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.

What’s a Spudger Anyway?

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.

Spudger setNowadays, 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.

The History of the Spudger

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.

Spudger mentioned in a 19th Century newspaper

Text from a 1840 issue of the Essex County Standard newspaper mentioning the spudger.

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.

Image of tools, including a spudger

A spudger pictured in the above illustration from a 1928 issue of Popular Mechanics.

Uses for Spudgers

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:

  • Sculpting designs in clay.
  • Using it as a bone folder to flatten out creases.
  • Scraping and picking at dried up glue on a table surface.
  • Using it while sewing to push out corners and seams.
  • Scoring different materials before cutting.
  • Using a metal spudger as an impromptu palette knife for painting.

We Take Spudgers Very, Very Seriously

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.

Spudger being used in an iPhone repairWe 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:

  • Spudger: This is the standard spudger that we include in a lot of our toolkits and replacement part kits, but you can purchase a spare one for just $2.99.
  • Halberd Spudger: One end has a thin blade that’s great for slicing adhesive in thin gaps with precise depth control. The other end is a stout and sharp hook for pulling wires, disconnecting components, grabbing parts dropped inside a device, scraping adhesive, and cleaning gunk out of thin grooves.
  • Heavy-Duty Spudger: This is simply a bigger and heftier version of our standard spudger, and it’s made to be a beefier prying tool that won’t bend or break, but still won’t scratch up your devices. These are backed by our lifetime warranty.
  • Metal Spudger: If you need something even stronger than our heavy-duty spudger, our metal spudger is where it’s at. It’s made out of hardened stainless steel, and really great for those impossible prising missions where plastic tools just won’t hack it. But be warned: metal spudgers will scratch, can damage batteries, are very conductive, and are not ESD-safe. But they’re strong and sharp! These are also backed by our lifetime warranty.
  • Metal Spudger Set: If you’re a fan of the metal spudger and want more where that came from, our metal spudger set comes with four different styles of metal spudgers to tackle a plethora of tasks. Again, you’ll get a lifetime warranty with these.

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:

  • Use them as chopsticks.
  • Poke people you don’t like.
  • Play the drums at your desk.
  • Clean under your fingernails and toenails.
  • Pretend you have a pencil.

The possibilities are endless!

Craig is a staff writer at iFixit, as well as a general tech nerd, maker, fixer, DIYer, motorcyclist, party game enthusiast, baseball fan, crazy cat dad, and proud introvert.

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