How to Use a Flat Head Screwdriver

A flat head screwdriver is a versatile tool that every homeowner should have in their toolkit. Learning how to properly use a flat head screwdriver will allow you to complete a variety of household tasks and repairs. This comprehensive guide will teach you everything you need to know about selecting, holding, and utilizing this essential tool.

Choosing the Right Flat Head Screwdriver

When selecting a flat head screwdriver, there are a few key factors to consider:

Blade Size

Flat head screwdrivers come in a range of blade sizes, typically ranging from 1/8-inch to 1/4-inch. Choose a blade size that appropriately fits the size of the screw head you’ll be working with. Using a blade that is too small could result in stripping the screw head, while a blade that is too large may not properly fit in the screw head.

Blade Tip Shape

The shape of the blade tip impacts how the screwdriver engages with the screw. A standard flat tip is suitable for most applications, while a specialty shape like Philips can fit recessed screw heads. Choose the blade tip shape needed for the screws you’ll be working with.

Blade Material

Steel is the most common and durable material for flat head screwdriver blades. Chrome vanadium or chrome molybdenum steel offers strength and longevity. Avoid cheaper blades made of soft metals like aluminum which can bend or distort.

Handle Material

Screwdriver handles are commonly made of plastic, wood, or rubber. Plastic handles are inexpensive but may not provide the best grip. Wood handles offer classic style but can be prone to cracking. Rubber handles provide excellent grip and shock absorption.

Handle Size/Shape

A larger handle with ergonomic shaping will provide better torque, comfort, and control when driving screws. Choose a handle size and shape that feels comfortable and allows you to accurately apply force.

By selecting the right size, tip shape, and materials for your needs, you’ll have a flat head screwdriver that performs well and lasts.

Proper Hand Positioning and Grip

Holding the flat head screwdriver correctly will give you better control and leverage when driving or removing screws. Here are some tips for proper hand positioning:

  • Grip the handle near the base, leaving several inches of handle protruding from your fist. This provides increased torque.
  • Place your index finger on the neck of the screwdriver, right where the blade meets the handle. This gives precision and accuracy.
  • Keep your wrist straight and elbow close to your body. Avoid bending or twisting.
  • Use your arm, wrist, and fingers to guide the screwdriver, not just the wrist alone.
  • Grip the handle firmly but not too tightly. Overtightening can cause hand fatigue.
  • Use your non-dominant hand to brace against the surface you are working on when needed. This provides stability.

Proper hand positioning allows you to apply vertical downward force and rotational force in a controlled manner for optimal screw driving.

Driving Screws

When driving screws using a flat head screwdriver, follow these steps:

1. Align the Blade Tip

Fit the flat blade tip into the screw head, ensuring it is centered and fully engaged. Applying force with the blade at an angle risks damaging the screw head or blade tip.

2. Apply Downward Pressure

Once aligned, apply firm downward pressure on the screwdriver handle. This will help keep the blade engaged as you begin rotating.

3. Rotate Clockwise

Rotate the screwdriver handle clockwise while continuing to push down. Make smooth, controlled rotations.

4. Increase Torque as Needed

If resistance increases as the screw tightens down, bear down harder on the handle and tighten your grip to apply more rotational force.

5. Stop When Seated

Check screw/surface frequently as you drive it in. Stop applying force when the head is flush or just below the surface.

Driving with care and control will allow you to efficiently seat screws while avoiding damage or stripping.

Removing Screws

To remove an inserted screw using a flat head screwdriver, follow these steps:

1. Align the Blade Tip

Fit the blade tip into the screw head just like when driving in. Take care to center it properly.

2. Apply Downward Pressure

Press down firmly to ensure the blade is fully engaged before attempting to rotate.

3. Rotate Counterclockwise

Keeping downward pressure, rotate the screwdriver handle slowly counterclockwise.

4. Increase Torque if Needed

For stubborn screws, bear down on the handle and grip firmly to safely apply more torque.

5. Pull the Screw Out

Once fully loosened, pull the screwdriver up and out, along with the freed screw.

Patience and care when backing screws out will prevent damage.

Advanced Flat Head Screwdriving Techniques

With practice, you can master some additional screwdriving methods to expand your capabilities:

Single-Handed Use

Learn to grip and control the screwdriver in one hand. Brace your workpiece with the opposite hand. Useful when working in tight spaces.

Power Screwdriving

Use a cordless drill or screwdriver with flat head attachment. Provides easier driving/removal for long or stuck screws.

Multi-Screw Projects

For tasks like removing a door, carefully sequence which screws to drive/remove first to avoid the workpiece unexpectedly shifting.

Overcoming Stuck Screws

Options for stubborn screws include lubricating with WD-40, using an impact driver, or slotting the head with a rotary tool to use a standard driver.

Angled Screwdriving

Special angled screwdrivers allow you to drive screws in hard to reach areas. Helpful for computer and automotive repair.

Practice these techniques to expand your screwdriving horizons.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

Learning to prevent and fix some typical flat head screwdriver issues will make your jobs go smoothly:

Stripped Screw Heads

Apply firm downward pressure when driving and avoid using too small of a blade size to prevent stripped/rounded out screw heads.

Damaged Screwdriver Tips

Prevent blade damage by not prying with the screwdriver tip and avoiding contact with hard surfaces. Replace damaged blades promptly.

Insufficient Grip

Improve grip by wearing gloves, firmly holding the base of handle, or pushing against workpiece for leverage when driving in screws.

Lost Screws

Prevent screws from falling and getting lost by starting them by hand before finishing tightening with the screwdriver. Use a tray to contain loose screws.

Incorrect Size/Type

Having the right size flat blade tip that fits properly in the screw head prevents slipping, stripped screws, and frustration.

Troubleshooting screw and screwdriver issues will make your jobs easier and improve results.

Safety Tips

Follow these important safety practices when using your flat head screwdriver:

  • Wear eye protection in case particles or screws go flying.
  • Ensure you have stable footing and balance when exerting force.
  • Point blade away from yourself and others when not in use.
  • Ensure there are no nearby electric wires that the metal blade could contact.
  • Tighten any loose screwdriver handles to prevent injury.
  • Keep the blade sharpened for easier use and to avoid hand fatigue.
  • Replace damaged handles or split wood handles which could break mid-use.

Making safety a priority will help you avoid injury when screwdriving.

FAQs About Flat Head Screwdrivers

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about using flat head screwdrivers:

How do I choose the right size flat head screwdriver?

Match the size of the blade tip to the screw head it will be driving. A properly fitting blade should seat completely flush within the screw head borders.

Can I use a flat head screwdriver on Phillips screws?

You can in a pinch, but it risks damaging the Phillips screw head and slipping. Use a properly fitting Phillips screwdriver when possible.

What materials should I look for in a quality flat head screwdriver?

Try to select screwdrivers with hardened chrome vanadium or chrome molybdenum steel blades. Durable contoured plastic, rubber, or wood handles provide a solid grip.

My flat head screwdriver keeps slipping out of the screw head, what should I do?

Ensure you are applying ample downward pressure when driving. Consider a larger handle for more torque. Lubricate stubborn screws with penetrating oil.

Do flat head and standard screwdriver mean the same thing?

Yes, a flat head screwdriver with a flat blade tip is synonymous with a standard screwdriver. The two terms refer to the same tool and are interchangeable.

How can I get more leverage when using my flat head screwdriver?

Try bracing the handle hand against a sturdy surface for resistance. Hold near the base of the handle for increased torque. Use the palm of your non-dominant hand on the butt of the handle.

Having the right techniques and knowledge about how to select and wield a flat head screwdriver will make household repairs and projects far easier. With practice, you can master driving and removing screws in an array of situations. Just remember to use care, control, and proper hand positioning. Sharpen your skills with this versatile tool and you’ll be able to take on a wide range of jobs requiring flat head screwdrivers.


The flat head screwdriver is a tool that every DIYer should know how to use effectively. With the right blade type and size, proper hand positioning, and techniques for driving and removing screws, you can take on a variety of projects requiring this versatile tool. Mastering control and torque application along with troubleshooting common issues will have you screwdriving like a pro. Follow the tips in this guide on selection, grip, driving, removal, safety, and technique to get the most out of your flat head screwdriver. With practice, you’ll find this simple tool provides exceptional utility around the home for repairs, building projects, and everyday tasks.