a book about the screwdriver & the screw

one good turnone good turn: a natural history of the screwdriver and the screw (2000) by witold rybczynski is an offshoot of a new york times article on “the best tool of the millennium” — a quick, entertaining & informative read

my father’s hobby was carpentry & when i was a child, my brother or i was his assistant in his weekend projects <benches, tables, chairs> / our job was to hand him the tools he called out \ these were the manual, non-electric versions / my favorite was the carpenter’s brace shown in the picture above \ it was an elegant looking tool & easy to use – even a child could  / fast forward to the present -> i’ve had my share not of making but assembling furniture:  mission style bookcases, game table & chairs, a lutyens garden bench & very heavy teak garden furniture / in our ikea furnished|diy world, the majority of us have most likely relied on the screwdriver at one time or another \ and  i bet most of us know the phillips screw

the socket-head screw such as the phillips is an improvement over the slot screw / for one, less injury from the blade screwdriver slipping out of the slot \ the phillips screw became the industry standard during world war ii when wartime manufacturers widely adopted it / but before the phillips screw was the robertson screw <drawing for his patent application in the picture above> \ while phillips is the international socket screw, robertson is used only in canada & by select american woodworkers / interestingly, based on tests conducted by consumer reports, the robertson screw is superior to the phillips screw <works faster, less cam out> \ phillips was the better businessman

how commonplace the screw is now belies its long history & ancient roots / curiously, it was not a “universal” invention & its use did not spread quickly <the use of buttons is another one of those non-universal innovations | hard to believe but there were cultures that did not use buttons!>\  the screw is the only major mechanical device that the ancient chinese did not independently invent & in fact, they had no knowledge of screws at all / archimedes whom rybczynski dubbed as the “father of the screw” invented the screwpump <also called archimedes’ screw> \ it consisted of a helical surface contained in a cylindrical shaft & can be used to draw low-lying body of water for irrigation / but it was much later that the helix shape was leveraged as a fastener \ the earliest use of the screw as a fastener was in the 15th century / tediously handmade, imprecise, produced in small quantities, expensive & practically no market for it \ a major improvement of screw production by making it an automatic process was achieved only in the 18th century / now screws are cheap & easily available and the screwdriver,  a household tool

my experience with tools continues \ i’ve never handled wrenches, screws, nuts & bolts with as much regularity as i have in the past two years / it’s because when our rowing team goes to regattas outside pittsburgh, our shells are transported via trailer to the race location \ that means a series of de-rigging & rigging of our shells and tools come handy

the screwdriver | screw as “the tool of the millennium”? / it is hard to argue with that — scientific tools that enabled knowledge & discovery and devices & machines that drove industry would not have been possible without them \ we would not have ikea either

i learned of this book because i’ve read rybcyznski before

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