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Before The Phillips Head — Some Musings On Screw Design Throughout The Ages


Everybody knows the plethora of available screw head types. Phillips head screws started the trend and now one can access Pan head, Pozidrive, Hex head (requiring an Allen key or driver) and so on.

In not too olden days one could get a slotted head screw and that was that! Of, course, they were available in Countersunk head, Cheese head, Round head, Raised head, Domed head, and more recently Pan head. They were available in Steel, Brass, Monel metal, Silver and Gold.

Hands up those who have had difficulty in purchasing straightforward Brass, Slot-head, Countersunk, wood screws! You may be under the impression that your purchase is Brass but you will probably find, on closer inspection, that they are Steel which has been Brass plated. The same will be found of Metal thread screws which may also be plated with Chromium or Nickel, the latter being undeniably useful if you are installing bathroom fittings but little else!

In the world of antiques, modern screws stand out as unacceptable, hence one finds restorers stockpiling miscellaneous old boxes of screws for that special job. Clearly, however, this situation has a limited time span, rather akin to the World’s exhaustible supplies of oil.

I recently had occasion to try to purchase some ¾ inch 7's C/s W/S in Brass to be advised by the specialist screw retailer that such an animal was no longer manufactured, and this is important because these screws happen to be on of my favourite sizes and I have only around two dozen remaining in my personal stockpile.

Sometimes one comes across deceased estate sell offs at markets or craft shows but I can reliably inform readers that No 7’s are seldom amongst the offerings.

Meanwhile, what happened to the good and careful craftsman who ensured that all his screw heads were not only aligned but seated in the work piece to exactly the right depth? No-one ever seems to take such care when driving in a Pozidrive with a power screw driver!

It seems that we are obliged to place our distaste of the Status Quo at the feet of the ‘changing’ world we live in. Nevertheless, I want to continue to use Slot head screws where I may, and so careful am I that no Brass screw is wasted, that even though I have drilled the correct size hole to avoid snapping the screw, I will use an equivalent Steel screw first to ensure that I retain an unblemished finish on my Brass screw head. Naturally, you have considered that the screw size selected matches the work it has to do and doesn’t look too big or too small.

The pride in the finished article is adequate reward for the careful work even though I may be the only person to ever admire it, though it need not be lost on the discerning of future times!

A screw loose!

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