Friday, July 24, 2015

July 24, 2015--Friday at the Bristol Diner: Pozidriv

For someone who until recently didn’t know that to remove a screw you need to turn it counterclockwise, what Rona said came as quite a revelation.

Over coffee, Ken and I were talking about screws. Rona and I had been working together on an old table, to cut the legs about four inches shorter so it could serve better as a side table, when we discovered, after chipping away some paint, that the screws the table maker used had square drives.

“I hadn’t ever seen square screw heads,” I said, “until the other day when we were removing a rotted plank from our picnic table.” Ken smiled at me and at my still naive sense of wonder. “I was glad there was a square-shaped screwdriver in the shed.”

“The fellow who built that table of yours must have been among the first to use them. They came out not too long ago since the square slot takes a power drill nicely. The bit doesn’t jump around as much as it does with the traditional slotted drive or the Phillips for that matter.”

“I hadn’t thought about that,” I confessed—in fact until this year I hadn’t thought much about screws or screwdrivers of any type—“I’m used to the old-fashioned ones, those in common use before the advent of power tools.”

“You go back that far, do you,” Ken said, playing with me. I nodded that indeed I do. “I’ll bet then that you never heard of the Pozidriv drive.”

“To tell you the truth, no. Sounds sort of Russian to me. How do you spell it?”

“I’m not that good a speller,” Ken said. “Ask Rona. She’s always doing her New York Times crossword puzzle. I’m sure she’s come across it.”

“Not really,” Rona said. I was surprised that she was even listening in on our chatter. As I said, she has been uncertain about which way to twist a screwdriver when driving or removing screws. “What’s unique about the Pozidriv?” She gave it a full Eastern European pronunciation.

“Best I understand it,” Ken said leaning across the table to ignore me now and give full attention to Rona, “it’s patented by the Phillips Screw Company. And to some of us it looks like a modified Phillips drive. I’m sure you what a Phillips looks like.”

Rona rolled her eyes to indicate that of course she does. “The head has a sort of cross on it so it must be twice as secure as your basic slotted head, which is like half a Phillips.” Ken now was doing the nodding.

“If you look at one closely," he said, "I wish I had one in the toolbox in my truck so I could show it to you—if you looked right down on a Pozidriv you’d see they cut four more little incisions in the head so there are eight all together as opposed to four for the Phillips.”

“I suppose the advantage must be,” Rona suggested, sounding now like quite the expert, “that it handles a power bit even better than a Phillips drive or a square one for that matter.” She was grinning across the table, especially toward me.

“The name, Pozidriv, is thought to be an abbreviation of positive drive,” Ken said, putting on display his expertise. “Its advantage over the Phillips’ drive is its decreased likelihood to cam out, which is a fancy way of saying the tool doesn’t slip out easily. This means you can apply greater torque, which is important when using those newer heavy-duty power tools. Pozidrivs haven’t caught on here that much. They use them more in Europe. But for driving screws into wood decks I’m sure more contractors will be discovering them.”

This was moving pretty fast for me and so I asked Crystal to refill my coffee cup. She had been standing nearby to take this all in, enjoying every minute of Ken’s initiation of Rona into the world of screws.

“I’m learning a lot about tools this year,” Rona wasn’t ready to change the subject. “Especially how having the right one can make all the difference in the world. You know in cooking there’s a gadget for everything—to make lemon zest, to pit cherries, to shave butter, literally hundreds of tools—but Steven and I are quite minimalists when it comes to kitchen gadgets. We like to use our cheese grater to make our lemon zest and on those very, very rare occasions when we need to pit some cherries . . .”

“Which is never,” I said, happy to join in a new subject.

“When that never-time occurs, I’m sure we’ll figure out how to pit our cherries without a special tool.”

“Which costs ten dollars,” I said.

“Even if it costs $2.95, which is probably more like it, who needs it?”

“You know what,” I said, “I’ll bet we could punch out cherry pits using the end of a chopstick. Chopsticks we have.”

Rona rolled her eyes again. “But about carpenter or painting tools—I’ve been doing a lot of painting this summer—I feel quite different. I want my one-inch and my two-inch brushes. I want my bristle brushes and those newer-fangled sponge ones. There’s a specific purpose for each and it’s best not to use a bristle brush when you’re painting between the narrow slats of some of our outdoor furniture. Am I right, Ken?”

He smiled back at her and nodded. Thus encouraged, she continued, “You wind up ruining the brush and the job doesn’t turn out as well as it does if you use one of those sponges.”

Ken turned to wink at me as if proud of his best student. He has been tutoring Rona since last year and was clearly feeling good about her new knowledge and confidence.

“One more painting story,” Rona said. “Since I’ve been doing a lot of painting obviously I’ve needed to open cans of paint quite regularly. Until a few weeks ago I was using a screwdriver for this—the one for slotted and not square or Pozidriv screws. It was working pretty well until Steven showed me this tool we have in the shed designed just for opening paint cans. It’s got a curled end that fits perfectly under the lid and with just the simplest application of pressure it pops it right off. Even when there’s lots of dried paint around the rim.”

“In the old days,” Ken recalled, “they used to give you one of these for free when you bought a can of paint. Now-a-days I’m sure they charge for them. But I agree that it’s a great tool.”

“I’m coming to think that using the right tool for the right job is the way to do a job the right way. Don’t get annoyed with me,” Rona quickly glanced my way, “but the other day when we were working on the picnic table, to get to the screw head he,” meaning me and looking at Ken, “he had to chip away some paint. I saw him using a screwdriver to do that. I can’t believe I even noticed this considering how unmechanical I’ve been all my life, but it didn’t seem right.” I was feeling a bit embarrassed to be thus exposed. “I mean to use a screwdriver that way as a chisel. I assume there’s a tool for that too. But not a screwdriver. The way I’m looking at things these days you need to be fair to your screwdriver.”

I couldn’t believe my ears. My Rona talking about being fair to a screwdriver? What’s next, I wondered.

Ken just kept smiling.

First posted July 20, 2011

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