What Is a Slotted Screwdriver?

Anna B. Smith

A slotted screwdriver is a tool used to apply torque to screws using a flat tip. Torque is the pressure applied when a device is turned clockwise or counterclockwise into place. This type of tool is designed to fit into slotted screw heads, which feature a single diveted flat impression on top of the screw. The device may be powered manually or by a motor.

A slotted screwdriver may be used to apply torque to screws using a flat tip.
A slotted screwdriver may be used to apply torque to screws using a flat tip.

The slotted screw design is often used in woodworking and fine jewelry making. The work that occurs in these types of industries is usually performed by hand, allowing the slotted screw to be easily tightened or removed. Other manufacturing industries tend to favor the Phillips head and the Torx® head, among others, both of which perform better when tightened with a power tool. Motorized drills tend to slip easily from slotted screw heads, potentially causing damage to the surrounding surfaces.

A slotted screwdriver may be used for fine jewelry making.
A slotted screwdriver may be used for fine jewelry making.

There are two types of slotted screwdriver primarily in use: keystone and cabinet. Keystone screwdrivers have slightly widened blades that narrow towards the flattened end of the driver. Cabinet drivers possess straight edges that form right angles with the blade edge. This type of screwdriver is often used for smaller screw work, like that which can occur in jewelry and watch making.

A slotted screwdriver may be used in woodworking.
A slotted screwdriver may be used in woodworking.

The slotted screwdriver may be operated manually or by an electric motor. Manual drivers feature a long, cylindrical handle, generally made of plastic, that fits into the palm of the hand. Motorized drivers are typically powered using a rechargeable onboard battery, or by means of an electrical cord that plugs into a socket. The head of this type of drill is typically interchangeable so that multiple driver ends or drilling bits may be used. Most drills are sold with a slotted and a Phillips head, and users may purchase additional bits depending on their personal needs.

Some versions of the slotted screwdriver are designed to perform additional tasks as well. The tester screwdriver, which is shaped identically to the slotted model, can be used to check for an electrical current through exposed wires. The flat headed tip of the driver can be placed against an exposed wire or piece of metal used to secure the wire. When current is running through the circuitry, a light flashes in the handle of the driver, alerting the user that the area is hot. Some tester screwdrivers can also be programmed to indicate whether the current is hot or used for grounding.

A slotted screwdriver may be utilized in watch making.
A slotted screwdriver may be utilized in watch making.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


@jcraig - Getting a new set of tools for someone is almost always appreciated, especially if they really need them. As far as whether to get individual screwdrivers or an interchangeable bit set, I guess it really just depends on the person's preferences. I typically like having the various bits that I can just carry around with the screwdriver, but then you run the risk of losing them over time, which is inevitable.

Usually, the best screwdrivers are made from hardened steel. Some screwdriver bits that are made from inferior materials will start to get shavings and be stripped after using them a few times. I have even used cheap slotted screwdrivers where I ended up bending the tip just trying to get a stuck screw.

For your final question, it's always best to use a Phillips driver for a Phillips head. If you look closely, the ends of a Phillips screw are slightly sloped, so a slotted screwdriver won't get a good grip.


I am looking to buy my son a new screwdriver set sometime in the near future, but I am not really sure what I should be looking for. He just bought a new house and has been doing a lot of DIY type things, but I heard him complain recently that he didn't always have the right type of screwdrivers that he needed for certain jobs. Preferably, I would like to get a variety of slotted screwdriver bits and maybe a phillips screwdriver or two.

I know they make sets with several different sizes, but I wouldn't even know what to look for. Is there any certain material that makes for the best bits, or any standard sizes I should try to find? Also, do you guys think it is better to have the individual screwdrivers or just have a screwdriver with interchangeable bits.

Finally, I have heard that you can use a slotted screwdriver instead of a Phillips in most cases. Is this true?


@Izzy78 - I think you're right on why the screwdriver doesn't always fit the screw the way you might want it to, but I don't know how to tell just by sight what the best screwdriver would be for a certain screw. If I'm going to be screwing something in, I usually just take the screw and test it against a couple of screwdrivers to see which one fits best.

I think for the most part, what you should be looking for is a head that is narrow enough to touch the bottom of the slot, but wide enough to almost touch the sides. It usually helps the torque if you can make sure the screwdriver head is about as wide as the screw, as well. I've had times where I was forced to use a screwdriver whose tip wasn't nearly as long as the screw head, and it made the job a lot tougher than it should have been.


I never knew that flat head screws were meant more for manual screwdrivers than power screwdrivers. I guess that would make sense why most electronics things have Phillips head screws in them. I guess I'll have to keep that in mind if I'm ever out buying screws sometime.

The thing I can never figure out is what makes a slotted tip screwdriver fit into the screw head well? Sometimes when I am putting in a screw, the screwdriver will sit really well into the screw, but sometimes it likes to slip out. I've never quite been able to figure out why.

I know the actual size of the screwdriver tip can make a difference, but is there any way to tell just by sight what size of screwdriver will be best for the job?

Post your comments
Forgot password?