Everyone seems to remember the classic Craftsman screwdriver, it’s an icon filled with nostalgia. This is something my father had in his toolbox and so did his father, so I wanted to make a nod towards that in my own way. I recreated the screwdriver perfectly scaled up 4x just in case I come across any massive paint cans that need to be opened or bridges that need to be repaired. The handle is made entirely from a solid pour of epoxy resin. Why epoxy resin? Because it’s impractical, it’s right on brand for me. It took some clever engineering to make it happen, but it worked out perfectly and made the build process acceptable after you look past all of the sanding. The blade/shaft/bit or whatever you want to call it, was forged by a friend of mine (ZH Fabrications) from some 1" bar stock with his blacksmithing talents. This one was quite the adventure, so strap in and be sure not to miss the full build video on YouTube!
Notable Materials & Tools used on this build:
- Bluetooth hearing protection
- X-Carve CNC
- Rockler silicone glue mat
- Pipe clamps
- Wood lathe
- Turning tools
- Mini carver with sanding attachment
- Sanding sponge
- Vacuum chamber
- Forstner bit extension
- Angle grinder contour sander
- Buffing wheels
The starting material… an old sawhorse, or at least what used to be a sawhorse. It’s 2 pieces of 3/4" plywood glued together and I haven’t used this since 2 shops previous to this one so I figure it’s time for it to go. It’s been hanging out in the lumber rack for a… while. I chop it up to more manageable sized pieces with my miter saw.
It takes 3 of these pieces of material to model the screwdriver. I mount them to my CNC with clamps and cut out 4 screwdriver shaped cross-sections from each piece.
Just for some details on the program, I’m using Easel software to drive my X-Carve CNC. I drew the cross-section in Adobe Illustrator by measuring a regular screwdriver with calipers and then scaled that up 4×. That SVG is then imported into Easel and I add 3, 1/2" holes in random spots to help me to align these pieces later when I stack them up. Enough of this robot talk, back to the build!
There are tabs left behind on the pieces that I cut to keep them held in place on the CNC. I cut these off with the bandsaw and then use a flush trim bit in the router table to, well, bring them down flush. Makes sense, right?
I apply glue to each of the pieces and stack them up, carefully making sure they’re in the correct orientation. Notice the dowels on the left side of the photo, these are what I use to align all of the pieces up before I clamp them together with some pipe clamps. It’s easier said then done, but I beat them into place with a mallet (a Jackman Size mallet might have to be next after this Jackman Size screwdriver).
After leaving it set to dry for the night, I remove the clamps in the easiest way I could manage.
I mount this massive screwdriver blank to my lathe using a screw chuck, so I drill a hole in the end and thread that onto the lathe. For shaping it down to size, I measure the real screwdriver and scale all of the dimensions up 4×. For layout, I measure the main features along the length of the screwdriver and mark those out.
Then it’s just a matter of turning down to size either end of the handle. I do this by measuring the diameter at each of the key points and turn it down to that diameter with a parting tool. Then I connect the dots to create a profile matching my model screwdriver.
Last bit of shaping is just some sanding… lots of sanding. The turned portion is easy because I can just use regular sandpaper, but the ribbed portion takes more hand work. Lots of hand sanding and also some help from my Arbortech Mini Carver sanding attachment.
The handle is cut to length and also split in 2 where the blue and clear part of the original Craftsman screwdriver merge. You’ll see why later, it’s actually going to be 2 molds. Twice the sanding, twice the fun! Speaking of sanding (did I mention sanding) I clean up (and flatten) these faces on the disk sander after the handle is split in 2.
Last detail I need to add to the handle is the lettering. I use carbon paper to transfer the scaled up text onto the wood. It includes the model number, screwdriver size, and CRAFTSMAN logo with slight modification. I then use my Dremel with a round nose bit to carve out the lettering.
Now the plywood layers look really cool, but that’s not what I’m after on this project so I cover them up with a few layers of primer. This also helps to show me where there are any voids which I fill with wood filler and sand down and prime again until I get a perfect surface. Now paint it and we’re done, right? Wrong! If you thought it would be this simple then this must be your first time seeing a project of mine, we’re just getting started…
So phase 2/3 starts with making some boxes out an old sheet of melamine. This will be a perfect non-stick surface for the mold while also being easy to assemble and dissasemble multiple times since I’m just screwing it together. One box for each section of the screwdriver.
I screw the boxes together and in order to save on the silicone material I’m using for the mold ($$$!) I fill in the corners of the smaller mold since that piece is round.
This is my first time working with a 2-part silicone mold making material but it went really smoothly. I used Smooth-On Oomoo 30 since it is said to be the easiest to work with. One tip I’d have is to check the date on the buckets before you buy them (first 4 digits in the lot number are year/month) since they apparently only have a shelf life of 6 months. This was closer to 10mo old which meant the pink part was as thick as peanut butter and I didn’t learn until after I was done that it wasn’t supposed to be like that. Anyway, mix it thoroughly as instructed on the package until you have consistent color.
Usually this type of silicone doesn’t need to be degassed, but because mine was thicker than it was supposed to be, it seemed to be holding in the bubbles. I threw each mixing cup in my vacuum chamber to pull out most of the bubbles before pouring it into my forms.
After spraying each of the molds with mold release, it’s time to pour one out for my homies. From the gallon kit, I mixed up 24oz at a time and it took almost 3/4 of the total materials for both molds combined. Pour slow and high, this will help to remove even more bubbles from the mix. Also pour in at one side and let it flow around into the recesses.
A lot of M&Ms later, and a sunset and sunrise later, the molds are ready to be removed from the form.
I carefully disassemble my melamine forms since I’ll be reusing them for something important later. Then I pull the silicone out and slice it in a zig-zag along one side to remove the wood blank.
I reassemble the boxes and with my new empty silicone mold inside, but first I take the bottom of each of the boxes and use my robot slave to cut a circle in each of them. This will be used to mount that to my lathe later (it’ll make sense soon).
And now we start phase 3/3, the best phase, the epoxy phase. Assemble! I used TotalBoat 2:1 mix high performance epoxy resin for this because it cures clear and is super workable. Now let’s talk about epoxy resin for a bit. It’s formulated to be used in thin layers because it’s an exothermic reaction which builds up heat (max of about 1/2"). If you pour it too thick, it will overheat and boil, crack, and/or possibly split up your marriage. So why am I using epoxy for such a large resin casting? Almost entirely just because I was told that it wouldn’t work. Spite is kind of on-brand for me I guess.
I start with the bottom section of the screwdriver, the blue section. Now I need to do this in multiple pours to build up the layers, so I need to ensure that the color is identical with each layer or you will be able to seeing the layers super easily. The way that I solved this problem is by mixing the blue dye in with the resin part of the mix and then combine with hardener just the amount I need for each layer. That way, the remaining blue resin is the same color and won’t cure since I haven’t mixed it all with hardener yet.
I mix enough volume to be roughly equivalent to a 1/2" layer around the outside of the form. This mix gets put in my vacuum chamber to pull out all of the bubbles. Luckily, I use a slow cure hardener which gives me about 40 minutes of working time. The bubbles take about 30 minutes to pull out, which gives me just enough time to pour it into the form.
After my 30 minute timer goes off, I pour the epoxy into my silicone form. The top is closed up with some plexiglass just because I’m curious to see what’s going on inside. I also use a piece of scrap wood to span corner to corner so that I can use the tailstock on the lathe to support the box on the lathe.
Now is where this project fails or succeeds… I slowly turn up the speed of the lathe so that the epoxy will spread out and turn it up to 600 rpm to get it going fast enough that the epoxy is pushed to the outside of the form (which you can actually see here!). Now let’s back up a second, why am I doing this? Main reason is because if I just poured 1/2" layers directly in the bottom of the form and built it up from there, there would be subtle layer lines on the screwdriver. Doing it like this, the layer lines are on the end and almost invisible. This also had the side benefit of letting me pour essentially twice as much because I get a 1/2" layer all the way around which is equivalent to 1" in thickness. Going into this I actually talked to the TotalBoat technical reps because neither of us were actually sure if this technique would work because the epoxy might react funny to rotating once it hits the gel stage in the curing process. I figured if I got it rotating fast enough, gravity should be negligible compared to the force pushing out on the form so I decided to give it a shot.
Success!! This is after a few pours already. I leave the form spinning on the lathe for an hour before I pour in the next layer. I was just guessing on this set time, but after it looked good on the first layer I just stuck to it. You want to make sure that you are pouring the next layer while the previous layer is still in the gel stage to ensure that they will bond together. This actually worked out nicely because I just set a timer to go off every 30 minutes and I would mix up a batch of epoxy and then put it in the pressure pot after 30 and then after that has been spinning for 30 I would mix up the next batch to have it ready after the previous pour has been on the lathe for an hour.
Rinse and repeat the same process for the clear part of the handle (except with no dye this time) and then once the whole piece is cured, I can pop it out of the form. The blue casting turned out perfect, but I actually had to redo the clear casting because one of the layers about half way through the process overheated on me. I put that aside and made a new casting, I figure I’ll turn the dud into one of those Craftsman screwdriver handled bottle openers instead. Not for giant bottles though, because the metal bit will be the same size as the regular one… I just like the idea of that visual.
The ends of the epoxy castings that were the top of the form are a little lumpy just because that’s where I poured it in, so I flatten both of them on the disk sander. (Wear a really good dust mask when you’re working with resin like this, even if you have dust collection. It’s like Jimmy Kimmel’s Matt Damon, except with your lungs.)
Because of the weird profile of the screwdriver, attaching these 2 pieces is going to be a tad tricky. The best way I was able to do it was just wrap the bottom part in blue tape to make a kind of epoxy dam and then pour a puddle of epoxy on top before I placed the top piece on top.
The blue tape holds back the epoxy and I’ll just need to file the excess out later. Not the worst thing in the world because that profile is already defined by where the clear epoxy that I poured to join the pieces meets the blue epoxy of the bottom section. I carefully align the 2 pieces by centering them on each other from all sides and let it sit for the night to cure.
The shaft/shank/bit/whateveryouwanttocallit needs to fit inside the handle so I need to drill a hole. This will also function as a way to mount the handle on the lathe, so win-win. To find the center, I just use my compass and swing it around the entire circle until it shows evenly on every side and then that means that the point is in the center. This is the easiest way I’ve found on larger circles where typical jigs won’t fit anymore (plus the outside is slightly irregular still at this point).
If you don’t account for the mess that this left behind after, this was a really fun part of the process. The shank is bit is going to be 1" bar stock, so I just pick the forstner bit that is slightly larger than the diagonal of that piece and go to town drilling. You just need to make sure not to push it because you can overheat the epoxy. I’m realizing now that I should have just left the center of this part hollow, but wasn’t it worth the confetti show? Probably not, my apologies. So I’m not long enough, no surprise there. If you look at the regular screwdriver, the bit actually extends a bit into the clear part of the handle a decent amount. I install the forstner bit into an extension in my drill since I need to drill about twice as far as what I was able to do previously. You can actually see the bottom of the hole here ending right around where the number 4 is on the side of the handle.
Guess what!! Say it with me “this is awesome, I wanted to sand the entire day today!”. Don’t believe me? Good, I’m a big fat liar. The Arbortech grinder helps out a ton yet again with the flexible sanding head, plus dust collection. This does all of the rough sanding on all of the faces. The tailstock is just pinched on the end with a board to protect it, but I pull that away to sand underneath too.
You can never forget to clean the smaller crevices either! For my screwdriver, I use files for that. Different shaped files let me preserve the exact profile. Triangle shaped files for the bottom part of the handle, and a round file for the transition between the 2 parts.
Stepping the sanding up a few grits, I use the Contour Sander. This has a random orbit action so it helps remove a lot of the scratches left behind by the rough sanding. I go through the grits up to 600. Also, I actually wet down the surface while I’m sanding with this tool. It helps to lubricate the surface to keep it cool, but mostly it just keeps the dust down because it all just collects on the surface is a nice soupy mixture.
More sanding? Don’t act so surprised. This is the last sanding step luckily. I know I said I’m a big fat liar, but I think I’m actually telling the truth this time. Anyway, I use micro-mesh sanding pads and sand up through the grits. I again use water to lubricate and keep down the dust.
A bit of a switch and bait here I guess. We’re done sanding, but we’re not done yet! I pull the handle off the lathe and swap it out for my buffing wheel set. I start with the the tripoli compound wheel. The left hand side as you look at the photo is straight off of sanding and you can start to see the blue part starting to shine a bit here.
Next is the white diamond wheel. This is even less aggressive and steps the buffing up to another level.
And finally we have the carnauba wax wheel. It’s a super hard wax, but it puts an amazing shine on the epoxy. This last buff really makes it pop and make it essentially clear.
The handle isn’t done without the right paint job. I cover basically half the screwdriver in blue tape, leaving the sides clear where the text is located and paint that red. I just use some red boat paint that I grabbed from TotalBoat along with the epoxy because I figure if it’s good enough for boats, it has to be good enough for my screwdriver. What I’m trying to say is if you see my screwdriver floating by in a body of water, there is no need to worry.
After the red paint, there is the perfect profile of all of the lettering left and I fill that in with a white paint marker.
It’s at this point I realize I’ve made a grave mistake, I’ve been wearing cargo pants this whole time. Who am I kidding cargo pants are literally the best, I just realized that I need the metal part of the screwdriver. Well luckily I have tons of friends and one of them is great with metal, actually that’s too generous so let me rephrase, I have a friend and luckily he is great with metal.
I sent a spec sheet over for the piece that I needed to my buddy Zack (aka @ZHfabrications). He reluctantly agreed to play my game and help complete this project. Side note, this photo doesn’t really add any context to the story of this build, I just thought it was a super sexy shot from his shop.
Anyway, Zack picks up some 1" bar stock and cuts it to length on his metal horizontal bandsaw. He sticks the end of the piece in his forge that needs to be flattened and once it’s brought up to temperature he starts going to town letting his frustrations out on it. He uses the flattening side of his hammer to draw out the end of the bar stock.
After drawing it out, he works it on the diagonal and flattens it out and draws it out further.
He keeps working it between the kiln and the hammer further refining the shape. The blacksmithing process actually worked out perfectly for this because the end of the bit of the screwdriver is supposed to be flared out a bit anyway which is the way that the steel wants to move.
Once the shape is satisfactory, it’s over to the belt grinder. This has a flat reference surface, so the blade is passed over the grinder back and forth to smooth the surface out.
It’s looking really good just after the belt grinder, so next step is to work the metal by hand with some files. The hand work gives you more precise control of the finish, but also let’s him get an even cleaner surface. He keeps working this sides and surface until they are all cleaned up.
Can’t forget the touch mark! The selected spot is heated up red hot with an oxy-acetylene torch and the ZH stamp is hammered in place.
Stepping the grits up one more time, this time with sandpaper, the surface is cleaned and polished up one more step. This cleans up the branded area, but also gives the rest of the blade a brushed steel look, which is perfect for this screwdriver.
Final, but important detail, is to add a bit of texture to the end of the metal blade with a file. It’s amazing how much this little detail really completes the look.
And now the hand-off that will go down in NFL history. A screwdriver bit so big that it reaches all the way from Florida to Washington, DC.
Now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for. I complete the screwdriver by joining the 2 pieces together as one. Question for you Zack, in the state of Florida does this now mean we’re married? Regardless, for now I just wrapped the top of the bit with some blue tape that was just enough for a tight friction fit when I shoved it in. Once I’m ready to commit (to the screwdriver, not to you Zack) I’ll embed it in the hole with some more epoxy.
And finally! The entire reason that I did this build was simply because the blade in my giant utility knife was getting dull, now I can finally change it, what a relief.
For the full Jackman experience, make sure you click through to the YouTube video linked in the first step, satisfaction guaranteed or your money back!