Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Phillips Head Screw

So a couple of weeks ago I was opening a DVD player for a friend to retrieve a disc that had lodged itself inside.  It was put together with Phillips head screws.  A lot of things are.  Anyway, since I wasn’t anywhere near any of my tools I had to use hers.  When she handed me the two screw drivers she had borrowed for the occasion she said “here’s the flat one and here’s the Phyllis head.” . . . . . . . . .  hmmm.   It was a Phyllis head in name only.  Rats had apparently found it appetizing and gnawed most of the drive end off.  I managed to make it work but the situation made me think about the name and shape of the Phillips head screw and driver so I did a little research.   This is what I found.  

The Phillips head screw was named after its inventor.  I know .  Came as a shock to me too.  Anyway, the part that was surprising to me was that there are entire websites dedicated to the history of screws and screw drivers.    I will list some of them below.

Back to the Phillips head screw.  It was invented by Henry F. Phillips (1890–1958) in 1937.  All of the sites agree on this.  Most agree that it became popular because it was self aligning which was an asset on an assembly line.  Unlike previous screw types, driver placement didn’t need to be exact so it sped up the process of assembly.  This makes sense, but for me it also explains why most Phillips head screw drivers look like rats have eaten them.  If the pressure exerted on the driver when driving isn’t correct it bounces around on the screw and gets chewed up, and then if you go too far it jumps around too.  Eh, there is never a perfect solution for every situation.  Anyway, Cadillac was the first company to use the Phillips head screw and then other automobile manufacturers followed.  While the Phillips head screw took over the world Mr. Phillips did not.  He was apparently stripped of his patent and died in obscurity.  Well, at least as obscure as you can die with your name all over almost every screw made. 
Did I mention he was from Portland, Oregon?  I don’t know why that matters but it’s in every description of his invention.  Must have come as a shock to some.  

Here are some links
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_F._Phillips      Wikipedia of course.

http://www.marfas.com/phillips.shtml     A fastener company.  This is pretty thorough.

http://www.phillips-screw.com/history_about_phillips.htm     And not to be outdone, the Phillips screw company.  This has it all.  Way more than the average person wants to know about screws.  

Back to work…

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