Create Stubby Screwdrivers for Small Spaces

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This article was originally published in Instructables and was reposted with permission from Brian Tuscher.    

Anyone who works with their hands knows that you can never have too many tools. In that pursuit you inevitably wind up with multiples of certain accessories — two socket sets, three multi-meters, and more crescent wrenches than one person could really use. Most multi-attachment screwdrivers will even give you an assortment of bits — straight blade, Phillips, hex, etc., with doubles of the same size. Over the years I’ve had three screwdrivers (ChannelLock, Kobalt, and Craftsman) that each came with its own collection of bits. I finally had to start a collection cup to hold them all. So what do you do with these extras? Replace lost or broken tips? Throw them in the spares drawer? How about making another set of tools to round out your collection?

Stubby or low-profile screwdrivers help for the really tight spaces. Low clearance, cramped quarters, you name it. But why buy them? You can easily make a set that’ll allow you get to all the tight spaces with just the right driver bit. And in the process you’ll have a nice set of durable screwdrivers to round out  your ever-growing collection. Drop them, step on them, lose them, and find them again in 20 years. If you choose the right materials, these drivers will outlast you. 

This is actually a quick and easy project. I was feeling spontaneous when I made mine and it only took about 20 minutes to make four. That’s including interruptions. You could easily make a set of eight to12 in an hour.

Step 1: Material Matters

As this is a set you’ll wind up using for years to come, go wild with the design. I used materials I had on hand. A simple dowel rod provided a cheap and easy-to-finish handle. I think it gives the screwdrivers a nice rustic or antique look. But you can use whatever you have on hand. Wood, metal, plastic, dice (I’d like to see that), bottle caps, nuts, stones or 3-D printed anything; just use whatever suits your fancy. These instructions will show you how to make the wood handles that I made. 

Materials List

Screwdriver bits (various sizes and types)
1 inch dowel rod
Paint or wood stain (optional)

Tools List

Sandpaper (various grits)
1/4 inch drill bit and drill
Small socket
Vice (optional)
Drill press
Belt sander
Band saw

Remember to use eye protection. It’s going to take a long time for science to replace the Mk.1 eyeball. Be safe and have fun.

Step 2: Handle With Care

Take the dowel rod and start marking out 1-inch increments on it. Cut it at these lines until you have enough handle blanks for the bits you’re giving homes. If you are using a hacksaw, clean up the ends with some sandpaper or the belt sander. To make the handles easier to grip and put force on, I sanded the sides into a rough octagonal shape. Give the whole thing a once-over with light-grit sandpaper to smooth out the rough edges. 

Mark the center of the handle on one of the ends. This is where the bit will be installed. For now, set the handles aside. One possible upgrade would be to “dish” out the tail end of the handle. Use a large drill bit and make a shallow depression in the end. This helps you center some pressure on the bit’s tip while installing or removing screws.

Step 3: Bits and Bobs

Most screwdriver bits are machined out of hexagonal bar stock. Measure the length of the hexagonal part of the bit. Mine averaged out to be a half-inch from the base to the beginning of the machined end. This will be the depth of the handle in the hole.

Take your quarter-inch drill bit and mark a half-inch on the end. The quarter-inch size should ensure a tight fit of the bit in the wood handle. You may have to experiment with drill bit sizes depending on the material you chose to use. Install it in the drill.

Step 4: Putting Holes in Things

Secure the handle in a vice and begin drilling. The line on the drill bit will be the “end-stop” of the hole. Once the line is level with the end of the handle, you’ve gone as far as you need. You can play with the depth of the drill to make a higher or lower profile screwdriver.

Step 5: Getting a Handle on Things

Take the newly drilled handles over to the vice. This is where you’ll need the socket. The bit should fit in the end of the socket so only the hexagonal part sticks out. Seat the bit in the socket and press the bit down onto the handle. Give it a few light taps with a hammer. You can drive it all the way with the hammer but the vice is more consistent and is much easier. Place the socket-bit-handle sandwich in the vice and screw it down. Once the socket contacts the handle, stop tightening. Pushing the bit into the wood will provide a very tight fit without the need for glue. Pull it out of the vice and revel in your work. Complete the other bits in your collection and get to work in those tight places. 

Step 6: Parting Thoughts

The last step is to put a finish on the handles. I’m going to leave the wood on mine unfinished as
they will likely get oiled down plenty while I use them. If you chose wood for your screwdrivers, you might consider a nice wood stain or some paint. 

 You can see more photographs of this project on the original Instructables post. If you liked this project, check out my blog on Tumblr.

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