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  • Square Drive Screws

    For those of you who don't know, square drive wood screws are the greatest thing since sliced bread.

    What I don't know is why they aren't more popular.

    Advantages:

    No "cam-out" of driver means I can easily drive even large, coarse thread screws through hardwoods (or soft!) with no pilot hole and with minimal effort on my part.

    Drivers are readily available and, in my experience, last at least three times longer than the same brand of phillips (on account of the fact that the phillips tend to slip and chew themselves up)

    The cost the same as phillips head screws.

    I've been using them for the last five years and I'm always surprised that other people don't use them. The only disadvantage is that they are not as readily available, suggesting a low demand.

    Why the low demand? They're perfect for wood screws where over-torquing is not an issue.

  • #2
    I put thousands of 2" square drive screws in my 400 sq. ft. deck. Many times the tool spun in the head. When it does you throw away the screw and the driver. I went through a lot of drivers installing that deck. I'm quite certain Phillips head screws would have been far worse.

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    • #3
      I still use square drive and philups head drivers after they spin in a few screws. they get a little striped but still work fine with care.

      That said,I think philups get a bad rap due to user error
      yes thats right, USER ERROR.
      while you can drive a philups with the wrong size, and indeed some 'fits all' screwdrivers exist, philups is MUCH more secure when you use the precise right size bit for it then the wrong size that 'kinda works'
      Lots of people think because it 'kinda works' it must be the right size. its not.
      Play Brutal Nature, Black Moons free to play highly realistic voxel sandbox game.

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      • #4
        The interesting thing is that Phillips screws were originally designed to slip.

        Not "strip", slip. As a sort of built-in torque limit, so factory assemblers wouldn't or couldn't strip threads or break screw heads as the doodad was being assembled.

        That's the legend, anyway.

        Doc.
        Doc's Machine. (Probably not what you expect.)

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        • #5
          Square drive screws are good, but Star (Torx) drive screws are even better (and much more rare). I have an assortment of the #10 cabinet mounting star drive screws that I use for mounting all kinds of stuff. They are very strong and never seem to strip out.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Doc Nickel
            The interesting thing is that Phillips screws were originally designed to slip.

            Not "strip", slip. As a sort of built-in torque limit, so factory assemblers wouldn't or couldn't strip threads or break screw heads as the doodad was being assembled.

            That's the legend, anyway.

            Doc.
            That's exactly what wikipedia claims: (FWIW)
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_F._Phillips


            Black_Moons - I agree that using the correct size driver makes an enormous difference. But I can assure you that you will quickly see the advantage of the square drive when driving thousands of screws in the overhead vertical direction.

            I drove 10+ lbs of these little square drive screws on top of a "cat walk" raised by a forklift 20 feet in the air. Scary enogh as it is - then we polished off a 1 lb box of phillips head and my arms were tired. The square drive went much easier. Even a correctly sized phillips head bit requires some force to keep it from camming out. The square drive requires considerably less. Sure they spin too, but not as often.

            Incidentally, the same can be said for square drive. I have run across three sizes of square drive screws on the market and two of the sizes overlap so, for instance, you can drive a #2 with a #1 but it is more likely to pop out and spin. HD and Lowes don't mark the size of the square drive on their limited selection of wood screws, but I've found they are actually number 2.


            <edit to add>
            Bruce - interesting. I've never seen torx drive wood screws. I do really like torx head screws though - all the old Chevy trucks had torx drive fasteners for the door and seatbelts. They could take some serious torque before stripping. Felt like a much more "positive grip" than allen head, hex head, etc. In fact, I broke an Armstrong torx driver in one of those seatbelt bolts. The bolt was fine but the driver broke. I guess it didn't appreciate the 4 foot cheater. Stubborn-a** bolt, though...
            Last edited by Fasttrack; 05-15-2010, 02:48 AM.

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            • #7
              The proper name for them is Robertson screws, just as the other substandard screws are Phillips. Both were named after the inventor.

              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robertson_screwdriver

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              • #8
                The square drive or "Robertson" Are very popular in Canada and this is where they were invented. They were marketed in the states to ford for his cars but ford wanted to control the production of the screws and Roberson didn't want to give up control of his product. Ford ended up going with the much inferior Phillips screw for use in his cars and Roberson slipped away back to Canada and never got introduced to the American market.
                Darrell

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                • #9
                  Robertson screws have the nice little feature of being able to be tapped onto the driver and remaining there in any position. Handy when you have a difficult to reach position.
                  Tapping them onto the driver also helps prevent cam-out, you don't even have to hit them all that hard either. Gotta love em!
                  The drivers vary a bit in quality too, even those in the same bulk box. Some just don't seem to drive worth a hoot and others are good. Go figure...
                  Last edited by Arcane; 05-15-2010, 03:05 AM.
                  Location: Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada

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                  • #10
                    We do know.....grin.......and were keepin em to ourselves but like all good things eventually leak out..........we had an Avro Arrow that was kinda cool way back when too.........LOL

                    U wouldn't believe how many fasteners I throw away if they're not Robertson.........
                    Opportunity knocks once, temptation leans on the doorbell.....

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                    • #11
                      On that spin thing, all modern electric drivers have a slip clutch. If the clutch is set properly, it will not spin. Phillips or Robertson, if you use the correct size bit, it will not slip. The clutch slips instead.

                      I have such a driver at work. I constantly find the clutch set to the maximum setting. I always set it back and everyone else sets it to the max. And, yes I have to constantly replace the bits due to spinning and wear. AAAAaaarrrrrrrrggg!!!!!

                      If you are using a manual screwdriver, technique is more important, especially for Phillips screws.


                      On the "proper size bit" thing, a wise engineer once showed me how you could know it was right. With only moderate pressure, he shoved a #2 Phillips screwdriver into a #2 Phillips screw that was oriented in a horizontal direction in an assembly. He then let go of the screwdriver and it just sat there, supported only by it's tip in the screw. If you try that with a #1 screwdriver and a #2 screw, as many people would use, the driver will instantly fall to the floor. The same test works just as well with the Robertson, Allen, spline, etc. screwdrivers and screws. Basically, you want a nice tight fit: no slop.
                      Paul A.

                      Make it fit.
                      You can't win and there is a penalty for trying!

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                      • #12
                        Fasttrack, the lumber yards around here have been stocking a torx type screw here that I just love, they are called tornillos or something like that. They furnish a couple drive bits with each box of screws, so I have not checked to see if actual torx bits will interchange.
                        James

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                        • #13
                          I briefly met the fellow who invented Robertson screws- having pie in a local airport coffee shop. Also the guy who apparently invented drywall screws was seen in that coffee shop. Whomever isn't privy to the use of Robertson screws is missing out- same as those who haven't yet found that drywall screws work great for mdf.
                          I seldom do anything within the scope of logical reason and calculated cost/benefit, etc- I'm following my passion-

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                          • #14
                            I put thousands of 2" square drive screws in my 400 sq. ft. deck. Many times the tool spun in the head. When it does you throw away the screw and the driver. I went through a lot of drivers installing that deck. I'm quite certain Phillips head screws would have been far worse.
                            That has become a major problem in the last few years. The quality control over the standard size for the driver and the screw head has become terrible. It isn't the fault of the design at all but of the poor manufacture of the screws and sometimes the bits. I have been using Robertson ever since I came to Canada and it is far superiour to all other standard fastener driving methods for ordinary home use. However, that is rapidly becoming history and the current poor quality of the fasteners will kill the system since it very much depends on the accuracy of the fit of the driver and fastener.
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                            • #15
                              I think Robertson was used for security in the states which would explain why they were not widely available there.

                              Up here almost all wood screws are Robertson and have been as long as I can remember.
                              Mike

                              My Dad always said, "If you want people to do things for you on the farm, you have to buy a machine they can sit on that does most of the work."

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