know, but maybe don’t yet, about screwdrivers.
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How to Use a Screwdriver
OK, I know what you’re thinking. When it comes to home DIY skills, it doesn’t get much more basic than screwdrivers. Except for maybe hammers. (“Hit the thing with the heavy thing.”) But Basic is what we’re all about today, so let’s dig in and see if we can make your life easier, shall we?
First, let’s talk about the golden rule of screw driving: lefty-loosey, righty-tighty. To loosen something you turn to the left, and to tighten it you turn to the right. But that can be a little subjective, and Lord knows I don’t always know my right from my left anyway.
Then there’s clockwise and counterclockwise. But in the days of apple watches, do we even know what that means? And don’t get me started when the screw is upside down instead of facing me.
So here’s my first screwdriver hack. This is based on the lefty-loosey rule, but here’s how to tell which way is left when you’re upside down.
When you want to loosen a screw, no matter what angle it is, grab your screwdriver in your left hand and turn your wrist away from your body. Think of it as turning your wrist towards your shoulder.
If you’re tightening, grab the screwdriver in your right hand and turn away from your body.
So in other words, don’t think of turning the screw to the right or left, but think of which hand to turn outwards. Once you get the hang of which direction you’re going, you can switch to your dominant hand to do the rest of the work. But that will at least get you started in the right direction when you don’t know which way is up. Or left or right.
My Genius Storage Hack for Screwdrivers and Small Tools
Half the battle of using a screwdriver for everyday tasks is finding it when you need it. (Tell me I’m not the only one with this problem.)
Show of hands: who here has ever been bugged by a loose drawer pull for weeks on end, rather than grabbing your handy Phillips head screwdriver and screwing that bad boy down in half a second, because for the life of you you can’t remember where you left your Phillips head, but you have 6 flat heads rolling in your junk drawer? (The same drawer with the loose pull.)
Here is how I solved that problem in our house:
I installed a magnetic knife rack on the wall in my laundry room, which is right around the corner from my kitchen. I then bought myself MY OWN set of basic tools. (These are not for family use or consumption. If you take one of my tools I will hunt you down. Ask my kids.)
On my tool holder, I keep:
- A multi-tool screwdriver, more on this in a minute.
- A flat head screwdriver
- A Phillips head screwdriver
- A pair of scissors
- A pair of wire cutters (for some reason I use these a lot)
- And I hang my apron next to the tools, so it’s handy whenever I need it.
Before I got the knife rack, I used to keep my Phillips and flat head screwdrivers hanging from two nails just outside the door to the garage. That’s a handy trick too, if you don’t want to install a knife rack, but you’ll need to get screwdrivers with holes in the handles for hanging. I got the two in this picture from Harbor Freight for pretty cheap.
What kind(s) of Screwdrivers are Best
So now that you’ve seen a peek at the screwdrivers I keep on hand, let’s talk about which ones I recommend. There are three screwdriver-type tools that I think every home owner should own: a handheld, an electric, and a drill.
Most day-to-day jobs around the house simply require the good old handheld screwdriver. For a handheld, I’m partial to my Irwin multi screwdriver, both for its versatility and ease of use. The handle and weight are comfortable, even with lots of use on big projects, and the 9 attachments store right in the body of the handle, so you don’t have to go searching that junk drawer for a different bit.
I love multi tools, and this one makes me happy because I don’t have to carry around both the Phillips and flat head screwdrivers when I’m working on a project.
On the far other end of the spectrum is a drill. When you need power, you’ll want a drill on hand. I use my drill for all sorts of bigger DIY projects, but when it comes to around-the-house stuff, I mostly use my drill for drilling pilot holes. (When you’re putting a big screw into wood, you’ll need a pilot hole so you don’t split the wood. You can learn more about pilot holes here.)
I like my Black and Decker corded drill for projects that require a full size drill. I know a lot of people love cordless, but we seem to live in a family where we can’t keep anything charged consistently. Rather than fighting the system, we simply got a corded drill. It works every time.
But what do you do when you have lots of screws to work on, but you don’t want to drag out the heavy drill? That’s when the electric screwdriver comes in. This little Skil rechargeable screwdriver is my new favorite tool and I’ve been using it every chance I get.
I put together a new bed from IKEA the other day with this thing and it took a tiny fraction of the time it would have with my handheld screwdriver. (And I couldn’t use the drill because it has so much power I was worried about overtightening and breaking something.)
This little guy is perfect for my small hands, and saves me so much time and wrist fatigue. My husband (always the skeptic) swore it would be redundant because I could just use a drill, but I find myself reaching for this little tool much more readily than pulling out the drill.
The pistol grip is more comfortable for me than the direct angle of a handheld screwdriver, and I love its magnetic bit for quick changes of screw head types. (Waaay easier than reloading the chuck on a drill.)
It comes with several bits, but I just keep the flat head and Phillips head bits in the clips on it, since those are what I use most often. And it has a handy little USB charger, so I can just plug it in with my phones and devices when it needs a recharge.
Plus, with an electric screwdriver, you don’t have to remember lefty-loosey, righty-tighty. You just hit the reverse switch to unscrew!
One last screwdriver hack: if you are doing a project with a lot of drilling and screw driving, such as replacing multiple hinges, I recommend keeping both your drill and electric screwdriver handy. Use the drill for pilot holes and the electric screwdriver for screwing in the screws. That way, you don’t have to switch bits constantly between your drilling bit and your driving bit.
So there you have it, the three screwdriver tools I’d recommend for all homeowners and DIY-ers, as well as where to keep them, and how to use them.
I hope these tips are helpful, and don’t forget to check out my other DIY Basics posts:
And as always, let me know in the comments if I can help you with any questions. Now get in there and fix that drawer pull!