Why don’t all screws have the same head? That’s a good question. At some level, it would make sense for all screw heads to be uniform. Just like we all drive on one side of the road, shouldn’t we all use the same screw head type? Let’s find out.
There are many reasons that all screws do not have the same head. Some of the reasons for different types of screw heads include security, different manufacturers, different tasks, different sizes, aesthetics, and strength of the bit.
Below, we’ll go into more detail about why all screws don’t have the same head. As you’ll see, though it can be frustrating to constantly change drill bits, there are good reasons for these differences.
Why are There So Many Different Screw Heads?
Now we’ll look at a list of reasons why there are so many different types of screw heads. You may be surprised to find that there are some good reasons for the many different types of drill bits and screw heads.
Reasons for so many different types of screw heads:
- Different manufacturers
- Historical Uses
- Different strengths and torque pressures
- Various tasks
- Security purposes
- Different sized screws
Now, let’s look at these things in more depth.
Different Screw Heads Due to Different Manufacturers
It only makes sense that different manufacturers and different companies would make different types of screws. From a marketing perspective, a different type of screw can help create interest, and it gives the company something to sell – as they can tell people that their screws are “new” and “better.”
However, it also ensures that some customers stay with them. If a company sells a kit to make a play set, then it only makes sense that they would also sell their “special” screws to go with the play set. In short, having a unique type of screw gives the company a chance to retain more customers and potentially make more money.
To some people, this seems a little bit unjust, but it’s probably one of the smaller reasons for all the different types of screws. The next few reasons for so many types of screws are much more natural.
Historical Screw Heads and Their Uses
The fact is that, one hundred years ago, things like cars, houses, and drills were not as nice as they are today – and the same goes for screws. However, it can take time to phase out something that’s outdated.
Let’s use the flathead (slotted) screw as an example. This would have been a very simple screw to make, and it also requires a very simple screwdriver bit. For this reason, it’s easy to see why this screw head would have been popular a long time ago.
However, as we’ve developed, we’ve found ways to make better screws, but that doesn’t mean that those old screws disappear and that everyone just makes a transition. Unfortunately, the evolution of screw heads takes more time.
In the future, we could certainly see fewer types of screws – but we will likely never have a single type of screw head because there are practical reasons to have so many different types of screws. Let’s talk about them.
Strength and Torque of Different Types of Screw Heads
As you might know, it can be easy to accidentally strip a screw. It can also be easy to accidentally strip the drill bit or to strip the material that the screw is drilling into. When this stripping happens, it can ruin the project.
What do different drill bits have to do with this? Well, some drill bits can take more torque than others, while other bits are more likely to strip.
In some cases, it’s much better for the head of the screw to strip, as opposed to destroying the entire project. In these cases, all you need to do is remove the screw and replace it, instead of repairing the entire project.
A bit like the flathead (also known as a slotted bit) is much harder to drill at high torque, as opposed to say a Roberts Bit (square-shaped). For this reason, someone might use a flathead when drilling into softer materials. The screw head makes it harder to drill, but it also makes it less likely that you will ruin to project by over-drilling or stripping the threads.
In a way, the different screw heads provide protection from inadvertent overtightening.
Let’s talk about another reason for different types of screw heads.
Some Screw Heads are More Versatile
Some screw heads, though they can be annoying for certain tasks, are more versatile, so they will be used when rapid repairs might be needed.
For example, a flathead screw (one of the more disliked screw heads) can be twisted by many different objects – it doesn’t require a special drill bit. You can twist some flathead screws with a coin, a knife, or even your fingernail.
This serves a purpose. For example, many firearms use flathead screws. This way, police or soldiers can quickly repair their firearms if needed – and they don’t need to worry about having a special tool. They can use their knife if needed.
However, while some screw heads are purposefully simple and versatile, so they can be easily removed by many bits, others screw heads are purposefully more complex. Let’s talk about this.
Some Screw Heads are Purposefully Complex for Security Purposes
While some screws are purposefully made simple so they can be easily accessed by many types of screwdrivers, there are some types of screws that are purposefully made more complicated.
Why are some screws so complex? They are complex so that they are difficult to unscrew, unless the person has access to a special tool or proprietary drill bit. Now your next question may be this: why would anyone want to make a screw difficult to unscrew? Well, there are a lot of reasons, actually.
First, think about general security purposes, such as a wooden fence. You may not be worried about someone unscrewing your fence and taking it in the night, but there are different parts of the world where this is a legitimate concern – in some areas, construction supplies are hard to find, making a fence easy to take and sell.
In these cases, simple nails or common screws are much easier to remove. However, if an uncommon screw head is used, it makes it much more difficult for someone to effectively remove and steal the boards. Certainly, fence thieves aren’t a common problem, but they are a concern for some people, and special screws can act as a deterrent.
Second, some companies choose to use proprietary screws when they manufacture something. Why? Well, they want the item to be serviceable and repairable, but they don’t want anyone else getting into the item they made. Whether this is because they don’t want the item ruined, or they just want to keep the money in-house depends on the company. But it happens.
Let’s talk about another reason for so many types of screws.
Some Small Screws Require Different Bits
Certain types of screw heads work better for certain types of bits. For example, very small screws, such as those you find in your glasses or on electronic devices, don’t require a high amount of torque. In these cases, a screw head like flathead or Philips works just fine.
However, for larger, more robust screws that will undergo higher torque, screw heads like star bits and square bits make more sense. Now let’s talk about one more reason why all screw heads aren’t the same.
Some People Like the Look of Different Screws
In woodworking and home projects, there are often attempts to hide the screw heads. However, this isn’t always possible, or the screws are purposefully left open for easy access. In these cases, the head of the screw becomes part of the “look.” And, as with any style, some people will like the look of different screw heads.
For this reason, some screws are considered more decorative than others. This is evident in their color, as some screws are brass, black, or copper color. But it’s also true for the shape of the bit itself. Some people will like the look of star-shaped screws or flathead – it’s all a matter of personal preference.
Now, let’s go over our final take.
Last thoughts: Why All Screws Aren’t the Same
It can certainly be frustrating to constantly change bits during a project. It can also be frustrating to have to constantly buy different types of screws or to accidentally strip a screw because we used the wrong bit.
While it is frustrating, there are reasons for so many types of screw heads – some good, some bad. For example, some manufacturers choose to make their own screw heads. Other times, the type of screw head is related to the torque it should be able to withstand.
There are also times when someone will use a weird screw for security purposes. And finally, some people just like the look of different types of screws. If you’re frustrated with all the different types of screws, you can work to standardize your own home, or at least keep some different types of screwdrivers and drill bits organized and ready to go.