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A magnetic screwdriver is a screwdriver that contains a magnetic steel screwdriver blade or Phillips head and shaft attached to a wooden or plastic handle. The use of the magnetic screwdriver allows the user to place a screw onto the tip of the screwdriver and have it remain attached to the screwdriver while being inserted and installed into fastening position. The screwdriver can also be used to retrieve steel screws from a bin. While it works with steel screws, the screwdriver is unable to pick up aluminum or other metal screws, such as copper, due to the inability of these materials to be magnetized.
Electricians and other mechanics commonly use a magnetic screwdriver when working on hard-to-access areas. By using the special screwdriver, screws are easily removed once unscrewed by simply lifting the screwdriver out of the work space. This is extremely helpful when the screw is located in a location that prevents the worker from placing a hand into the area to retrieve a screw. The same holds true when reinstalling the screw. There are certain conditions when the use of a magnetic screwdriver is not advised, such as when working with sensitive electronic devices, as the magnetic tool may be detrimental to the electronic components.
Some sensitive electronic components can be damaged if exposed to magnetic fields, even those as minor as the magnetic properties possessed by the magnetic screwdriver. Some manufacturing plants that have assembly line stations that involve the driving of screws utilize power magnetic screwdriver in either an electric or air-powered version. The use of this special magnetic tool allows the worker to place and tighten screws much faster than a conventional screwdriver would allow. The worker need only dip the screwdriver into a bin of screws and the magnetic tip will attach to a screw, which can be properly positioned on the screwdriver and driven home in the workpiece.
This technique saves valuable time as compared to reaching into a screw bin with a hand, locating a screw and placing it onto the screwdriver bit. Many mechanics prefer to use the magnetic tool when working on or near to open automobile engine components, such as carburetors. Allowing a single small screw to drop into an engine can often necessitate the complete tear down of the engine to remove the screw. When working on a carburetor, many mechanics will forgo the removal of the component from the engine and rely instead on the protective properties of the magnetic tool to prevent the small screws from dropping into the engine.
As the author points out, these things are invaluable when it comes to dealing with screws in hard to reach places. Not only will the magnetic screwdriver allow you to position a screw, it can help prevent the screw from being dropped and lost.
One thing that's a bit confusing is when to use these when dealing with electronic components and when not to do that. Haven't electronics gotten more resistant to the effects of magnetic fields these days? I've used magnetic screwdrivers often to pull apart and repair cell phones and laptop computers and haven't yet had a problem. That's a good thing because tiny screws used inside small electronic devices are easy to lose and having a magnetic screwdriver is sometimes essential.
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