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Actually - nothing!
The reason almost everyone is recommending Square Drive screws is that they
were originally designed for production environments like furniture
factories or even Henry Ford's Model A assembly line in the 30's where
breakage is not just an aggravation, it can stop production. (Not to
minimize the impact that a broken screw has on any woodworker.)
While I can't speak to the strength standards of other fastener suppliers, I
can tell you that we spec our Square Drive screws for higher torque strength
than common screws. In fact, as has been reported here and elsewhere, many
of the square drive screws sold in BORG's are not much better than the
slotted screws that they replaced on the shelf. Since the store manager
really doesn't know the difference, the fact that the screws he orders use
that "new-fangled" square drive is good enough (but quite possibly not good
enough for the customer). As you figured out, the drive type is immaterial
to the screw strength - there are some very high quality screws with
Phillips recesses, torx recesses, tri-wing recesses, etc. The key to screw
strength is the steel used and the heat treating process. That's why is is
worth knowing your supplier!
Jim Ray, President
McFeely's Square Drive Screws
The square drive screws are stronger. But a way to think about it is that
the fit between the screw and the drive bit is so secure that the screw has
to be strong to keep from breaking "every" time. With Philips head the bit
slips easily when the screw gets tight. Not so with McFeeleys square drive
screws. Those screws will normally stall your drill when they have gone as
far as they are going to go.
That said, McFeeleys screws are a consistent high quality screw. Man that
brings another thought to mind.... Nevermind... The improvement centers
sell square drive and or combo Deck Screws and while these are stronger than
the common plastic packaged screw, they are still inferior in strength.
Those are OK for relative soft lumber but forget even those when it comes to
Lastly, McFeeleys screws are CHEAP when compared to those plastic bagged
screws. Start using quality square drive screws and you will no longer
complain about broken screws or bits slipping. It will be something you no
longer have to think or worry about and you have taken the next step to
becoming a better woodworker.
Not a lot but it is what McFeely's sells.
If you want pluses for the square drive, they won't cam out and, until you
wear it down, the screw kind of locks onto the square driver bit. Really
nice for those hard to get at places or overhead.
Ok, I got to ask this. Is McFreely's square drive a different size drive
than any other square drive? I keep seeing everybody say to get a few bits
while they're getting screws. Just wondering if the Roberson?, Robertson?,
square drive bits I already have would work.
"Cartoons don't have any deep meaning.
They're just stupid drawings that give you a cheap laugh."
IIRC those should work fine unless you get the "plated non corrosive"
screws. Then you would want to order the slightly undersized bits. The
slightly undersized bits work much better with those type screws.
Ahh to be from Canada, where decent square drive screws (and the bits for
them) are as close as the local Home Hardware or Bolt and Nut Supply. There
the prices, quality and selection are better than the BORG.=) Then there is
an independent hardware store close where it is easy for me to spend an hour
looking at all the different fasteners. Or when I'm in the area - a half
hour drive - the nearest Lee Valley. I guess that is something of a gloat,
take 'em where you can get'em.
For the record, there is a difference between square drive and Robertson. On
Robertson, a licensed design, the side walls of the recess slope in slightly
towards the bottom, top edge has a slight chamfer to it, and maybe some
other stuff I don't know. Square drive are the generic version, biggest
difference being the side walls are parallel. As for the bits, they're
interchangeable, except perhaps in the case of the #4, which I didn't know
existed until I picked some up a couple weeks ago, wound up making do with a
large Phillips bit. I have yet to find the driver for it. Posi-drive seem
like a decent option, but my experience with them has been limited to when
they're included with hardware.
For a good book on the subject try One Good Turn: A Natural History of the
Screwdriver and the Screw by Witold Rybczynski. A quick read, interesting
for the style of writing as well as the topic.
You are right, Rybczynski's book One Good Turn is a great read!
I should offer a bit of clarification regarding the commonly held
micsonception that there is a difference between the Robertson recess and
the Square Drive Recess. The Industrial Fastener Institute, of which P.L.
Robertson is a member, issued a standard for the Square Drive Recess based
upon the Robertson patent (long expired BTW - issued in 1906). If a
manufacturer makes screws according to the IFI standard, they are making a
Roberston Recess screw, even though they can't call it that becausre
Robertson is trademarked.Any driver bit made according to the standard will
The problem with most screws that have recess fit issues is that the
manufacturer has let the recess punch wear to the point that it no longer
forms a conforming recess. That is more likely in screws made by "low cost"
producers, wherever thay may be located. I don't know all of the screw
manufacturers by any means, but I do know enough of them to say that I am
not aware of any, nor can I imagine any, that would deliberately produce a
non-conforming recess, by design. There is simply no reason to do so.
Robertson is not a licensed recess. However, P.L. Robertson does tend to
monitor recess configuration more closely than others, and we have found far
fewer problems with the screws they make for us. Incidently, we have an
expensive set of inspection gauge that we use to QC the recess of each
production lot of screws we receive. That is one way we are able to make
sure that our screws will all work perfectly with a standard Robertson
driver bit, whether Robertson made them for us or someone else.
Jim Ray, President
McFeely's Square Drive Screws
Nope, same standard sizes. Most of the screws I've bought from McFeely's are
#2 Robertson. Some of the smaller ones are #1. Since McFeely's sells #3
drivers, I assume that some of their screws are #3 also, but I haven't bought
any that large yet.
Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
How come we choose from just two people to run for president and 50 for Miss America?
Yes, usually a #5 and smaller screw, I use them plenty for hinges. At that
size the square drive seems to loose its main benefit - they cam out easier
than the larger drivers, but not bad enough to look for options. Looking at
McFeely's site I'm tempted to order they're colour coded bits, first place
I've seen them. Nice to see that the tradition has made the leap to driver
It sounds like I'm not alone. I too have found a drastic drop in woodscrew
quality. Fortunately I'm from Canada and we've had Square Drive ( Robertson)
screws for as long as I can remember. I've been using them for 40 years and
sure, you may break one or two a month, but I can also break a 5/16th bolt
if I'm not carefull.
The influx of cheap screws ( I think they're 50% zinc and 50% aluminum)
started around the time the BORG stores came to Canada. I only purchase
Scrulox wood screws www.robertsonscrew.com They're sold all over
NorthAmerica and are no more expensive than the cheap junk.
This is the quality you can expect from China and it's replacing American
products and jobs *the price is no bargain either* The only ones who make a
killing are executive corporate management. Outsource CEO's!!!
Ron those cheesy screws have been around for very long time. I remembering
buying the same low quality ones in the plastic packages back in the mid
70's. Regardless of where they are from, they are normally inferior in
quality. Had the one back in the 70's been better quality there may not
have been an opening for the Chinese ones.
You're right, I just checked some screws I bought in boxes 10-15 years ago
and some were made in China, but the quality of the screws I have seem to be
better and they didn't strip out as easily or were as poorly finished as the
ones I just bought. It might be the middle man and their profit margin
determining the quality.
Home Brewer wrote:
Group: rec.woodworking Date: Mon, Feb 9, 2004, 9:23pm (EST-1) From:
I just bought 2 packages of #8 x 2" wood screws at Lowes. 5 in each pack
and it cost $.88. I predrilled and counter sunk the holes in an oak step
stool I'm making and 5 out of the 10 screws twisted apart. Are these
things that bad? If so what brand of wood screws should I get and where?
That is totally unacceptable in my book. It's not like I can't afford
the change, but it just really pissed me off tonight.
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