By Russ and Tiña De Maris
Reader Fred Campbell of New Mexico recently wrote in concerning his fondness for Robertson screws, which some of us airheads refer to as “square drive.” As Fred aptly points out, “Robertson screws are those with the square hole in the head as opposed to a cross or a slot.”
You’ll find many RV manufacturers have used Robertson screws to varying degrees. What’s the advantage? The Robertson is square – to a point. Below the top level of the screw head the socket has a taper, which makes getting the bit in the socket easier and can keep the screw on the bit without fussing. Try that with a straight slot or Phillips.
You can thank Canadian P.L. Robertson for the invention, way back in 1908. He had licensed the design to a British party, but they deliberately drove the company into bankruptcy, thereafter buying the rights to the design from the bankruptcy court. Yes, you might say Robertson got screwed in the deal, as he then spent big money buying the rights to his own design back from the crooked character.
Interestingly, Henry Ford gave Robertson screws a shot on Model T Fords, liked them, and tried to buy the license for use. When Robertson refused, Ford would only use the screws on Canadian-built Model Ts, and the Robertson screw never took off in the U.S.
Got any Robertsons in your RV? Fred Campbell warns, “I have seen more people try, and fail, to remove a Robertson screw with a Philips head screwdriver than I care to mention.” The frustration is real, and the Phillips head suffers. But a genuine Robertson driver or bit? We can personally attest that we’ve lost more Robertson bits than we’ve ever worn out.
Fred has a similar story: “I had to purchase a Robertson out of necessity when I couldn’t remove a screw near a water tank in the old (1970) Layton. It had rusted due to condensation on the tank. I purchased the driver at a Sears tool outlet for about $5 in 1975, and I still have it to this day. I purchased a second one within the past few years and modified it to fit in my portable 3/8″ drill. I use these all the time in my RV.”
You can find Robertson screws at specialty hardware outlets and some hardware stores. They’re great for putting in stuff you’ll want to take back out later, without the hassle of torn screw heads. We’ve found they help clean up a fellow’s language, too.
Many thanks to Fred for sharing his thoughts with us.
photo: saforrest on wikimedia commons