back to article Thirteen Astonishing True Facts You Never Knew About SCREWS

1: These Are Screws Screws Yup. 2: These Are Not Nuts and bolts How can you tell? They have big nuts but no prick!!! LOL!!! 3: Screws Are Traditionally Driven Like This... A screwdriver driving a screw 4: ...Except In Birmingham!!! A hammer and bent screw Classic Brummie builder joke! Excellent!! 5: Did …


  1. earl grey Silver badge

    7,416 Distinct Screw Species

    Pictures, or it never happened.

    1. Nigel 11

      Re: 7,416 Distinct Screw Species

      Not a huge exaggeration ... maybe not exaggerated at all.

      Typically ten lengths in five guages. Times two (imperial, metric). Times four commonly available patterns (slot, philips, pozi, at least one of many others). Times two head styles (countersunk, raised). Times three common materials (mild steel, brass, zinc-plated).

      That's 2400 permutations. I'm sure some of the permutations are unobtainable, but I've also left out a lot of variants (stainless steel, green organic, black lacquer ... huge ones and minuscule ones .... tri-wing and many other obscure drive patterns ... single and double helix ... with or without a cutting or ripping flat on the sharp end ....) Then there are the many families of self-tappers for use on metal sheeting ....

      I could cheat, by including all the evolutionary culls ... I've found occasional headless screws, slotless screws, threadless screws, banana-shaped screws, pointless screws, you name it, in boxes of usable ones. And of course there are what we might call Apple specials ... if you buy by the million, they'll make them the exact length and guage you specify, slightly lighter and slightly cheaper than a million standard-size ones.

      BTW did you see the size of the woodscrews that they were assembling Canary Wharf Crossrail station with, on the TV last night? Something like 60cm by 40mm. (is that 24x80 guage in imperial? )

  2. Gene Cash Silver badge

    Carroll Smith's Nuts, Bolts, Fasteners and Plumbing Handbook

    AKA "screw to win!" as it's for race cars. Includes lots of "you wouldn't believe in my day" stories. And lots of gorgeous porn of unobtanium aerospace fasteners and hoses.

  3. Bloakey1
    1. Lotaresco Silver badge

      Hello bloakey

      Still trying to contact you, and this is the only place I can find you posting. The misc crowd meet on facebook.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Birmingham screwdriver...

    You may jest, however back in the 80's when I started at a well known luxury car manufacturer in Coventry, I was issued with a 10mm socket, a 3/8" brace and a hammer. If it didn't fit, hammer it home.

    Few years later on I was fitting fuel tanks in the wheel arches of said luxury vehicle, however on the left side I had to belt the crap out of a seam to make the tank fit. reason? the Mk3's body was 5mm shorter on the nearside than the offside!!

    1. Cpt Blue Bear

      Re: Birmingham screwdriver...

      Ah English manufacturing at its finest! We found a similar issue when replacing the rotted out fenders on an MGB. The new manufactured replacement panel was fully 3/4" longer than the one that came off. When queried, the manufacturer said this was normal to allow for variations in the originals and we should just cut it down to fit. Our gap was "a bit bigger than usual but by no means extreme".

      I heard a lovely story about those fender mounted fuel tanks from a bloke who ran a car radio and electrics workshop back when carphones were the in thing for smart executives. A bloke brings in one of these anonymous Coventry build luxury cars to have one fitted. The installer has never done one in these before so he looks around for a good spot to mount the box-o-tricks. On the wheelarch behind the back seat looks like a good spot. Cue drilling followed by wondering why he can smell petrol...

    2. Lotaresco Silver badge

      Re: Birmingham screwdriver...

      My summer job (1970s) was making the stuffing for the seats on those vehicles. Although notionally the material used was flameproof cotton, the actual stuff used contained a high proportion of what fell on the factory floor. So a good quantity of broken wooden pallet plus the unusual "gifts" that were put into cotton bales in Hong Kong and other warehouses around the world. I saw such things as the South China Morning Post, gloves, chopsticks and even a full meal in takeaway containers going down the conveyer belts to be packed for sending to the seat manufacturer. British industry at its finest.

  5. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge

    Black hole

    Picture this, a spacious newly built double garage with a superbly smooth screeded floor. There are two steps up into the house and the garage is totally empty. In theory any item dropped would be easily found in seconds. But wait, there is one brick missing where some pipes go under the house.

    From the top of the step ladder I watch as the screw I drop hits the bottom step, goes horizontal and vanishes forever through the only possible exit.

    I think that light fitting still only has one screw holding it up :(

  6. Anthony Hegedus Silver badge


    I do computer repairs and servicing, and my business partner and I visit customers' premises a lot. Screwdrivers are consumables to us, like toner, ink, pens, whatever. No matter how many we buy, I never have one in my van when I need one, or the workshop. They just seem to go missing. So every time we order a Draytek router for a customer, we order a half dozen of their promotional screwdrivers. They come with two flat blade sizes and two pozis and they're only a quid each.

    Perhaps they're related to biroid life forms....

    1. Robert E A Harvey

      Re: consumables

      I did a study once (to teach a mathematical technique to apprentices) on the half-life of teaspoons. A remarkably consistent 3.5 months in most offices.

      I suspect a similar study could be done on screwdrivers.

  7. JaitcH

    When I worked for a Canadian company ...

    we had to ship some products to military stores wrapped up in waterproof covers and sealed in wooden crates which were built to an unnecessarily high specification.

    By way of venting our frustration in complying with the crating requirements we used square-socketed Robertson screws (Picture 9, centre top row) that frustrated the hell out of the recipients.

    Moral of the story: Specify EVERYTHING!

  8. Anonymous Coward

    Point of Order

    The second picture does in fact depict a screw, more correctly a "set screw".

    Bolts have a threadless stem.

    1. Lotaresco Silver badge

      Re: Point of Order

      That has been causing me severe emotional distress. The difference between a bolt and a screw was beaten into me by an irate factory fitter back in the days when physical violence was considered a reasonable part of an education in practical engineering.

  9. Herby Silver badge

    Screws Vs. Bolts

    Look it is easy. Screws are used with screwdrivers, bolts with wrenches.

    No more arguing.

    Me? I keep a nice adjustment screwdriver (with a magnet on its antipode) at the ready in my shirt pocket (it has a nice clip). Of course it is in reality a "multi-tool" used for all sorts of things (broaching shipping tape is but one).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Screws Vs. Bolts

      > bolts with wrenches.

      Or spanners.

      After all, this is a UK site. :D

      1. Stevie Silver badge

        Re: Spanners Vs. Wrenches

        Oh, there are a lot more confusing differences waiting in the spanner drawer of the toolbox for the unwary ex-pat doing the in-driveway-engineering thing than that obvious and well-known one.

        Upside: awesome tools that often would be banned in the EU, like gasoline-powered chainsaws mounted on 10-foot poles and portable hydraulic pincers only the fire brigade is allowed to have elsewhere.

        Land of the Red Man. Land of the Free. Land of Husqvarna and Tecumseh. Praise the lord and pass the two-stroke oil.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Spanners Vs. Wrenches

          Awww yeah.

          As an ex-pat Brit living in Canada, it seems to me that everything mechanical here has to have a 2-stroke attached for extra noise. Other than the obvious that the country is big and there isn't often somewhere to plug anything electrical in, it seems to me that there is an addiction to noise here that is built into the psyche of the place, perhaps a US influence.

          Oh and what is it about Harley Davidson bikes anyway? Why do some people feel that sitting on a mechanical fart machine is cool?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Spanners Vs. Wrenches

            Harley-Davidsons are so heavy that they don't get blown off the road by semis. US driving is war by other means, hence the constant vehicular size arms race.

            The Harley is the only bike I have ever encountered where it is necessary to replace the factory pushrods with uprated ones just to get the thing to rev a bit, because the factory ones bend at medium speed (no risk of getting to high speed). But the average Harley in the US never goes over 55, because at that point everything starts to vibrate loose.

          2. Stevie Silver badge

            Re: mechanical here has to have a 2-stroke attached for extra noise

            skelband, may I recommend you seriously consider purchasing a large (7500 KW peak load or better) "worksite" generator and mount it in the flatbed of your King Cab pickup truck (having family in Alberta I know that all Real Canadians have a King Cab truck)?

            That way if you need to use a namby-pamby electric tool you can fire up the earsplitting generator and experience the thrill of go-anywhere electricity AND the proper amount of decibels for the job at hand.

            My generator sounds like a badly maintained ice-cream truck has parked in my garden, and during the aftermath of hurricanes and other weather annoyances gives me the double joy of internet and lights AND neighbor annoyance in one earsplitting package.

        2. Mr_Pitiful

          Re: Spanners Vs. Wrenches

          Can El Reg please expose the spanners please?

          Last year i purchased a full set 5mm - 30mm Open & ring ended, now in the box are 5 left, and I haven't had the need to use any. (points accusingly at son)

          Son swears blind he put them back in the box after use, so now i'm left with 5mm, 9mm, 27mm, 28mm & 30mm sizes that i have no idea what they might fit!

          The rest appear to have de-materialised or turned into carpet mats for an Astra!

          1. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

            Re: Re: Spanners Vs. Wrenches

            We'll feed the spanner paradigm into the BuzzGasm Aggregator and see what happens. Can't guarantee to get you your spanners back, however.

          2. Nigel 11

            Re: Spanners Vs. Wrenches

            Wrenches and spanners .. another biroid life-form.

            I once dropped one into the sump-shield of my car. Could see it but could not reach it with any tool. So I thought, get up to 10 mph or so and slam the brakes on, it'll shoot out by inertia ...

            Which it did. Hit the road, bounced sideways, straight down the drain that materialized out of nowhere. Sigh.

          3. Stevie Silver badge

            Re: Son swears blind he put them back in the box

            The 10 mm one is still jammed on an inlet manifold bolt of his car. The 12 mm one is dangling from one of the battery terminals where it will eventually cause a short and arc-weld itself across the terminals. It will then be interesting to see whether the battery electrolyte will boil away *before* the battery explodes violently or whether the heat of this process sets the various plastic parts and rubber hoses on fire.

            The rest of the "complete set" are scattered over the roadways of your home town as they were inadvertently left on various cross members and handy ledges in the engine compartment after the last job.

            Kids. Love them, feed them, educate them, but never ever ever lend them your tools.

          4. Kiwi Silver badge

            Re: Spanners Vs. Wrenches @Mr_Pitiful

            The rest appear to have de-materialised or turned into carpet mats for an Astra!

            It's simple. They, like socks, are the larval form of wire coathangers. That's why houses like mine are full of wire coathangers even though I never brought them into the house and there were none there when I moved in, whereas my tools and socks go missing despite careful management of them.

        3. Chris G Silver badge

          Re: Spanners Vs. Wrenches

          Husqvarna is Swedish and a chainsaw on a stick has been an essential item in Southern part of Europe for years, used to trim palm trees!

          To an old Brit like me any of

          the above would be a wrench but something with open fixed jaws at either end or a combination of jaw and ring or rings at each end wold be a spanner. An 'L' shaped hexagonal bar would be an Allen Key not a hexy wrench etc.

          A monkey wrench is what you get when one of the so called Barbary Apes (really a type of Macaque monkey) on Gib steal your bloody camera and chuck it off the Rock!

  10. Acme Fixer

    Bunch of Quacks!

    Ducks have a penis like a screw, nearly as long as its body. It's TRUE!

  11. Ralph Online

    Q: How do you know whether you should use a screw or a nail?

    A: Simple: use a nail, and if the wood splits then you know you should have used a screw.

  12. CCCP

    Slot screws and flat screw drivers have an evil pact

    It's more subtle than the time travel and teleporting that has been observed above.

    They agree, well in advance of comming into contact, years some time, that as soon as they touch, one, or both, will slightly change dimension or angle of attack, so that the attempt of transferring torque by the user will be rendered useless. So no screwing takes place.

    A self sacrificial part of the pact is that the screw agrees to shed just enough material so that each subsequent attempt of torque-transfer will be increasingly futile.

    At the advent of mechanised screw drivers the rate of material shedding was upped to instant from the screw community. So the first attempt is also the last.

  13. Mark York 3 Silver badge

    Metalwork Teacher

    My old (most likely dead) metalwork teacher at high school famously described a screw as a wedge on a shaft during one class.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Metalwork Teacher

      My maths textbook at school had a practice question in the statistics section. It involved machines producing screws and sampling for quality control. One of the questions was guaranteed to result in an entire class of 14 year olds dissolving into ROFLs for the rest of the period. "What is the chance of getting a good screw?"

  14. itzman

    Pity the reg got it the wrong way round

    A threaded shaft with a part plain shank is a bolt, the screw is fully threaded all the way to the head..

    which makes a nonsense of a woodscrew of course.

  15. TonyK

    This puerile drivel cost me three minutes of my life, FFS! How am I ever going to get them back? I can't believe the Register knowingly publishes such shit. Have you been hacked?

    1. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

      Yawn LOL!!!!

      You're never going to get those minutes back!!!!!!!! Why not cancel your subscription?!?!?!?!?

  16. Useless User

    No. 9

    Vot ees zis Nazi screw doing zere on ze right?

  17. John Chopper

    I'm Filling up Here.....

    I have still got the same red handled philips screwdriver I bought 26 years ago when I first hit the world as a Customer Service Representative, (technician/engineer was a dirty word).

    It works exactly as it did back then, no upgrades, no reboots, no bugs. Nowadays its all green tabs and flimsy clips.

    I'd be gutted if I lost it.

  18. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

    A Flat-Bladed screwdriver works with ANY raised head...

    if you also have a hacksaw.

    1. Robert E A Harvey

      Re: A Flat-Bladed screwdriver works with ANY raised head...

      ...with two blades in it.

  19. Barry Rueger Silver badge

    Robertson Rules!

    Any Canadian boy can tell you for just about any purpose, but especially if you're using some kind of power drill to drive screws home, the Robertson is the one and only choice.

    I still can't imagine why the easily stripped and screwed up Phillips, or the "Whoops damn it slipped out of the slot" regular screw are so popular. Especially in the US of America.

    Then again, a country that so solidly refuses to move into the modern age of screw technology would probably also refuse steadfastly to accept metric measurement....

    On the question of the actual screwdrivers, I once worked for a guy who had a set of insane Swiss made screw drivers. Seventy-Five Dollars Each!

    They NEVER slipped. Ever. And you could use them all day with no hand fatigue.

    (Mine's the one with the red Robbie in the pocket!)

    1. Nuke

      Barry Rueger - Re: Robertson Rules!

      Wrote :- "I still can't imagine why the easily stripped and screwed up Phillips, or the "Whoops damn it slipped out of the slot" regular screw are so popular."

      Never heard of Robertson. A square socket : looks like it's been around a long time in America but no-where else much. Looks a bit crude and similar in function to an Allen (hexagon).

      I hope you are not lumping Pozidriv in with "Phillips". From Wikipedia :- "The chief disadvantage of Pozidriv screws is that they are visually quite similar to Phillips, thus many people are unaware of the difference" Pozidriv screw heads have as a visual marker of four radial ticks at 45deg to the main slots.

      Pozidrivs are brilliant and Phillips are awful. Phillips screwdrivers are meant to slip out of the screw when "sufficient" torque is reached! They were invented specifically for automated assembly so that the driver would cam out and spin harmlessly when the screw was tight - but in the hand they can of course slip sideways after cam-out, and ruin the adjacent surface (or your other hand), especially as they require a great deal of end force to try to keep the driver in the screw. Even before the point of cam-out, Phillips screws and drivers are made to much lower tolerances than Pozidriv, often being quite sloppy, typified by their use in toys and cheap electronics of Far Eastern design. All leading to a poor and frustrating experience.

      OTOH Pozidrivs will not cam out and are an excellent fit. Assembling stuff in awkward places, like up a ladder where I can use only one hand, I often carry a Pozidriv screw just fitted onto the end of the screwdriver; the driver will hold it that way in a horizontal position, and even downwards with a bit of magnetism or grease.

      1. Michael Thibault

        Re: Barry Rueger - Robertson Rules!


        Never heard of Robertson? It's a 'square socket' done right, before the square made the scene; the Robertson has a Morse taper that allows the driver, holding the screw, to be held vertically, downward-pointing, and to be used one-handed (left or right, according to taste).

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Barry Rueger - Robertson Rules!

        "I still can't imagine why the [...] "Whoops damn it slipped out of the slot" regular screw are so popular."

        Because with a regular screw you can put it back in again afterwards?

    2. Irony Deficient

      Re: Robertson Rules!

      Barry, the reason why Phillips and slotted screws are so popular in the US is ultimately due to Robertson’s refusal to license his patented design to foreign manufacturers. (Phillips was willing to license his design to anyone, and eventually sold his patents to Ford. Slotted screws were unencumbered by IP issues.)

      The US accepted metric measurement in 1866.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Have you guys been hacked?

    Juvenile funny, but WTF?

    That's all.

  21. trog-oz

    Brimingham screwdriver

    My Dad was a Brummie and he always called it a Yankie screwdriver. He owned a couple of Yankie screwdrivers (which I now have) but he always called those pump screwdrivers. One of our favourite pastimes was seeing how many No 8 S/Ts we could get spinning like tops on the bench. I don't think we ever counted them, but I guess we got around 30 going at once. When I show this trick to people they are amazed but most can't do it.

  22. Paul Smith

    Screw vs bolt bs

    The way I was taught, the thread has nothing to do bolt verses nut. Something is a bolt if it is fitted by applying torque to the nut and a screw if torque is applied to the head. So the bolt in picture no.2 is a bolt in most applications, but it would be a screw if it was being screwed into a threaded hole.

    1. Nuke

      Re: Screw vs bolt bs

      Wrote :- "I was taught .. Something is a bolt if it is fitted by applying torque to the nut and a screw if torque is applied to the head."

      It is true that with a nut and bolt the first option is just to do up the nut if possible, but often you need a spanner on both the nut and the bolt head - when your definition breaks down.

      There is some truth in what you say, but in my experience it depends on context. In the store room, a screw is something threaded up to its head and a bolt is only threaded part-way. (Except wood screws). However, once the bolt/screw is in use your definition is partly right - anything with a nut on the other end tends to be called a bolt - if for no better reason than you just cannot tell how far it is threaded once fitted. Like on a ship (I have been a ship's engineer) you might tell a fitter to "take the bolts out of those pipe joint flanges", even if they turn out (though unlikely) to be what the storeman would call screws.

      A fully threaded screw in a tapped hole tends to be called a machine screw, and a set screw is a machine screw in a tapped hole protruding beyond it so that its tip locates something, like engaging in a hole in a shaft (eg securing a wheel hub to the shaft). A set screw may of may not be a grub screw (ie a screw with no head, driven by a socket or slot in its body).

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nut, screws washers and bolts.

  24. kalsolette

    Well that was pointless, like the bolts.

  25. razorfishsl

    They also have screws that are not screws, designed with a reverse thread….


POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019