Tools: How to Remove a Damaged Screw
Our dad was quite the handy guy. If ever a sow’s ear could be turned into a silk purse, he was the man to do it. Armed with a bottle of wood glue, some screws and furniture clamps, he could magically transform a stack of scrap wood into a chair, a bookcase or other useful, yet decorative piece of furniture.
When it came to working with wood, one of dad’s favorite sayings was “don’t send a boy to do a man’s job.” Translation: use as much “fastening horsepower” as possible so that the finished product could withstand the use and abuse that it would be subjected to by the Carey kids.
Whenever joining two pieces of wood, dad’s bottle of wood glue was always nearby so that he could slather just enough to guarantee that minimal excess glue would ooze from the joint. We were always curious as to how he knew just how much enough was. That was just another secret that he took with him to the “how-to heaven” in the sky.
Glue was only a part of dad’s fastening ritual. Wherever there was glue, screws weren’t too far behind – and vice versa. Once dad had all of his parts ready for assembly, he would drill pilot holes for the installation of wood screws. Often, the head of the screw would be recessed and concealed with a short piece of wood dowel that was sanded flush with the surface of the wood. Once finished one could nary find how the piece was assembled.
Like our dad, we agree that screws are fabulous fasteners. They are, however, not without fault such as when a screw head becomes damaged or rounded off, making it virtually impossible to fully install or, worse yet, to remove for replacement. It is then that the screw becomes the enemy – the scourge of mankind! Removing a damaged screw is right up there with the best of challenges, like trying to get a square peg into a round hole. While we have yet to be successful with the latter, we have conquered the former.
Removing screws with damaged heads is now a breeze thanks to a nifty tool appropriately called a “damaged screw remover.” As with a drill bit, this unique tool is inserted into the chuck of a variable speed drill. The specially designed tip of the tool plows into the head of the damaged screw and, while using steady pressure, turns the screw out with the power of the variable speed drill. The key to easily removing the screw is firm steady pressure and powering the drill to the lowest possible speed in reverse — to prevent the tool from slipping on the screw head.
If you thought that removing a screw with a damaged or rounded head was tough, have you tried removing a screw where the head is broken off? Impossible, you say? Not hardly thanks to another nifty, not-so-high-tech tool of the trade – the “screw extractor.”
In contrast to the damaged screw removal tool, the screw extractor is specifically designed to remove a screw with a broken head. The tool consists of a small metal tube with teeth cut into one end. The extractor is inserted into a drill and placed over the center of the screw shaft. The teeth bore into the wood immediately around the circumference of the shaft. When removed, the extractor takes a core that contains the shaft and a small core of wood surrounding it. The core is then plugged using carpenter’s glue and a wood dowel. Once dry, a pilot hole can be drilled in the dowel and a new screw can be inserted in the same location to conceal the plug.
Finding the “damaged screw remover” and the “screw extractor” can be a bit of a challenge. Start with the tool section of your local hardware store. If you don’t have luck there, your best bet is to try a tool specialty store that sells to the trade. Online tool outlets are another great resource for these tools.
The days of destroying drill bits and damaging wood in quest of removing a damaged screw are gone thanks to a couple of very ingenious tools!