® Screwdrivers

Okay, so let's do a "cold reboot" on the issue of JIS screwdrivers. The general public is not aware of two things. One, that mechanics grade screwdrivers and home improvement grade screwdrivers are quite different. You can see this in Sears brands Craftsman and Craftsman Pro, for example. One is made for putting hinges on the backyard gate. The other is for working on machinery. Very different purposes, and where this shows up the most is in the Phillips screwdriver configuration. The Pro grade are near-JIS or undocumented JIS, for example Husky Professional series and Craftsman Pro series, which fit nearly as good or in some cases as good as JIS, making these Taiwanese screwdrivers the most cost-effective out there. The second thing not widely known is that even flat blade screwdrivers vary. Most follow that gate hinge model, with thick, wide spade-shaped tips designed for gripping countersunk wood screws. Howevever, just as there are home and pro versions of Phillips, at one time there were two families of flat blade screwdrivers too. Very different from the ubiquitous shovel-shaped models, "cabinet" screwdrivers had straight shanks all the way through to the tip, and were "hollow" ground to boot. My favorite carburetor working screwdrivers are like this. Cabinetmakers preferred a straight tip that would not rub on the inside of a bored hole, giving us a premium flat blade screwdriver choice. Alas, cabinet screwdrivers are no more, but have to be custom-made.

All of this is to point out that a screwdriver is not a screwdriver is not a screwdriver. They vary all over the place, with at least four to five variations of Phillips and two very distinct types of flat blade. So that, when folks make a lot or noise about JIS screwdrivers (Phillips made to a Japanese standard) they are justified in doing so, but not because they are the only quality Phillips screwdriver game in town. As pointed out in my screws article, pro techs have been using properly-fitting Phillips screwdrivers all along. What JIS brings to the table is an easy way to find such screwdrivers, not the only way to find them.

Please see this link for more information. A study of JIS screwdrivers has in fact shown that they themselves are not consistent: long and short shanked versions from the same manufacturer have differently shaped #2 tips, one with the famous JIS almost imperceptible radius and the other the usual Phillips radius, the defining difference between JIS and non-JIS. Odd.

Finally, in typical mindless Internet style, a rush onto the JIS bandwagon has produced some interesting things. While I enjoy and admire Motorcycle Consumer News magazine for all that it brings to the industry, in at least one incidence some incorrect and very confusing and uninformed things are said by the magazine about screwdrivers and their use. The comments in the boxes are mine.

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