screwdriver redux 34546645

Time to change your screwdriver.

Stanley Works has been making hand tools in New Britain, Connecticut, since the middle of the 19th century. Some time in the 20th, the company came up with this terrible screwdriver. It has a handle with rigid, jagged plastic edges that gouge your palms at every inch-pound of torque. Yet the handle is somehow always slick, requiring a firm, skin-sacrificing grip. The screwdriver is downright painful to use. It is, as far as toolbox technology goes, obsolete…

Now, the old Stanley’s steel shank is solid, and the tool is technically capable of driving a screw. It’s like a decade-old laptop—technically capable of sending an email. But there are better ways to do it. The screw itself is a mechanical marvel, an inclined plane wrapped around a cylinder, and experiencing this miracle of hardware should be an act of pure pleasure.

To truly enjoy some fine screwing, try Stanley’s new Stubby Ratcheting Multi-Bit screwdriver. It stores six common bits in its handle—with a duplicate of the critical #2 Phillips—and each one magnetically pops into the tip. The tool’s ratcheting action is a heavenly shortcut that allows the bit to remain engaged in the screw while adjusting your wrist for the the next crank.

But screws in spots too cramped for the Stubby need a long-shanked tool like the old Stanley. And the Wiha 531 proves that the humble screwdriver can be radically improved. With its hardened, chrome-vanadium-molybdenum steel shaft, and a cushy, contoured grip that holds still in a sweaty palm, the Wiha is good as a single-bit screwdriver gets.

And yet, for all the Stanley’s shortcomings, it is not headed to the garbage can. Even obsolete technology can make a worthwhile donation. Someone will come along, complaining of cabinets hanging loose on their hinges, stuck with a bare toolbox in need of even a flawed Phillips screwdriver. A free screwdriver will be given away that day, along with a warning: Wear a glove.