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I decided that it's a good time to give myself the luxury of (dis)assembling furniture with an electric screwdriver. For the odd table or chair it's not a big deal, but for painting a room and moving the furniture out then in, it is.

So far I figured that two features are essential in an electric screwdriver:

  • A clutch. Without a clutch I can too easily strip the wood when I am reassembling.
  • Gradual speed. Until I know that I've chosen the correct size of the tool, it's wise to first go slowly. Hence a trigger that starts slowly is important.

These two constraints basically eliminate the cheaper tools I see on the market.

But I also see some very serious models. Are there any features I'm missing besides the two just mentioned?

It would have been nice to get a tool that also helps with bike work ("use torque of 5 N.m"), but it seems one cannot rely on the precision of the torque on the electric models and a manual torque bike wrench will still be needed as a separate tool.

Note

Whoever closed the question has almost surely read it inattentively. I am well aware of the obsolescence issue, and I phrased the question very carefully to be sure it'd apply 20 years down the road. But anyhow, happy to delete.

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  • Popular brands so you can get replacement batteries. – JACK Jan 16 at 19:58
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    A light is occasionally useful. – blacksmith37 Jan 16 at 20:02
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You need tactile feedback to avoid stripping the threads.

In my experience, Ikea style knock-together furniture has a fairly narrow "acceptable torque" range. This is easily detected by hand feel. However, any power driver will give you dead nerves. You will not be able to feel the correct torque, and the machine will be a "bull in the china shop" and blast right through the correct torque before you even know what's happening.

Is it OK for disassembly? Sure if you remember to switch it to "loosen". Is it OK for "rundown"? Sure, but the final few twists should be by hand.

The best power driver I ever had was cheapie. But it was shaped like a screwdriver, with the result that you could effortlessly switch between power and hand operation at any moment.

However I have found a much more satisfactory method: a "Speed wrench" with a bit holder.

enter image description here

Now this gives me the speed and power of a power driver but the control and tactile feedback of hand driving.

They cost a little bit of money but y'know what? 5 years hence they won't be in the junk bin waiting to go to the electronics recycler.

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    Great suggestion. However, in my experience it isn't all that hard to figure out the right torque setting either. Just set the clutch to "1", tighten a screw, try tightening it further with a screwdriver, if it feels like it could use a bit more, switch clutch to "2", re-tighten and re-test. Once you figure out that the right setting is "3" for the small screws and "5" for the big ones, you can then proceed to do the remaining 28 screws in no time. – TooTea Jan 17 at 20:46
  • @TooTea Good point. I imagine with experience one would also figure that the softwoods, depending on their type, are either, say, 2 or 3, and that the hardwoods are either 5 or 6. – Sam Jan 18 at 16:56
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    I use an impact driver all the time for assembling flat-pack furniture. Of course, I also use a very gentle touch and can release the trigger after one "click" of the clutch. I don't recommend it as a first project for a first time impact driver user... – FreeMan Jan 18 at 19:17
  • @TooTea Wait, are these torques reliable? Because meanwhile, over in electrical, we have a HUGE problem with screw torques causing arc fires, and testing has proven humans can't set torques reliably. Proper torque screwdrivers are $60 and nobody likes that idea, especially casuals... could any common drill-driver with a torque knob set a torque reliably? – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jan 18 at 19:20
  • @Harper-ReinstateMonica No, definitely not. The settings don't even pretend to be in any units of torque, at least on my mid-range drill-driver. But they tend to feel consistent when tested with a plain screwdriver. The spread of torques for any given setting is likely huge, but good enough for furniture. (Just for the record, the idea of using an electric screwdriver to torque electrical connections has never even crossed my mind.) – TooTea Jan 18 at 19:51
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Purchase a model from a reputable, well known brand. Don't buy because it's the shiniest or least expensive. Spend the most you can within your budget.

Read reviews from other purchasers. Amazon has one of the best review policies.

When choosing an electric screwdriver look for:

-battery type. the newest Li-ion batteries work much better in every way over the old Ni-Cad's.

-some features to be aware of are: variable speed trigger, speed settings, ergo dynamic grip and trigger placement, swivel handle, warranty length, parts availability, integrated battery or removable.

Most of the time you'll get what you pay for (unless it's on sale). For longevity spend slightly more for a quality tool. They seem to last longer than a comparable knock-off.

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    Actually, Amazon reviews are notorious for being faked. Sellers go to such lengths to beat Amazon's fake-review detection that they will actually ship real products to random US addresses to defeat Amazon's detection. This is worth a lot of money. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jan 17 at 19:57

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