The History of the Screwdriver
By: The Working Man
The first mention of a screwdriver or something resembling a
screwdriver in history is assumed to have been in Germany in
the 1500's. This was not a precursor, it was a refined tool
complete with a pear-shaped handle, shaft and head. It
appears to have had a metal ferrule where the metal blade
met the handle.
It is assumed that this screwdriver was used in applications
for war. This is the assumption because the screwdriver was
described along with several other tools listed in a manual
for a military workshop. Because this tool was so refined it
is suspected that the screwdriver actually goes back much
further than even this report.
The next report of a screwdriver in history is a tool called
a "Tournevis," that originated in France in 1723. The report
originated in the Diderot and d'Alembert's Encyclopedia but
not much is mentioned about this tool. It was a screwdriver
type tool used to tighten and release screws and bolts.
Some people believe that the screwdriver was invented from a
flat-bladed bit for a carpenter's brace in 1744. That is
assumed to be the precursor to the screwdriver of today.
The "Turnscrew" is the word derived from "Tournevis" that
was first used in the Midlands or North England in 1765.
Turnscrew is the literal translation from French to English
In America the first hand held screwdriver appeared on the
market in the 1800's.
The cruciform head of the screwdriver with which we are all
so familiar, (Phillips), was patented by Henry F. Phillips,
who was once a traveling salesman who enjoyed inventing
things. This was his one successful invention. The cruciform
head was first used by General Motors in 1936 on the
Cadillac. Shortly thereafter all screw manufacturers started
developing Phillips head screws by buying a license for
their use from the inventor.
The cabinetmaker's screwdriver, which has an ellipsoid or
oval cross section handle, is one of the longest established
handle forms. This shape of handle has been used for around
two hundred years and is associated with a flat head
screwdriver used with slotted screws, although it can be
used with many other head types and shapes. It is suspected
that this design of handle came about to improve grip and
prevent the tool from rolling off of work surfaces.
The screwdriver has been one of the greater inventions in
the history of tool-making and is used in just about every
industry and is in just about every home. Anywhere there is
a screw there is probably a screwdriver to tighten or loosen
it. You can find just about any screwdriver type that you
want today in a hardware store or lumberyard, even sometimes
your local grocery store.
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