Individual Screwdrivers Vs Interchangeable Shafts And Insert Bits?

Gents, I know such discussions tend to get wildly personal(as in preference, not anger) because just like tool bags, nothing is exactly perfect for each tradesman. So with that, lets try to get a handle(no pun intended) on screwdrivers, bits and their grips.

I am a maintenance electrician by trade. 99% of the screwdrivers I carry are Klein Cushion Grip models. They have served me very well. I have replaced a few of them due to misuse. This was in nearly every case by some genius who ‘borrowed’ them and then proceeded to use them as pry bars, chisels, and spare parts for the Millennium Falcon. I have seen various reports of tip failure lately on the Klein models but even with my newer ones I have not experienced this.

So with all that I am seriously considering what I personally want to tote around going into the tail end of my career. I have always been one to use a dedicated driver for the fastener I am using at the time. I have never been much on the 5 in 1 type drivers.

I know plenty of guys use them and love them. However, from a safety perspective my original supervisor in the job I took as a novice electrician took a VERY dim view of these things. Mostly because of the ability of bits disengaging and lodging in bad places in panels and control cabinets. I am not speaking of live work but areas where things could become lost in a hurry. And he flatly fobade their use in panels. He’d seen more than one insert bit lost down a conduit for his comfort. Anyroad, it has always affected my approach to drivers. And for the most part I do not want to abandon this approach for my go-to tools.

What I have wondered about is the interchangeable bits and handles that use four or five inch shafts rather than the one inch style insert bits. I have looked at what is typically available at Home Desperate and Menard’s and find I am less than underwhelmed by the lot of them. Cheap feeling and bulky, they mostly reek of slapdash diy stuff. And most use the short one inch(25mm) insert bits. I get it about those bits. They are used in many power drivers and I use them myself in that capacity. They just like to pull out of driver handles. A lot.

So what about the PB Swiss, Wiha, and some of the Wera interchangeable models? I note that many of them have a very good assortment of bits and lengths. I also wonder about handle size. The Klein’s come in two typical sizes not including the extra chunky ones used on the new 5 in 1 nutdrivers, the bigger slotted models and the ones you can hit with a hammer or some of the newer 99 in 1 or whatever they are called. I cannot get a good mental picture of the brands I mentioned as to handle size. It is listed on their sites but can be a bit vague as to width of the handles.

The two common Klein sizes for stuff like #1 Philips and 3/16 cabinet tips is about 2-5/8(67mm) from back of plastic nub on handle to where the plastic meets the metal shaft and the rubberised part is about 2-3/8(60mm) in length. Laying the measure across the rubber handle is about 1-1/8(28mm). The next size up for #2/3 Philips and 1/4 cabinet tip is 4.25(108mm) from handle back to shaft, 2-7/8(75mm) rubber length and around 1-1/4(32mm) wide for the rubber part. I have seen pictures of many of these brands handles laid side by side but they were bottle openers! I need some information as to how they size compared to the Klein.

Overall, would you say the handles and bits of the interchangeable models feel stout enough for most work? As mentioned, I will keep a few dedicated drivers no matter what. I am thinking of way to cut down on the bulk of extra nut drivers, lesser used screwdrivers, and things of that nature. I do need the shafts of the bits to have the option of 5-6 inch length for control cabinet work and similar. Sorry to be long. I just want to make a good choice.

Have you looked at the Klein Switch Drive? The handle will take any E 6.3 so you are not limited to proprietary shafts as you are with the Wera/Wiha sets.
What about the Wera 817 R Bitholding screwdriver? It locks in any E 6.3 os C 6.3 so you can’t loose them, but the downside is not as much clearance in tight spaces.

Chris, I had forgotten about that model. At the risk of sounding rather dumb, what does the E6.3 and C6.3 mean? I have seen this nomenclature used before with insert bits. Does this mean 1/4 inch(6.3mm?) hex with a locking/retaining notch? Thanks.

My 2 cents… and a dime… To me there is only one multi bit driver I would buy again (lost it or rather someone else is enjoying it and costs a fortune to replace), it’s a Snap-on ratcheting driver. After owning and using one all other multi bits are a major disappointment as such I use regular screw drivers currently I have a mixed bag of DeWalt and Craftsman(US made). Most of the work I do doesn’t require much hand driving or I would go buy another $90 Snap-on. Back to what I now use, I tend to beat on my DeWalts more not because they can take it but because they “feel” cheep to me and even though my Craftsman’s are cheaper they feel much better and the head to screw fit feels perfect.

Hi Satch,
yes 6.3 = 6.3mm/1/4 inch. The letter references the type. C is the standard 1 inch insert bit with the small notches. E is the standard impact style bit. They are defined under standards DIN 3126/ISO1173.

I own three of the Wera bitholding handles suggested by ChrisP. Excellent action and comfortable. I bough the mid size and one of the smallest size (tiny but good). Reach into recessed screws can be an issue so 2" lenth bits can be useful.
Just recently I snagged a Wera Maintenance set after noticing that Wera now do a similar tapered tip VDE (insulated) set like Whiha’s slimfix.
To me the benefit is less to carry to have a full set of tips available.
A convenience if you do use interchangeables is to have two handles. It’s common to need (say) a crosspoint and a straight tip on many jobs. Two handles saves a lot of swapping.

I use both, but prefer individual drivers much of the time, especially when I know a project will involve multiple fastener types.

That is typically my thoughts on it as well. Also, the multi bit handles never feel as secure as a dedicated driver. I do admit to really liking the looks of the PB Swiss stuff though.

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First I would like to say how a pain it is for the forum to tell me that my topic is similar to…(list of topic) that cover the word in red about “similarity” and it seems forced me to choose one of these similar topic. I did not think any of this list was appropriate to what I want to tell you but did not seem to have any other choices but pick one and post the following …
May be I need to spend more time in the States to understand?
Ok below my “bit” :
I live in Australia but searching the web I found your article and comments on Klein combination tip. But my concern is a little different and I would like to share my query to an Australian tool company.
" why is it so difficult to get / find info about combined screwdriver bits …That is, one that has a Philips head at one end and a flat slotted at the other. It’s beyond belief that it’s not more popular.
Some drills come with such bit I have a Ryobi and Bosh cordless drill that came with such bit for the obvious reason that on every day job, especially with lay people, one would encounter both situations where either screw driver bit will be needed. Unfortunately the fastening of these bits is not always very secure, sometime a magnet area in the drill fitting or a clip on the drill for easy reach storage is available. But in both situations i found it’s too easy to loose the bit and much harder if not impossible to get a replacement.
Perhaps you have an answer to this even better you may have it.
I have attempted to join two different bits with mixed success by filing half way each and glue them together but they need to be so short to fit in the holder to work properly and since I used a bench grinder it was much less of a perfect job…"
But why should I need to do this?
Well that’s it and it does not have to be only for these to particular tips. I feel any popular, common need for any combination of two bits whether for a particular area of work or tradesmen would really be useful if available Thank you.

I agree that combination bits do not seem to abound - but I know of these:

Well, thanks a bunch for the speed and the info I was looking for this is wonderful. Some of those I seem not to never have seen! I hope they’ll fit also in the “holders” (extensions, electric screw driver or inter changeable screw drivers these bits fits in).
I’ll need to improve my search technique it seems!

Its easier when you start with a database or old inventory. I held onto copies of databases of tool/accessory inventories from some businesses I once had an interest in before retiring. So looking at one of these databases representing a 40,000+ piece inventory - I found the two above that are still made. I also saw that we had some from Black&Decker, Ideal and Skil - but could not find then (even knowing their part numbers or GTIN’s) for sale now on the Internet.

Just searching now on “combination screwdriver bit” I found this set:

searching on “dual-end screwdriver bit” or “double end screwdriver bit” I found even more:

and there seem to be others too.

Thanks again it’s really helpful although I found some sites won’t ship to Australia but since I found a couple of places here that may have it. au does not! Ebay had some!
But it bizarre that our major hardware stores don’t. Here we mainly have Bunnings and Mitre 10 with a few private ones that are finding it hard to compete with those giants.
I imagine you’re in the UK not US…?

From what I can tell, my ancestor was transported from Kent to the colonies (New York) nearly 300 years ago. I get to the UK from time to time - but only as a visitor.

I personally prefer bit holders and interchangeable bits.

One reason is that screwdriver tips inevitably wear out, especially Phillips heads (since they were designed to cam out.) With bit holders, I can instantly replace a worn tip with a new one. The new bits are cheap, and I can keep dozens on hand. They are also universally compatible. I also have them anyway for my electric driver.

Another reason is that you can buy rarely-used bits (like security Torx or Tri-Wing). The bits are cheaper and easier to store than individual screwdrivers.

It can be a pain to swap out bits, but I find that if I have two bit holders on hand with the right bits, say #1 and #2 Phillips, I rarely have to change bits for any given job.

Two handle / holders is a great benefit. I often need two but rarely more during any one job.

A few other thoughts to add …
I’ve recently been doing some electrical work - replacing socket outlets etc. From this I’ve noticed that the Wera handles that are so good for grip when applying a lot of torque are less good when you need to spin out a screw with many fine turns of the thread. For this the Wiha design of handle is very much better because it is slim and smooth close to the shaft. I think some Kleins are like this - but Kleins are a ridculous price in the UK so very few people buy them.
On this basis, I bought a set of Wiha VDE drivers which are excellent I now want to try some of the Wiha bit holding handles.

One of my key features for a bit holder / handle is that it should grip the bit with no slop. I’m interested in any handle and holders that have deep recess for the hex part of the bit - as much as 1" - as that seems to be a key part of the design.

There are some pieces around the web discussing the Festool Centrtec system of bits - very expensive. This system includes a Festool handle (obviously made by or licenced from Wiha) that grips the hex end of the bit, plus a small chuck that works with it to grip a round section on the shaft of their bits and improve the centering. I can’t help but think that a well made / sufficiently deep hex socket would work equally well and be far more universal.

There are a few times you will need the dedicated driver as either space it too tight or something.

I find most often I used bits and I find I lean more toward ratcheting handles. In fact I have 2 that I love the most.

one is a gearless smooth action job - it’s labeled Souix (like the air tools) but I know it was made by someone else.
The other is a Kobalt double drive widget mostly because I was given to me and honestly it does work - it’s heavy though.

But now I also keep a straight shaft bit holder that stores a few bits in the handle - some 8 or so. I keep it handy with one of the other ones just because sometimes the ratcheting motion is annoying.

However my dedicated screw drivers which are flats and philips - all have hex shank bolsters on them too. I use them very little.