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Although the terms "square drive" and "Robertson" are often treated as the same in catalogs, the difference (as I understand it) is that Robertson tools and screws have a slight taper to the square recess and the square drive ones do not. Most online sources claim that the tapered design is superior. Some online sources complain bitterly that this slight difference can lead to damaged tools and stripped screws when the two types are mixed up or misidentified by sellers.

(In background, let me add that I am located in the US and am interested in trying them out. Robertson screws are very popular and available in Canada, where they originated, but in the US I can only get them via mail order.)

I assume that if I buy Robertson(R) branded screws and Robertson(R) branded screwdrivers or bits, then I can be guaranteed compatibility. My question is, "Is there any other way I can tell that I will have compatible Robertson tools and screws other than by physically examining them?"

I hope to get answers from people with actual experience buying and using Robertson wood screws and tools.

I have seen photos of some drive bits stamped, for example "SQ2" and others stamped "R2," but I am unclear whether or not the "R" designation is really a reliable indicator of a Robertson taper.

I am also unclear as to whether I am overthinking this, and that maybe the alleged incompatibility between square drive and Robertson is overexagerated in the blog posts I have read.

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    The Wikipedia entry doesn't distinguish between the two. Over many years in the construction industry it's never been an apparent issue for me. #2 square are dead reliable. #1 are more prone to stripping if screws aren't piloted and proper technique used. – isherwood Oct 4 '18 at 15:37
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    Bloggers say a lot of things. 20 years in construction (US, Canada), and the key differentiator for me isn't tapered versus not; it's simply quality of manufacture. Some are great; others aren't. (This is also true in the land of phillips, pozidrive, torx, etc.) If you must go square (and frankly, I'm at a loss to understand why this is particularly attractive, given the range of alternatives), just find a brand you like. – Aloysius Defenestrate Oct 6 '18 at 14:26
  • For me I really do not like them because in 1 panel you might have both square and tapered. Then you end up stripping bits yes I have even used Robertson's for wood screws but today I buy exclusively tork style screws because the bits last many times longer, still have lots of equipment that comes with the square + slotted and those although are quick with an electric driver I have had more problems with them than any other type. But this is just an opinion. – Ed Beal Nov 9 '18 at 22:51
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I first came across square head trim screws when I worked over the road building mall stores in the 90s. I was told by my boss they were called "Robertson" screws. I have noticed the difference in straight square bits and tapered ones, and it has been my experience here in the US that the tapered (Robertson) bits tend to eat out the heads of screws due to some wobble. Everything it seems today is a Torx head, which is frustrating to me as I prefer square heads. Unless you specifically have Robertson screws, I don't see the need for tapered square bits. Or you could do as I do, and buy both in bulk to hedge your bets.

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I have used them interchangeably without a second thought for many years, on Canadian and non-Canadian fasteners and Canadian and non-Canadian screwdrivers. No issues, everything works great.

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