I have been doing renovations in my apartment, which is in a building that is at least 120 years old.

I have noticed that many of the fixtures I remove are installed with slotted screws. I don't see new fixtures sold with slotted screws anymore, and I was wondering if the slotted screws give any indication of the age of the old fixtures.

Was there a point in time when Phillips and combo screws took over?

You probably know what a slotted screw looks like

  • 1
    (Screw provided to give scale to praying mantis.) :) Very nice pic! Note that there's nothing inherently wrong with an older fixture or with a slotted screw. You'll notice that every one of your face plates is held on with slotted screws... (except, perhaps, for the fancier "screwless" ones which have a clip that's screwed on then a cover that clips to it. I don't have any of those high-falutin' ones, so I'm not sure)
    – FreeMan
    Dec 8 '20 at 17:37
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    Well, the older fixtures are generally ugly as sin, but they certainly work -- it takes a lot to kill a light bulb socket. I don't love the slotted screws, though. They're fine in a face plate, but if they are used anywhere that is awkward to reach, they can really make the process of getting them out gratuitously difficult. Dec 8 '20 at 21:00
  • Won't disagree with you on the pain of driving/removing slotted screws, just that there's nothing inherently wrong with an old device that works. ;) If need be, go buy a few packages of newer screws and replace 'em as you go!
    – FreeMan
    Dec 9 '20 at 14:53
  • Having recently sorted through some bridge size bolts, I am now terrified of that praying mantis. I would be more at ease if it was obviously domesticated, i.e. had a saddle and reins. Dec 9 '20 at 19:34
  • It's about 4 inches long and pretty friendly. As long as you're not a cricket. Dec 10 '20 at 16:14

I'd say by around 1990 most fixtures and devices (outlets, switches) had been shipped with combination screws (both #2 Phillips and slotted drivers work, or sometimes #2 square and slotted). The transition probably started in the mid-70s and varied by region of manufacture, backstock quantities, etc.

Answer informed by vague accumulated memory, not empirical data.

  • I'll take vague memory, thanks! I don't expect to get a precise answer here, I'm just curious to roughly date things. Dec 8 '20 at 21:01

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