We recently surpassed the two million mark in spudgers sold worldwide, and that’s not surprising—we live and die by spudgers when we’re tearing down devices and replacing screens. I’d go so far as to say that every fixer should have one on hand.
A spudger is a pencil-shaped tool with a flat tip on one end (much like a flathead screwdriver) and a pointy end on the other. There is also a notch on one end that can be used as a hook to pull small wires or cables, like those found on the back of phone or network patch panels.
Nowadays, spudgers are mostly used in small electronics repair, allowing you to loosen delicate connectors without damaging them. It’s one of our most popular tools, and so universally useful that we include one in nearly all of our kits.
The spudger’s origin story predates any computer, smartphone, or tablet. Let’s take a look at how spudgers came to be and what they were used for in days past.
It’s unclear exactly when the spudger as we know it was invented or how it got its weird name. It’s not defined the Oxford English Dictionary. Doing some etymological digging reveals that the word was most likely derived from the 15th-century word “spudde” meaning “short knife.” That eventually evolved into “spud” in the 17th century, and as the Oxford English Dictionary puts it, as a “small, narrow spade for cutting the roots of plants, especially weeds.” And yes, it’s also informally used as a nickname for a potato.
Of course, the spudger as we know it didn’t exist all the way back then, and it’s not really known exactly when the “ger” was tacked on at the end. But the earliest known mention of the word “spudger” that we could find dates back to 1840 in an issue of the Essex County Standard newspaper. Unfortunately, there’s no explanation of its use.
However, spudgers are mentioned in a transcript from a US Supreme Court case filed in 1880, in which they were used during the manufacturing of isinglass. Before specialized scrapers were introduced, spudgers were used to keep isinglass from burning onto the rollers as it passed through the production line. These spudgers were anywhere between “three to six inches wide at the end.”
As for the smaller variety of spudgers that are much more comparable to what we sell, a 1928 issue of Popular Mechanics mentions spudgers in an article about radio troubleshooting and repair. The spudger in the illustration looks very similar to a typical one you’d find today, although most spudgers are now made out of synthetic materials instead of wood. Either way, they’re made to be nonconductive and antistatic so as not to short out a circuit or discharge a capacitor while fiddling around inside a device.
In today’s world, spudgers are endlessly useful in electronics repair, including, but not limited to:
While spudgers are primarily aimed at electronics repair, they actually have a lot of really neat alternative uses too, like:
You can buy spudgers pretty much anywhere, but ours are top quality. While lots of spudgers are made from cheap plastic, iFixit spudgers are made of glass-filled nylon, which makes them tough and stiff, yet pliable enough (without breaking easily) so as not to scratch plastic casing or damage delicate electrical components. They can also withstand high temperatures, making them a great companion tool while soldering—molten solder doesn’t stand a chance.
We sell many different types of spudgers. If you’ve bought one of our kits before, you likely already have one of our standard spudgers laying around, but you may also benefit from having one of our special spudgers on hand, or just having a few more of them in your tool arsenal.
Our spudgers come in all sorts of different shapes, sizes, and materials. Here’s an overview of the different types we sell:
We also sell a 3-pack of standard spudgers, which is great to have when you need multiple spudgers to pry up bigger batteries. We even include some spudgers in our Prying and Opening Tool Assortment kit, which also comes with opening picks, plastic cards, and an opening tool.
We’re especially proud of our standard and Halberd spudgers, as these are in-house designs based on our wealth of repair knowledge, and with the help from our community of repair experts and teardown engineers.
Still not convinced? Here are some more uses for spudgers you may not have considered:
The possibilities are endless!