I thought I'd start a new series here on the blog, despite the fact that there are several other series on the go, to one extent or another. It seems like a worthwhile thing to share my experiences with certain tools I've used past and present, to give some affirmation about my support for certain brands that manifest high quality of design and manufacture. I do this without commercial intent or prearrangement with any of the manufacturers - it's an unsolicited endorsement and nothing more. Depending upon the kind of work you do and the circumstances of that work, some of these product recommendations may or may not be of use to you. Your mileage may vary as they say.
I was first introduced to Wera screwdrivers in 1984. I was working as a bicycle mechanic at Cap's Bicycles in New Westminster. B.C., and a few days after I started work there the store manger took me down to a local tool supply shop to obtain a toolbox and various hand tools. I still have most of those tools to this day, including this Wera flat-bladed screwdriver:
This screwdriver has been to hell and back, but this battle-scarred veteran keeps on ticking:
I've noticed that Lee Valley has started carrying Wera now, so chances are good that many readers will have also had experience with this German tool company. When I bought the aforementioned screwdriver, Wera was made in Germany, however I gather that much of their production now emanates from the Czech Republic. I have some of their newer products and the quality seems the same to me.
Wera touts several refinements and benefits to their products. Screwdrivers are one of those ubiquitous tools that many would probably think of as being fully worked-out designs. Well, Wera has found ways to make improvements here and there, and I find the differences are meaningful.
The lower portion of the handle is faceted to reduce the tendency of the tool to roll about:
The metal with which the shank of the tool is made has been cryogenically treated - which means to cool the metal to below 190˚C (−310 °F) to remove residual stresses in the metal and improve the wear resistance of the steel. Durability and fewer failures due to cracking are added bonuses obtained by that process.
The tips of the tools are laser-etched to improve their grip:
The ends of the handles are marked with the tool's tip shape and size to make for easy identification if racked in a tool box:
All those are nice features, and not inconsequential. A product is the sum of its details after all. When I bought the Wera drivers those many years ago, however, a lot of the features just mentioned had not even been developed. What sold me on Wera was actually the handle.
At the time, most screwdriver handles had a shape like this:
Many screwdrivers in fact still have handles like that, as there are many companies out there who tend to stop development once they have a product to market, especially if sales are adequate.
In the tool store, there was a Wera handle demonstrator, which had a Wera type of handle on one end, and a conventional handle, like the one pictured above, on the other. The idea is that you find another person, and each tries twisting the handle, once from each end. Hands-down, so to speak, the Wera handle shape provide far greater torque, and simply felt good in the hand. It sold me right there as the difference was that obvious. Wera contends that their handle shape also reduces blisters, especially with the newer type, 'Kraftform Plus' which have some softer rubber portions built in.
If you're looking to get started with Wera, you might consider a small starter set:
Check out KC Tool for all kinds of awesome Wera products, along with other fine German hand tools, by Wiha, Hazet, Knipex, and others. For a follow-up post in this series, reviewing Knipex tools, click here.