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#1
Old 12-19-2009, 09:05 PM
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Screws: Why Phillips & Flatheads?

Ok, this must be an age-old question. Why are there both phillips and flathead screws? I wager they were developed around the same time, and both stuck (i.e., stuck around over the test of time). But, I wager the phillips screws give a better gripping surface and perhaps better torque distribution therby making it a little easier on the carpenter?

Last edited by Jinx; 12-19-2009 at 09:06 PM.
#2
Old 12-19-2009, 09:09 PM
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This was covered, but can't locate.

Phillips screws are easy to self-center a tool on. Slot-head screws can have very small (low profile), flat heads.

Much more to it, but that'll get ya started. Note: square drive screws are very popular when torque is need. Hex and Torx-head screws are also in many applications, from full-size autos, to hobby-sized equipment, and all types of machines in between.

To anyone doing anything mechanically, you'll see all ones I mentioned all day and night.

Last edited by Philster; 12-19-2009 at 09:10 PM.
#3
Old 12-19-2009, 09:51 PM
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The general answer to this question is that you can't get everyone to agree on what's "better." There are applications where each works better, so both types persist. There are a lot of other types as well, such as the ones Philster mentions, and one of my favorites, Pozidriv. Note that that Pozidrive page links to a page that explains what it means to "cam out", and points out that Phillips screws were specifically designed to cam out, which is something I dislike about them.
#4
Old 12-19-2009, 10:14 PM
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Not sure, but I think slotted screws go back nearly as far as screws of any kind, whereas Phillips date from the creation of assembly lines. The slot is so easy to make that most mechanics have made them themselves from time to time with a hacksaw. The Phillips, on the other hand, is stamped in with special tools.

By the way, the slot or "+" shaped indent (or hexagonal hole or whatever) is called a "drive recess".
#5
Old 12-19-2009, 10:23 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Napier View Post
Not sure, but I think slotted screws go back nearly as far as screws of any kind, whereas Phillips date from the creation of assembly lines. The slot is so easy to make that most mechanics have made them themselves from time to time with a hacksaw. The Phillips, on the other hand, is stamped in with special tools.

By the way, the slot or "+" shaped indent (or hexagonal hole or whatever) is called a "drive recess".
Wiki claims the slotted form predated alternative types by about 400 years, which sounds about right to me:
Quote:
The screwdriver was invented in Germany in the late fifteenth century. Originally called a ‘screwturner,’ the first documentation of the tool is in the ‘’’The Medieval Housebook of Wolfegg Castle’’’, published sometime between 1475 and 1490 AD. The original screwdriver had a pear-shaped handle and was made for slotted screws (Diversification of the many types of screwdrivers did not emerge until the Gilded Age). This time period roughly coincides with the appearance of the adjustable screw. The screwdriver remained conspicuous, however, as evidence of its existence throughout the next 300 years was based primarily on the presence of screws.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Screwdriver
#6
Old 12-19-2009, 10:26 PM
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Phillips screws came with more advanced automation processes specifically because they cause the screw driver to cam out. ie a machine or assembly line factory worker could not over tighten them. With a straight screw you can over tighten and shear off the heads. The cam out quality is preferred for applications like drywall and hinges.

In electrical they are going more and more to Robertson(aka square) drives.
#7
Old 12-19-2009, 10:55 PM
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Does no one read Cecil anymore?

Why did this guy Phillips think we needed a new type of screw?
#8
Old 12-19-2009, 11:03 PM
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[on-topic gag]
Q. How do you make a Phillips screwdriver?
SPOILER:
A. Vodka, orange juice, and Milk of Magnesia

[/on-topic gag]

Last edited by Polycarp; 12-19-2009 at 11:03 PM.
#9
Old 12-20-2009, 07:34 AM
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Thanks, all for the replies. I can't buy the "you can't cam out a Phillips" story, though. If that phrase basically means to overtighten, I can't begin to count how many Phillips heads I have burred from overtightening.
#10
Old 12-20-2009, 08:35 AM
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For those interested in correct terminology (e.g., "flathead" was used incorrectly in the OP) about screw heads.
#11
Old 12-20-2009, 08:45 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jinx View Post
Thanks, all for the replies. I can't buy the "you can't cam out a Phillips" story, though. If that phrase basically means to overtighten, I can't begin to count how many Phillips heads I have burred from overtightening.
YOu got it exactly backwards. They were saying you can cam out a Phillip's head.
#12
Old 12-20-2009, 12:50 PM
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The idea for Phillips cam-out in a production setting is the tool cams out before the screw breaks. And yes, minor damage is done to the screw head. That should be minimal to negligible if the tool is withdrawn properly when the camming out starts.

Notice that any installation damage is the customer's problem, not the factory's, and the damage impedes tightening next time, not loosening. So teh custoemr can still readily disassemble the item and a new fastener solves any problems with reassembly.

Also note that Phillips was state of the art stuff when invented. I'm not suggesting all the above is the ideal solution today.
#13
Old 12-20-2009, 03:26 PM
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I feel like I must point out that Phillips and a cross are two differnt types of screws, although I have gotten tired of correcting people about this in my daily life
#14
Old 12-20-2009, 04:06 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ChrisBooth12 View Post
I feel like I must point out that Phillips and a cross are two differnt types of screws, although I have gotten tired of correcting people about this in my daily life
Not sure what you mean by a cross. My understanding is that crosshead screws are a category which includes Phillips and Pozidriv, as well as several others described in this article. I would say that every Phillips screw is a crosshead screw, but not every crosshead screw is a Phillips.
#15
Old 12-20-2009, 06:11 PM
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I paid $5.00 at a garage sale for a kit that contains drivers for every screw head I've ever seen. Since they are made to be driven by a small ratchet, you sometimes encounter difficulty with space, but for the most part, that was the best $5.00 I've ever spent.

Last edited by LouisB; 12-20-2009 at 06:12 PM.
#16
Old 12-20-2009, 06:16 PM
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Robertsons are the best!

Too bad he didn't want to license them to Ford
#17
Old 12-20-2009, 06:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rumor_Watkins View Post
Robertsons are the best!

Too bad he didn't want to license them to Ford
I learned about Robertson screws watching Holmes on Homes. He uses them on every job. They're easy to buy in Canada. The heads don't strip out like Phillips heads.

Last edited by aceplace57; 12-20-2009 at 06:21 PM.
#18
Old 12-20-2009, 08:21 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aceplace57 View Post
I learned about Robertson screws watching Holmes on Homes. He uses them on every job. They're easy to buy in Canada. The heads don't strip out like Phillips heads.
I like them for woodworking - the screws "stick" to the driver head so you can easily start them one-handed and you can generate a ton of torque when needed.

McFeelys (mcfeelys.com) sells a wide variety of Robertson (square-drive) screws, that's where I order mine.
#19
Old 12-20-2009, 08:36 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rumor_Watkins View Post
Robertsons are the best!

Too bad he didn't want to license them to Ford
Quoted for truth.

Whenever I buy a piece of hardware that comes with the dreaded philips or *gasp* slotted screws they go straight into the trash.
#20
Old 12-20-2009, 08:43 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aceplace57 View Post
I learned about Robertson screws watching Holmes on Homes. He uses them on every job. They're easy to buy in Canada. The heads don't strip out like Phillips heads.
The worst design seems to be the "universal" one we get stuck with on electrical devices here in the US. It is a combo slotted-Phillips-Robertson one, which strips out equally well with all drivers. Picture here.

The first time I saw a Phillips screw and driver (I was probably about 7 years old at the time), the first thing I said to myself was "why did they design it so the area with the most force applied has the least contact between the head and the driver?"
#21
Old 12-20-2009, 08:51 PM
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Pulling up a lawn chair, and waiting for the inevitable post from a Canadian Doper about the superiority of Robertson screws.

Edit: BEATEN!

Last edited by elmwood; 12-20-2009 at 08:52 PM.
#22
Old 12-20-2009, 08:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by elmwood View Post
Pulling up a lawn chair, and waiting for the inevitable post from a Canadian Doper about the superiority of Robertson screws.
Well, c'mon, the only things we invented are Robertson screws and insulin. Robertson screws, FTW!
#23
Old 12-20-2009, 09:23 PM
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I'm surprised no one mentioned the universal screws that IKEA kits seem to love. They are supposed to work with either a sloted or Philips. I throw them out and use my own screws. Unfortunately, electrical receptacles use those universal screws too. Hate them.

Last edited by aceplace57; 12-20-2009 at 09:25 PM.
#24
Old 12-20-2009, 09:44 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HongKongFooey View Post
Well, c'mon, the only things we invented are Robertson screws and insulin. Robertson screws, FTW!
No, we invented the paint roller too. Cite.
#25
Old 12-21-2009, 02:03 AM
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One thing worth noting about alternative screw head designs is that many of them require a driver of a precise size to fit the inset in the screw head. The simple slotted design and the Phillips have the advantage that the blade of the slot screwdriver or the point of the Phillips screwdriver can fit screws of several sizes well enough to turn them. This means that the average person can get away with having a couple screwdrivers rather than a whole set of Torx or Robertson drivers in various sizes. Or, in a pinch, you'll be able to manage with the screwdriver on your Swiss Army knife or pocket multitool.
#26
Old 12-21-2009, 06:22 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ntucker View Post
There are a lot of other types as well, such as the ones Philster mentions, and one of my favorites, Pozidriv. Note that that Pozidrive page links to a page that explains what it means to "cam out", and points out that Phillips screws were specifically designed to cam out, which is something I dislike about them.
Phillips heads are fine for machine screws where you don't need much torque until the screw is fully tightened. But when I use them for wood screws I am always tearing them up if the pilot hole isn't quite as big as it should be.

I looked at the page you linked and from this page, I can't for the life of me can't see the difference between Phillips and Pozidriv. The screwdriver tips look identical and I can't see any difference in the shape of the recess in the screw head. What's the difference?
#27
Old 12-21-2009, 06:40 AM
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You heathens and your antiquated phillips or pozi-drive screws. Meet the Phillips Square-Driv combo screw.
#28
Old 12-21-2009, 06:43 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CookingWithGas View Post
I looked at the page you linked and from this page, I can't for the life of me can't see the difference between Phillips and Pozidriv. The screwdriver tips look identical and I can't see any difference in the shape of the recess in the screw head. What's the difference?
the difference is that the website is wrong.
#29
Old 12-21-2009, 07:34 AM
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See "One Good Turn" (Witold Rybczynski, ISBN 0-684-86730-3) for more than you ever want to know about the history of the screw.

BTW - the link to Cecil's column doesn't seem to work for me, but let me add that IIRC the Phillips head was adopted for assembly lines specifically because it made it harder for the driver to slip off the screw. Flat heads drive me crazy (no pun intended) when that happens.
#30
Old 12-21-2009, 10:11 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Terry Kennedy;
The worst design seems to be the "universal" one we get stuck with on electrical devices here in the US. It is a combo slotted-Phillips-Robertson one, which strips out equally well with all drivers. Picture here.
Worth noting that the Phillips part of that infernal screw is actually a JIS, as denoted by that little dimple on the side. It's basically a shallow Phillips, and a regular Phillips driver will chew it up.

If you have a JIS driver, or grind off the tip of a regular driver, they're not bad.
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