Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Screw It: The Search for the Perfect EDC Screwdriver Kit

A few weeks back we gave a friend's kid a birthday gift. We came prepared with the triple-A batteries it needed, but forgot a tool to remove the battery cover's security screw. Back in my day, battery covers just clicked into place; not so, today. I didn't panic. I grabbed my keychain multi-tool and went to work removing the screw. Alas, try as I may, I couldn't get it removed.

Naturally, I returned from that experience a chastened man. I spent the next few days feverishly searching Amazon for the perfect compact screwdriver kit. Here's where I landed.

An Itty Bitty Bit Driver

After much research, what I thought I wanted was a tiny bit driver. The idea being that you can carry one main tool and a bunch of 1/4" bits and thefore have the equivalent of a full screwdriver set. I picked up a keychain bit holder and a cheap L-shaped bit driver, mainly for the collection of bits.. After I made my purchase, I found this video from MeZillch warning that the bit driver I'd just bought wasn't going to work. He explained that the keychain's depth made it incompatible with compact bits.

And he was right:

Fortunately, I didn't give up. I grabbed a wooden barbeque skewer and a serrated kitchen knife and cut off a 1cm chunk of the skewer. I dropped that into the bit holder, followed by a bit, and found that the setup worked.

Inspired by the Versatool, I attached a carabiner to the keychain to let me apply extra torque to the driver. In basic tests, it works:

Keychain Screwdrivers

The other item I picked up was a set of keychain screwdrivers. One of them claimed to have a 1/4" hex cutout in handle. This was perfect! For common tasks the flathead and phillips screwdrivers would work, and for more esoteric needs I could use the hex cutout as a simple bit driver.

Like the keychain bit holder above, I was almost immediately disappointed by my purchase. The screwdrivers were fine, but the hex cutout was 6mm not 1/4" (or 6.3mm). My plan of using the cutout as a bit driver was a hard no. After fuming in frustration about the size mixup I realized that the hex wrench did have a plus. Each screwdriver's shank is 6mm hex. That means that you can feed one screwdriver into the handle of the other.

This is useful because it forms a T-grip and lets you apply hefty amounts of torque. This makes the screwdrivers vastly more functional. Another happy surprise: the flat head screwdriver does a terrific job of opening up boxes. It cuts through tape and cardboard with ease, and is less likely to take off my finger than a utility blade.

On the surface, the keychain screwdrivers aren't as versatile as the bit driver. But from a practical perspective, they're the winner. They are compact, robust, and the ability to make them into a T-shape makes them able to take on jobs big and small. The box cutting ability of the flat head screwdriver is another big win and makes this tool something I'm using multiple times a week. The bit setup has promise, but it's not especially compact and all the parts make the setup feel fiddly. For now, it sits in the kitchen utility drawer waiting to shine.

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