Did you know that there were wooden screws in olive oil and wine presses in the first century B.C. in the Mediterranean region? Europeans have a history of affixing two objects together using metal screws since the 15th century, and the first screw-cutting lathe was invented in the 1700s by Jesse Ramsden, an instrument maker. This triggered the first screw mass production.
In the late 1900s, there were different screw head types on the market. In 1908, the Robertson screw with its square head came to the market, and the Phillips screw head came about in 1930. In the 21st century, tiny screws that you find in laptops or iPhones came out.
Getting the correct screwdriver bits for the various screw head types is important because you don’t want to start a project and have to run out to the local hardware store midway though your project to buy one. Given the fact that there are dozens of screw head types available, it’s easy to get overwhelmed when you’re first trying to figure out which one works best for your needs.
However, it gets easier when you realize that you can classify screws and tell them apart by taking a look at the screw head. This helps you identify what type of screw you’re looking at and which driver will work best to screw it in. Using the wrong driver could cause damage, including stripping the head. To prevent this, we’re going to outline 29 screw head types for you below.
Picking out the correct type of screw can be challenging, but knowing the most popular screw head types can make the process easier. Screwed by Kevin Spencer / CC BY-NC 2.0
This screw head type is available in two different sides, including a female and male side. These screws will have a slightly domed head on them, and you can use them for a host of important projects. They also screw right into one another to give you a fantastic hold. They work well to hold together book-binding projects and very big manuals, and you can also use them with swatches, leather, and other items. If you’re trying to find an easier way to remember this screw head type, think of them as having dual parts instead of one. The parts fit together tightly to form a tight bond.
This screw head type is mainly used for plasterboard and drywall. They have a shape that is a lot like a flat screw head. However, the main difference is that you have a curved shape that reduces how much damage the screw does to the surface, instead of being angled underneath the screw head. These are self-drilling options, so you don’t have to drill a pilot hole before you use it.
The unique shape on this screw head type allows you to distribute stress over a flat surface in a much wider area. You use them to fasten materials that are softer, including softer woods for your outdoor deck and modern framing.
This screw head type comes in several lengths and sizes, and the one common thing that unites all of them is the round, small, button-shaped head where it gets the name. They can be slightly rounded or flat, but they always have heads on them that resemble buttons.
Some screw head types work to combine the best of every world. They’re some of the most popular types of screw heads available, and you can easily find them in several combinations and permutations. They have shapes that are compatible with at least two or more screwdrivers. You have to be aware of one big thing with these screws, and that is whether or not you should countersink them. The head shape will clue you in. If you need to countersink it, it’ll be angled under the head. If not, it’ll be flat.
These are extremely common screw head types, and if you don’t have to hide the type of screw you’re using, you’re most likely going to use this one. Examples of where you’d use this screw are in an ottoman that has decorative screws that protrude from the fabric. In this instance, the domed shape of the head would give you a pretty surface design, and the inner flat portion of the screw allows the screw to stop right at the correct point in the ottoman’s surface.
You pronounce this screw head type like Zeus, and it’s very similar to the high-torque screws that you see used in the aviation industry. You can use these screws to secure access doors that you need to open or close frequently, like inspection panels, but they are too small and thin to support other types of latches. These screws are quarter-turn fasteners that you can also use to secure skin panels on your aircraft or high-performance vehicles. They’re usually double-coated with a blank paint to give them a more natural look and make them more durable.
Better known as frame screws, this screw head type can be circular to hexed, and they tend to jut out from the circular flange that is right under the head. The flange portion makes it easier to ensure that your screw stays in position, and it can take the place of a more traditional washer. You’ll see this screw used in vehicle frames, most commonly in trucks or in areas that require a head bolt.
Just like the name implies, this screw head type sits flush with whatever you screw it into, and none of the screw head gets exposed. You’ll have to countersink it, but one of the biggest benefits of using this screw is that you don’t have to worry about it protruding above the surface and creating an area for items to catch on it. This is what you’ll use to create a customized sofa or when you build your deck furniture in an area that is more high-traffic. If you choose to use screw covers, you can make them virtually invisible.
You can choose from varying degrees when it comes to this screw head type, and the angle head is the measurement from the top of the head to wherever it meets the threaded portion. A standard angle is a flathead at 82°, but you can also find 90° and 100° too. The higher the degree your screw head has, the more spread and shorter the countersink hole will be. A flat undercut 82° screw head is only different in the fact that they’re slightly shorter than the standard 82° flat screw heads.
Flat screws are nice to have in high-traffic areas if you’re afraid of something snagging on them as they go by because it sits flush to the wall. Screws by Tellessa Myles / CC BY-SA 2.0
9. Hex External
This screw head type has a shape that protrudes from the surface and is hexagonal. Some will come with flanges built in, and other types have a full head in a hexagonal shape. To install or remove these screws, you’ll need a wrench or a socket. The full head gets turned during installing or removing them instead of the internal portion. So, you get excellent leverage.
10. Hex Internal
You’ll need an Allen wrench to install or remove this screw head type. They’re extremely common to use in any furniture that needs you to assemble it when you get it because they’re much less likely to get damaged by the Allen wrench when you install them. If you were to try and use a Phillips or slotted screw, you could accidentally cause damage to the furniture. You’ll get an indented screw shape on the top, and this is why it’s a hex internal screw head.
11. Multi-Tooth or XZN
The 12 small teeth on this screw head type are much finer than the ones you’ll find in the TORX type, however, it offers nice force distribution. There is a larger area for the driving force when you use it and this allows you to transfer high torques. It’s a multi-toothed screw that you’ll find used in the automotive industry because higher torque ratings are required to transfer the high-tensile force. It’s also a solid choice to prevent unauthorized screw tampering.
You’ll see very fine contours and associated engagement when you look at the screw head. So, if the screw head gets any debris or dirt in it, it can impact the overall function and make it much less effective. It can also be difficult to fully insert the screw with dirt in it, and it can actually cause the screw to act like a mini cutter and destroy both the screw and the tool.
This screw head type has an oval head, as the name suggests. It can come in a large range of designs, including Phillips, slotted, and more. You’ll find them in several lengths and material, but the head shape will always be oval.
This is a machine screw that has sides that are more rounded with very flat tops. They’re very similar to overhead machine screws. However, the main difference is that oval screws have a rounded top while these don’t. Oval screws also come with tapered bases while pan screws aren’t tapered at all.
This is one of the most common screw head types available today. The screw has a cross shape that works to self-center the screw to help avoid drilling it in at odd angles that can ruin your work. Because of this shape, this screw can handle drills. Again, it has a self-centering design that lets it stay in place as you use the drill to apply force. You do want to still be careful when you use this screw because it’s easy to strip it with too much force. If you do, you might have to start over.
Pin screw head types are the top of the line when it comes to security because the defining feature they possess can work with any other type of screw head. However, the main difference is that there is a pin in the center that stops the bit from getting seated deep into the screw head. You’ll need a specialized drill bit that can accommodate this pin before you can use this type of screw. However, this also helps prevent tampering.
This screw head type looks very similar to a Phillips, but it comes with a few more grooves in the design, and this creates a star shape instead of a cross. You may be able to use a Phillips screwdriver to remove this screw, but it doesn’t have a guaranteed success rate. You can have more stability with this screw head than you’d get with a Phillips when you use force, but you’ll need a specialized screwdriver orbin to match the grooves in this screw head.
Since this screw head type is very close to the Phillips one, you can quickly and easily tell them apart by looking at the screw from the side. If you’re looking at this screw type, you’ll see ribs situated between the four arms with the letters “pz” etched into the screw.
You may hear this screw head type referred to as the Phillips square drive, and this is due to the fact that it’s a combination of a Phillips recess and a square recess. It mimics the look of a Phillips screw, but the middle section of the cross is squared instead of pointed. This stops you from stripping it when you use force.
People routinely call this screw head type an oval-shaped head, and they have an angle on them that is very similar to what you’d find on a flat screw. However the head has more of a dome shape. When you work with this type of screw, you’ll want to countersink them to work with the angle. Raised screws have a head that will stick out a small way from the surface of whatever you screw it into. The screw’s shape also doesn’t always help the drive performance, and this is why most people use them for decorative purposes over functional ones.
If you’re looking for a screw that can serve decorative purposes, this one is great for it as it has a rounded look. Screws by Wade Tregaskis / CC BY-NC 2.0
Just like the name suggests, this screw head type comes with round tops. You can find them made out of several materials, and they can come in different lengths and designs, but they’ll always have a rounded head.
20. Sentinel Screw
This is another security-conscious screw head type, and it looks like a ninja star or a spinning saw blade when you look at it. The design gives your screwdriver four flat areas to press against when you tighten them, and they all go around the circumference in the dead center portion. The small distance from the center allows you to exert less effort and more force when you manually screw it in. They give you more torque, and it’s more rare for people to have the bit on hand required to tamper with them.
A lot of people think that a slotted type of screw is a flathead one, and one of the reasons for this is because they have a narrow opening made for the flat screwdriver. This is a very common and cost-effective screw, but it’s also very easy to strip it. To prevent yourself from accidentally tightening them too much, they’re supposed to strip. They’re great for projects that only need a few screws that you can put in manually. If you use a drill, you’re more prone to strip it or cam out.
22. Socked Cap
Typically, these screw head types are shaped with a rounded or hexagonal look, and they look like they have a very small cap on top of the head. They come in several materials and lengths when you buy them, but they all end with the heads that make the screw look like it has a cap on.
There are two rectangular pins on this screw head type, and this lends to the name snake eyes. You’ll find it used sparingly in trade and industry sectors, but it has the advantage of the head’s surface only being broken by two pins. Otherwise, the design is very solid. This screw also prevents over-tightening it when you’re using it. Force transmission and high-stress concentrations work with this screw, but because it has dual pins, the individual faces get less stress.
24. Square Recess
Better known as Roberton’s screws, this screw head type gives you a square center point that helps avoid stripping it. The bit you have to have on-hand to use this screw juts out on a square taper. So, you end up with a self-holding design that removes the need to try and hold the bit in place. This is very convenient in both small and large projects.
Also called Robertson’s screws, square recess screw heads have a square center point that helps you avoid cam-outs. The bit you use to drive square recess screw heads also juts out on a square taper, creating a self-holding design so that you won’t have to hold the bit in place, which is very convenient, regardless of the project at hand.
When you look at this screw head type, you’ll understand why it has this name. You can get several different styles that create a star shape in the middle, and they include:
- Double-Square Drives – This option features two Robertson’s squares that form an eight-point star in the middle of the screw head. If you have a higher torque application, you’ll need a Roberton’s bit to screw it, or you could use a special one for the double-square.
- Triple-Square Drives – This option has three Roberton’s squares to create a 12-point star in the center. You’ll use it if you need a lot of force but want to avoid stripping out your screw. They’re popular in drivetrain components and internal car parts.
This is a durable type of screw that allows you to use it in high-torque situations without fear of it coming loose or shearing off. Screws by ninebelow / CC BY-NC 2.0
You most likely have a TORX screw bit or two in your set, but they’re rarely used. This screw head type comes with a six-point star in the middle of the head, and you’ll see them used in electronic equipment like computers and DVD players. However, they’re gaining in popularity due to the ability to prevent stripping. You can also find something called the TORX Plus, and this has shallow grooves between the star points to give the screwdriver or drill bit more contact with the screw head so you can apply more force.
This screw head type comes from the same company that makes Phillips screws, and they’re newer to the market. You can apply more force with them, and they give you more security than a lot of screw head types. You will need a special tool to instal them because it has very deep grooves to allow you to have more torque.
This screw head type is slightly wider than other options, and you’ll get a slightly rounded surface with it. If you work with any projects that require large holes like working with sheet metal, you’ll need these screws. The wide head prevents the screw from passing right through the hole.
29. Two Hole
The final screw head type on the list is a two hole, and you may hear it called pan head or triangle shaped. They’re one of the most rare types available on the current market, and it’s hard to find a bit that fits them. So, it’s very unlikely that you’ll use them.
Popular Screw Materials
Once you figure out which screw head type you need, you’ll have to decide which material will work best for your project. One material may work better when it comes to building a deck than another, and it’s important to figure it out before you start. The most popular screw materials are listed below.
Aluminum is a chemical that is slivery-white, soft, and non-magnetic. You’ll find it combined in 270 different minerals, and it offers a very low density. It’s excellent for resisting corrosion, and you’ll find it used a lot in building, transportation, and the aerospace industries. The oxides and sulfates are the most useful compounds in this material, and there are several advantages with using it. Screws made out of this material are very light, have excellent aesthetic value, and allow you to polish them to a shine. They’re also slightly more expensive.
This is an alloy made from copper and zinc, and two constituents’ atoms replace one another in the same crystal structure in it. The proportions of zinc and copper vary when it comes to creating different brass alloy types, and they have varying mechanical and electrical properties. Brass screws offer several advantages too, including being anti-corrosive, water-resistant, and aesthetically pleasing. They’re great when it comes to working with wood because they complement the wood’s look. You can also easily use them outside because they won’t rust, and this is why they’re popular with privacy fence construction.
Bronze is another alloy that uses 12% tin and copper in the construction, and it also features small amounts of nickel, zinc, manganese, and aluminum. You can combine it safely with non-metal materials like phosphorus, arsenic, and silicon. These screws will conduct electricity and heat, and they resist corrosion and metal fatigue a lot better than many other screw head types because bronze is more durable.
Copper has an attractive orangish-red coloring to it, and it’s malleable and soft. It has ductile characteristics that mean that it has higher thermal and electrical conductivity. You can find copper in different colors, but the fresh screws will always have this orangish-red hue. It resists corrosion, and you can even use them in saltwater conditions without a problem. Copper also gets mixed with other metal types like nickel to make it stronger and more durable.
Copper is a very popular screw material due to how durable it is, and it develops an interesting color over time. Copper & brass screw by lovestruck. / CC BY-NC 2.0
Steel features iron, carbon, and a few other elements in the design. It offers a very high tensile strength, and this makes it very budget-friendly. You’ll find it used in buildings, tools, ships, automobiles, weapons, machines, and appliances. The base is iron, and there are several steel screw types available. Which one you pick will depend on how much force you need to exert in your project. If you need a lot of force, you want to pick out a high-strength steel screw.
Finally, titanium is a low-density, silver-colored transition metal that offers a higher strength. It resists corrosion, including when it’s in seawater, chlorine, or aqua regia. Because it’s very strong while staying light, you’ll find dozens of uses for these screws. They’re very popular in the aircraft and automotive industries. However, titanium is much more expensive than most other materials, but the durability and strength factors can help justify the price.
We’ve outlined 29 screw head types and popular materials for making screws for you in this post. You can use it as a guide to figure out which screws would serve you best with your next project to ensure that you get something that will look nice and last for years without any issues.