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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Grace USA Screwdrivers Redux

The post titled "Grace in the USA" has generated the most conversation on the new blog.  Yet, for all the messages, not a single reply on the post itself.  Curious.  It has also been the most edited post.  So, instead of continual tweaking, I decided on a new post to address the issues/questions/nitpicks that have been raised.

First off, Grace USA has been in business for years.  This is not a flash in the pan company.  The full line of woodworking screwdrivers are available from The Best Things.

Some folks took exception to the use of the term 'hollow ground'.  Sure, the term originated from grinding a blade on a circular grinding wheel; in the photo you can see that the tips are not created on a circular wheel grinder.  However, the effect is still the same at the tip:  the Grace USA driver engages much more of the screw surface than the traditional wedge shaped drivers.  Unlike true hollow grinding, the edges are much more crisp, which means sharp.  The steel is actual tool steel and needs to be treated like your other woodworking edge tools.  In my mind these screwdrivers are exactly like my Lie-Nielsen,  or Narex chisels.

The next nitpick seems to be over who made me the authority on screw sizes.  The short (and only) answer is these sizes fit all the tools in my current collection.  My tools, my screwdrivers, my blog, my email address, got a problem with that?  Just kidding about the attitude, it is a legitimate question.  I worked with the President of Grace USA, Dan Morrison, to work out the details of my custom drivers. 

Dan's advice was to use a feeler gauge on all of my screws--a DUH! moment for me if there ever was one.  I ordered three sizes in decimal inches, .045,  .032, and .050.  I used an inexpensive set of feeler gauges to measure all the screws on my planes and saws.  I wrote down all the sizes and then rounded down to three decimal places.  I then verified the rounded down measurements with the feeler gauge in all the screws.  It took me about 90 minutes for this whole affair. 

As stated in the original post, the .050 fits all of my Stanley planes.  The .032 fits all of my old saws with straight (i.e. non split) nuts and the .045 fits my newer 1950's era Disston saws.  I would have ordered split nut drivers but Grace USA currently does not make the screw drivers wide enough.  I should note that The Best Things offers a Grace USA specialty driver for old saws; I did not know about it at the time of my order.
.032 Driver in Saw Nut
One person asked about the practical uses of hollow ground drivers.  If you work with screws in brass or bronze, then you most likely have dealt with steel drivers ruining expensive screws.  The hollow ground tips engage the screws more firmly.  The screw may have the threads ruined from over torquing, but the top will still look nice after the King Kong treatment.  Also, if you have followed Christopher Schwarz for a while then you probably know that he has a thing for 'timing' all of his screws.  Timing is where you have all the slots of the screws line up in the same direction.  Timing is accomplished by repeatedly removing, filing, and replacing the screw; a hollow ground driver is almost required for this type of obsession.  Personally, I plan on building a small boat in the near(ish) future and I will be buying a set of the Grace USA woodworking screwdrivers to aid that effort due to the large number of bronze screws.

To the reader with a height complex, I don't know why the custom screwdrivers ended up so short.  I didn't ask for it, but that is exactly what I wanted.  I suspect the folks at Grace USA had a better idea than me how the screwdrivers would be used in practice.

Finally, if you are the type of 'discerning' shopper who only buys the likes of Elkhead Tools, these screwdrivers are not for you.  These puppies will perform as long as any Elkhead driver, but they won't be entering any exotic wood tool beauty pageants any time soon.

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