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SOLVED: Smelly screwdriver handles? (juvenile humor aside..)

Posted: Mon Jan 26, 2009 10:13 am
by MisterDNA
This has happened a total of three times. For some reason, screwdriver handles will spontaneously degrade and start to smell really bad, like the stuff stuck under a toenail.

I remember hearing it was some reaction between plasticizers and skin oils when the ratios in the plastic weren't quite right during manufacture, but I can't find any info on it other than remarks about where the screwdriver handle has been--and that's neither helpful nor original.

Any input?

Re: Smelly screwdriver handles? (juvenile humor aside...)

Posted: Mon Jan 26, 2009 11:09 am
by japes
I had no idea why. We have a few tools at my work that have fallen to that fate. I was wondering why.

Re: Smelly screwdriver handles? (juvenile humor aside...)

Posted: Mon Jan 26, 2009 12:18 pm
by guardian452
Some rubber just stinks. Hard plastic or metal is best. I know exactly what smell you are thinking of, go into a harbor freight tools store and it is quite potent, especially from their chinese rubber tires.

Have you tried cleaning them with some sort of chemical?

Re: Smelly screwdriver handles? (juvenile humor aside...)

Posted: Mon Jan 26, 2009 7:35 pm
by hamei
sybrfreq wrote:Some rubber just stinks. Hard plastic or metal is best. I know exactly what smell you are thinking of, go into a harbor freight tools store and it is quite potent, especially from their chinese rubber tires.

If it comes from China, god only knows what's in it. Whatever it is tho, it's bad.

When you buy a house here (apartment actually, we have very few western-style houses) you remodel. Then you leave it open to the winds for three months before you dare move in. There is so much formaldehyde in everything that you would get deathly ill living in close proximity with any of the domestic furnishings, wall coverings, floors, paints, windows, or anything else Made in China.

Youse guys have got to turn your world around. Chinese stuff is deadly and crap.

Re: Smelly screwdriver handles? (juvenile humor aside...)

Posted: Mon Jan 26, 2009 7:58 pm
by guardian452
yes yes but you can get a good small (4x8 flatbed) trailer with side strakes put together for about $100. The big pneumatic casters perfect for a marimba are like $5 each. ;)

Got a 4 dollar ratchet set from them and it broke the second time I used it. A miniature kit, never abused, just fell apart as I was putting the socket in. However my $15 multimeter has all the features including thermometer and is just as accurate (probably even better) as the $300 Tektronix jobs provided at the school labs.

Re: Smelly screwdriver handles? (juvenile humor aside...)

Posted: Mon Jan 26, 2009 9:39 pm
by hamei
sybrfreq wrote: ... my $15 multimeter has all the features including thermometer and is just as accurate (probably even better) as the $300 Tektronix jobs provided at the school labs.

Get a Fluke. Yes, expensive. But accurate and they last forever even in hard service. Mine was worth every penny. When they changed the volt a few years ago Fluke even had a service where you could send in your meter and have it recalibrated. I replaced my LCD screen, ten years old, cost $15. Great meters, great company. :D

Re: Smelly screwdriver handles? (juvenile humor aside...)

Posted: Mon Jan 26, 2009 9:56 pm
by japes
I second the Fluke meter recommendation. I bought one and then wanted a new one with more features, I kept hoping the old one would break so I'd have a reason to buy the new model...I got tired of waiting and bought the second.

Re: Smelly screwdriver handles? (juvenile humor aside...)

Posted: Tue Jan 27, 2009 7:36 pm
by MisterDNA
This one is hard plastic. It is also Xcelite brand. It's not a hydrocarbon chemical type smell. It literally smells like the putrid lint you dig out from underneath your big toenails in the heat of summer.

I haven't tried cleaning this one. One that I had for years was soaked in ammonia for three days. Didn't help.

Re: Smelly screwdriver handles? (juvenile humor aside...)

Posted: Wed Jan 28, 2009 6:01 am
by skywriter
hamei wrote:Youse guys have got to turn your world around. Chinese stuff is deadly and crap.


unfortunately 'cost is king'. nobody pays for quality anymore - and even quality is hard to find. humanity will suffocate under the rising tide of commodity manufacturing. the peecee will be the death of us (although some will go quicker than others + but as long as someone makes a buck...).

as far as screwdrivers go, i'm surprised one can go without getting lost before the handle degrades. i get to use one maybe 20 times before it disappears for good.

Re: Smelly screwdriver handles? (juvenile humor aside...)

Posted: Wed Jan 28, 2009 6:28 am
by nekonoko
MisterDNA wrote:I haven't tried cleaning this one. One that I had for years was soaked in ammonia for three days. Didn't help.


Hmm, maybe coat it with something like Plasti Dip?

Re: Smelly screwdriver handles? (juvenile humor aside...)

Posted: Fri Dec 24, 2010 5:26 am
by MisterDNA
SOLVED:

The handles were made of recycled plastic from milk jugs.

Re: Smelly screwdriver handles? (juvenile humor aside...)

Posted: Tue Feb 01, 2011 5:16 am
by evilquim
MisterDNA wrote:SOLVED:

The handles were made of recycled plastic from milk jugs.


MisterDNA, its not the recycled plastics that make the handles smell. Its the oils in your skin reacting with the plastic bonding agents. This is typical in plastic handle screwdrivers from Craftsman and certain series from SnapOn [they're likely sourced from the same manufacturer]. Generally speaking, the screwdrivers certified for electrical work [rubber handles] don't exhibit the smell. I don't believe the Lowes or Home Depot brand screwdrivers do either. The Harbor Freight units don't, but the metals used in the blade is much much softer... making it inferior for prying.

...just a few thoughts from a tool nut.

Re: SOLVED: Smelly screwdriver handles? (juvenile humor asid

Posted: Wed Feb 02, 2011 2:58 am
by ramq
A third on fluke. Reeeeally nice equipment and seems impossible to break.
Had my multimeter as a second hand part some 10 years ago and it still works!

Re: Smelly screwdriver handles? (juvenile humor aside...)

Posted: Wed Feb 02, 2011 8:02 am
by GeneratriX
sybrfreq wrote:A miniature kit, never abused, just fell apart as I was putting the socket in. However my $15 multimeter has all the features including thermometer and is just as accurate (probably even better) as the $300 Tektronix jobs provided at the school labs.


I agree with you. I had mixed results with chinese tools, but the chinese offer for multimeters seems to work very well despite their prices. But I had very good luck with some electric tools too.

Curiously, it seems their worst pieces of kit are just some really simple manual tools.

Re: SOLVED: Smelly screwdriver handles? (juvenile humor aside..)

Posted: Tue Jan 02, 2018 4:22 am
by dpasek
This thread is old, but it was never really answered...

It seems that some hand tools like Xcelite and Craftsman screwdrivers and nut drivers are made of a type of plastic known as cellulose acetate butyrate.
This type of plastic can partially decompose to release butyric acid which has a distinctive odor.
Ordinarily, butyric acid would react with sodium carbonate to yield an odorless product, but since the butyrate permeates the plastic, it is released slowly, so the odor will persist even after washing the handle. It doesn't take much, we can detect the smell in the range of parts per million.