Elkhead Tools Screwdrivers

Article - July 19, 2010

If you guys are tool lovers like me, you have probably made the observation that there are several distinct levels of tool quality. Off the top of my head, here’s how I would categorize things: homeowner, serious DIY’er, contractor/pro, and premium. In the world of hand tools though, there’s another level that you might not be aware of. And that’s what I call “super premium’. Brands like Bridge City Tool Works where you can pick up the CT-17 Block Plane for $859, or Sauer & Steiner where you can drop over $2000 on a coffin smoother. Top of the line doesn’t begin to describe these little gems. But boy they sure are expensive! So let’s leave the topic of diminishing returns for another day. All I’m trying to do here is set the mood for a quick introduction to what I consider to be, a super-premium tool.

Recently, I received two Elkhead Tools screwdrivers for review. When I opened the box, I swear I thought I saw an angel emerge, along with the sounds of gleeful children singing and the smell of daffodils in the spring. Oh it was a sight to behold! But my tool-lover’s bliss was soon replaced with anxiety and stress as I remembered that I would actually have to write a review on these tools. Here’s the problem: no matter what I say, no matter how awesome this tool is, nothing will change the fact that its “just a screwdriver”. And at $70 each, they don’t come cheap. So you don’t even need to say it…… because I get it. After all, my idea of splurging on screwdrivers was buying a set of three for $38 from Lee Valley (a purchase I don’t regret but I still feel a little guilty about).

So how do I go about reviewing such things? Maybe a side by side with my Lee Valley screwdrivers? Perhaps a pseudo-scientific head to head screw drivin’ throw down with my no-name drivers that came with that thing I bought from Sam’s Club??? Nope. Any elaborate tests or comparisons would feel forced and quite silly. After all, its a screwdriver. The best I can do is make some observations and judge these tools on their own merits. I’ll let you decide if a screwdriver is the kind of tool you want to consider an investment.

The Elkhead screwdrivers are, as you might expect, pure awesomeness. The handles are made from Cocobolo with a wax finish that is flawlessly smooth. The dense cocobolo gives the tool a perfect balance. And when I say perfect, I am not exaggerating! I had fun for a several minutes just balancing the tool with one finger at the thinnest point of the handle. The tools look so good, I was almost afraid to use them.

But use them I did. Since I will most likely reserve these bad boys for hardware installations where a precise fit between the head of the screw and the tip of the driver is crucial, my “tests” were limited to driving a few brass screws into some maple. Probably no surprise that the tip was seated perfectly and it gave me confidence that the screw would not strip out. Will this stop me from using steel screws to “prime” the hole for my hardware installations? Probably not, because I am too paranoid about stripping brass screws. But I do know which screwdriver I will be reaching for when that last critical turn takes place.

I know my readers, and I know what most of you are thinking already. But as people who spend a great deal of time crafting items of beauty, well beyond what their simple functions would require, we have to at least respect the craftsmanship behind super premium tools like the Elkhead screwdrivers. I have to give the folks at Elkhead Tools a huge congratulations for making the most finely-crafted screwdriver ever to be grasped by these grubby mitts! And I can’t wait to see what other tools they might develop as the company expands its line.

I see on their website that they will have a booth at the Woodworking in America conference so be sure to stop by if you are attending the show.