Today we are going to take a look at the different handle styles that are currently offered by Wiha, pointing out the specific features that would help you select a driver that best fits your application and budget.
I got the idea for this video when I picked up this set of Wiha Extra Heavy Duty MicroFinish® Screwdrivers and it got me to thinking about how many different handle styles that Wiha offers, probably more than any other tool company that I can think of.
This review is going to focus just on the Wiha handle styles and not specifically on the variations in the tip style that you may see with Wiha. I will say that my experience has been that the tips on Wiha screwdrivers are one of the best in the business.
The unique Wiha handle shape comes in the following permutations:
- The handle material will either be the SoftFinish® specified with a Red handle, or a MicroFinish® as specified by a purple handle.
- The style of the driver shaft will be either a standard, heavy duty or extra heavy duty.
Handle Finish Styles
First looking at the handle finish styles. Most people who have used Wiha screwdrivers would have used the familiar SoftFinish® drivers.
These feature a soft rubber material on the majority of the handle with some hard plastic surfaces on the front and back of the handle. This material is very much in line with the kind of soft rubber material that would see many other brand screwdrivers. These are advertised as being optimal for use in dry conditions.
The MicroFinish® handles are identified with a purple color and are made of a much different material.
While the SoftFinish® handles uses a rubber material, the MicroFinish® handles use cellulose acetate. This is a type of plastic that is known for its absorption properties and is used in things like cigarette filters and diapers.
The MicroFinish® surface has a very rough feel to it. I would say equivalent to a hardened, dried out sponge.
I will admit that the finish was definitely not what I was expecting with them being labeled as “Micro Finish.” When I hear that term, the first thing that came to mind was a gripping material made by 3M, that advertises it has have micro fingers, small pieces of rubber that are inspired by the feet of a Gecko. So I’m not really sure what the Micro, a word derived ancient Greek for “Very Small,” is referring to on these handles. It could be the very small pockets or voids on the surface that act to absorb liquids when using them.
In a bit I’ll show you when the MicroFinish® handles have a clear advantage over the SoftFinish® handles in some circumstances.
You’ll also notice small little black grains coming off the screwdriver when you first get them. I have found that these will eventually go away after a short time of using them in oily conditions.
The second permutation in the Wiha handle styles are the three types of driver shafts. The first is the standard type that is characterized with a round matte chrome shaft with no hex bolster or striking cap.
Using a strong magnet, I can determine that the shaft extends around half-way into the handle, about where the ‘W’ in Wiha starts.
Next would be the heavy duty series that uses a hex shaft along with a hex bolster nut on one end of the handle. I don’t actually own any of this specific style yet.
Finally, the extra heavy duty series has all of the properties of heavy duty series but with the addition of a striking cap on the end.
Using a strong magnet, I can definitely say that the shaft extends all the way though the handle onto the metal striking cap.
Large Weight Differences in Shaft Styles
One thing you will notice immediately when picking up the extra heavy duty version is the huge weight difference you see from the standard series. Looking at the weight of these two Philips #3 x 150mm drivers, the standard one comes in at 155g (5.4oz), while the same equivalent driver comes in at 250g (8.8 ounces) in the extra heavy duty style. That makes the extra heavy duty version around 47% heavier than the standard model. While the MicroFinish® may have a slight impact on this, I believe nearly all of the difference is from the additional metal in the handle, shaft and striking cap. I did measure the shafts on these two with the round one being 8mm diameter and the hex type being 8mm across the flats. Even though those two numbers came out to the same value, the hex profile will have more material because a round profile would need to be tangent to the hex flats in order to measure that same diameter.
Other Handle Styles
There are a couple of other styles of handles that Wiha makes that are worth mentioning. First is a newer product line called the 3K series.
These have a design of a varying hard and soft zones that you see in many other handle designs. The 3K drivers also use a black tip and may contain a chrome shaft depending on the driver style. The characteristic features of this design are the hanging hole and the color-coded variations of the handle.
In this particular case the Blue is used for Torx drivers, Red for Metric and Yellow for SAE or inch drivers. Wiha has been pretty consistent with this color scheme and it extends to other product lines such as their Hex L-Keys. Anytime I need a Torx driver these are usually the ones I pull out.
Another handle style worth mentioning is the Wiha classic series, which is identified with a red all plastic handle.
I don’t personally own any of these, but there a set of Wiha Torx drivers used at work that are have this handle style. Those particular Torx drivers were bought back in the late 1980s I believe, and are still used today albeit not as frequently as other driver types.
The final handle style to write about is the wooden handles that Wiha offers.
I actually don’t own any of these nor have I used any so I can’t really comment on their quality or effectiveness. I mainly use the wooden Felo drivers, but it looks like there may be a future opportunity for a showdown of various wooden handled screwdrivers.
Advantages of MicroFinish® Handles in Oily Conditions
One of the advertised advantages of the MicroFinish® handle style is its performance in oily or greasy conditions. Doing a very unscientific experiment, I took the three Wiha handle styles I had and covered them in some 3-in-1 oil, which is a very light lubricating universal oil.
Looking at the 3K handle style, I doubt you would able to get much if any torque out of it under these conditions. Much the same with the SoftFinish® drivers. However, when we get the MicroFinish® driver you notice immediately that you can get much more torque out of this one over the other two.
Your fingers are still going to slip on the purple plastic portion, but on the black portion of the grip is almost like there is no oil on it at all. I was going to setup a torque test to see which one would get more torque but knowing how they feel, the results would not even be close.
Looking at the reflection that the oil makes with the ambient lights, you can see the large surface differences in the SoftFinish® versus the MicroFinish® handle styles. While the SoftFinish® reflects the lights very clearly, the pattern on the MicroFinish® is very diffuse, indicating oil on the surface is not uniform like it is on a smooth surface. The amount of grip you can get out of these is actually quite impressive.
Now wood handled screwdrivers are also supposed to have an advantage with its ability to absorb oil, so that might be something to look at in the future to see how the MicroFinish® would compare to a sanded wood handle.
So to wrap things up, the handle type that would be applicable to most people in my opinion would be the standard shaft SoftFinish® handles. If you have the need for a hex bolster or want a beefier screwdriver, then the heavy duty series is one to look at. If you need a striking cap, then the extra heavy duty series is your only option. If you need to hang tour tools on the wall or want the advantages of color-coded tools, then the 3K series would be worth a look. Finally, if you are someone who works in oily and greasy conditions, then the MicroFinish® handles are the way to go.
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