It's "Wiha"; not "Willa"--tools you'll want to have "relations" with

Dec 9, 2003
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Sexy, precise, and German. Buy the last drivers you'll ever need.


The Bottom Line: Those "130 tools for $30" sets are alluring, but you get what you pay for. Good tools cost more, but then again, they're worth more.

Epinions has done tool users everywhere (i.e., we hominids) a great disservice in mis-naming the brand here. Wiha tools are Germany's gift to those of us who appreciate quality and craftsmanship in their tools.

If you've ever bought cheap tools and been forced to use them, you've paid the price. Cheap tools work cheaply and wear early. If you tinker often, you're probably on your second or third generation of cheap, worthless tool sets.

The problem is that it's increasingly difficult to find decent tools. Stanley and the like are certainly passable, but they're not remarkable. And screwdrivers, in particular, reveal limitations of their manufacture by wearing with use. Phillips are notorious for wear.

These screwdrivers, however, are simply gorgeous. Nearly sexually alluring. They enlarge the handle for larger tips to provide proportional torque. The material itself is marvelous, feeling simultaneously firm and soft. Even after extended work, your hands will not fatigue as they do with poorer drivers. They feel as balanced as well-made kitchen knives. You'll be tempted to do circus tricks with them.

Their tips are precision machined to perfectly fit the screws they're intended for. The screwdrivers feel almost magnetic, locking into place in the screw, and releasing only when held perfectly perpendicular to the screw. Even better, this model's hex bolster permits the use of a wrench or pliers when extra torque is needed.

The particular line pictured here includes steel end caps on each driver. Although you certainly won't want to use your tool to chisel anything, it would permit you to use a mallet, if, for example, you needed to clear some paint from a screw before removing it. Also, the shaft itself is hexagonal.

I also own the lighter duty version of these, which dispense with the metal caps, the hex bolsters, and have round shafts. Frankly, unless your drivers are going to see serious duty, you could do perfectly well with these. They're also lighter. Common to both versions is flattened part of the handle, so that they won't roll away.

Wiha provides a "100% satisfaction guarantee," which provides protection against defects in manufacture. Despite the title, I somehow doubt that you could return them with the complaint that you're only 98% satisfied. But regardless, you'll be plenty satisfied.

You can find some Wiha tools in better hardware stores. It's fairly common to find their precision drivers (i.e., jeweler's screwdrivers--I have many of their precision drivers, and a precision micro bit set--they're as good) in hobby and electronics stores, but tracking down their full size drivers is trickier. The easiest place is their US distribution site: I've ordered from them twice. Shipping is quite reasonable and expedient, and sales are common. Also, don't forget the power of

Wiha tools are pricey relative to other tools, but they are actually economical if you consider how many cheaper drivers you'd go through to match their lifetime. I'm all for paying more upfront to support a company that clearly cares about what it produces. We have a local Ace Hardware, which I frequent and support, and their brand of tools come with a similar 100% guarantee. I recently bought a set of hobby pliers and cutters, and one of the springs popped out after several uses. Sure, I can, and will, bring it back to Ace, but they offer the guarantee not because their tools are well made (it's the same Chinese tools that have flooded the market everywhere), but because they're inexpensive to replace, and most customers will never bother to take advantage. Frankly, instead of feeling grateful for the guarantee, it frustrates me that I end up wasting my time exchanging poorly-made tools. I have nothing against Chinese-made products--what would Walmart do without China--but it's a waste and an environmental abuse to produce, buy, and discard short-lived products. See Paul Hawken's seminal book, The Next Economy for more on this philosophy. Yes, that's right, good tools are a philosophical and ethical issue for me.

Check out Wiha's line of other tools when you visit their site. They have an entire line of drivers for high-voltage work, a driver with adjustable torque settings, and unusual ratcheting, palm-drivers for extra power (yet with less stress on the wrist). They also have beautiful pliers and wire cutters.

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