Well over a year ago rumors started creeping out that Proto was working on a new screwdriver design. Like any new Proto release, this excited me. If you know anything about Proto you know they have a tendency to stick with what works. Look through their old catalogs, even Plomb era stuff, and you'll find that some of their hardline stuff appears much the same as it does today. Their 24 tooth pear head ratchets are based on a design in use since well before WWII and their Bet'R Grip driver handles in use up until recently, were based on a design first used in the mid 1930's. I love the “if it ain't broke, don't fix it” attitude, but I still get excited when a new design is unveiled.
DuraTek is a nylon alloy handle material created through a 3 part injection moulding process at a plant in Cheraw, SC USA. It is a hard handle design which tickles me absolutely pink. It's a quad-lobular design that somewhat reminds me of the old Bet'R grips I grew up with which also makes me smile. They also feature Proto's new black, red, and gray color scheme. If you're interested in seeing how these are made you can check out this video from Proto's YouTube channel:
Looking at the drivers there are a few features that stick out. The black center portion of the drivers is textured to improve grip with oily hands. This isn't unheard of for a hard handled driver, but it isn't common either. Another thing that caught my eye was the abundance of distinctive markings that with a little studying, can be easily used to calculate quarter, half, 3/4, and full turns, a plus for the mechanics among us. Another key feature is the presence of hex bolsters on all but the stubby drivers. This allows for the use of a wrench to break loose stuck fasteners when necessary. The smallest hex bolster in the set is 1/4″, and they progress to 3/8″, 7/16″ and the largest ones are 1/2″. I also like the fact that the model number of each driver is laser etched into each shank meaning it won't wear off in a week thus making identification for warranty or re-ordering purposes easy. As with all Proto tools, they're designed to be tough and Proto claims them to be resistance to many types of oils, chemicals, and solvents. Our 8 piece test set (Model # J1208SCP) came in a nice plastic tray. I wouldn't call it a heavy duty tray, but it isn't flimsy either and should be sufficient for it's purpose. It also fits into a shallow drawer on a standard top chest which is nice.
On with the show:
Look, I can sit here all day and talk about Proto, screwdrivers, handle materials, or any combination thereof, but we have a forum for that. You know what a screwdriver is for, you're ready to get down to business, and you're saying to yourself, “alright Conductor, just how tough are these things?”. Well, let's find out!
For this video I selected a few different automotive and shop chemicals to subject the handles to. The lettering on a screwdriver is always the first thing to go, so I focused on trying to get it to come off. I poured Motor Oil, Automatic Transmission Fluid, Anti-Freeze, Engine Degreaser, Acetone, and gasoline, into individual containers. I went down the line dipping the handle into each one, then grinding on it with a scotchbrite pad. After all that, I gave it a good coat of Brakleen for good measure. It's not a perfect chemical test, but it will test Proto's chemical resistance claims. Here's what happened:
After all was said and done the only visible effects on the handle were very faint surface scratches from the scotchbrite pad.
I have to say I'm impressed with the DuraTek handles. So much so that 8 of them wasn't enough. I've already ordered the 19 piece set. They are comfortable, durable, and hey, they look nice too. There are currently 83 drivers in the series utilizing 6 different sized handles and Proto tells me that the DuraTek handle will continue to be expanded and used on various other tools across their line, which will undoubtedly include scrapers, pin pullers, chisel holders, and many others. Maybe even a DuraTek handled premium pear head ratchet? Maybe not, but wouldn't that be awesome?
The DuraTek's are a long awaited, much anticipated, addition to the Proto line and a vast improvement over the previous red handled models. If you prefer hard handled screwdrivers like I do, you really can't go wrong.