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Optimizing the Woodworking Screw – Tips For Tightening, Removal, Clean-up and More
The little things can be the most frustrating part of the woodworking shop. One small screw-up, sometimes in the afternoon, can be the ruin of an entire day’s project or a complete brain-boiling annoyance. Remember these tips to optimize your woodworking screw and reduce frustration with those stubborn parts.
Inserting screws into hardwood:
Usually, craftsmen can tear or even break the head of a screw when trying to drive it through hardwood. The easiest way to solve the problem of “screwing into hardwood” is to remember two simple tips.
— Before drilling into hardwoods, try drilling a so-called “pilot hole.” This should allow a very easy access point – a little pocket, if you will – for the screw. In the hardest woods your pilot hole should measure 1/2 the diameter of the screw – in softer woods your pilot hole should be 1/4 the diameter of the screw.
— If the pilot hole is not large enough to get the screw through, try running some paraffin wax or wet soap along the screw threads. This method is especially useful for softer metal screws such as brass or aluminum.
— Never use oil or grease to lubricate the screw! They can penetrate the wood and stain it.
Tightening the screws:
Because screws are much harder than the wood they are embedded in, it doesn’t take much friction or vibration to dislodge them. It’s easy to assume that pulling out a loose screw and replacing it with a larger screw is the best solution – but this large screw can work just as cleanly out of the wood as before. Before using grease screws, try retightening the current screw: insert one (or more) lightly glued toothpicks into the screw hole. The toothpicks should help to keep the screw tight. In the worst case scenario, try re-drilling the original hole and tapping the glued dowel. Drill and re-drill a new pilot hole into the dowel. The dowel should strengthen the strength and durability of the first screw.
Removing the closed screws:
Frozen screws are the result of accumulated rust and corrosion around the screw body. To release the screw, it must be separated from the adhesives that hold it together. In short, there are five reliable ways to loosen frozen screws:
1.) Chemical Removal: Soak chemicals such as Coke, Pepsi, lemon juice, hydrogen peroxide, etc. into the screw hole. Sometimes tapping the screw when applying a chemical solution allows for deeper penetration and easier extraction. Allow the chemical to sit and try to turn/loosen the screw.
2.) Force/Impact: Make sure you have the right size screwdriver. If you can move the screw at all, try to tighten it. This loosens the screw and you have to reverse the screw. If the head of the screw sticks up, grab it with a pair of pliers or pliers and loosen it that way. If the head of the screw is not high, place your screwdriver in the sockets of the head of the screw, clamp it with your vices on the screwdriver shaft, and try to turn the vice grips by pressing the screwdriver down. The extra leverage may be enough to loosen the screw. A light tap with a hammer while the screwdriver is seated on the screw head can also loosen it.
3.) Hot/Cold: Before trying the hot and cold methods, make sure that the material around the screw being set can withstand the temperature difference. Heat the screw with a butane or propane torch to expand it. You can also use a hot glue gun (without glue) or a soldering iron. After cooling the screw, the expansion should allow room to reverse the screw. Cooler temperatures are another alternative. Hold ice (dry ice is most effective) firmly on the screw, and try to turn it upside down until it cools enough. Remember to protect your hands from burns and do not use flammable oils near hot screws until they have cooled.
4.) Disposal: If you absolutely must remove a screw, you can dispose of it. Be careful to preserve the screw hole. Insert a small steel punch or chisel into the screw head holes off-center and tap in a counterclockwise motion with a hammer. A series of blows should loosen the screw. You can also try to drill the screw. When drilling a screw, keep the drill bit dead center (left-handed drill bits provide the most effective turning pressure) so that the screw does not loosen at the end.
5.) Sharp measures: Some screws will not come out without a screw extractor. Pre-drill and pilot a hole for the screw and insert the screw extractor (a drill bit-like accessory attached to a T handle). The extractor should loosen the screw with a few turns, but be careful not to break it inside the screw. The last method is spark erosion. Spark erosion effectively melts the screw without damaging the surrounding material. However, electric current treatment is rare and difficult to implement. Finding a facility that provides the service may not be worth the effort. At the end of the day, persistence is the best way to remove this screw. Try the above methods until the frozen screw loosens. A stuck screw can be the worst nuisance, but be patient and attentive and one of these methods is bound to get that stubborn screw stuck.
To keep your screws permanently in place:
— Non-Removable Screws: Always a craftsman needs a screw for permanent installation. Non-removable screws are designed with a head slot that can only be turned to install the screw. The reverse side of the head socket is clamped to prevent the screwdriver tip from sticking to the screw.
— Special Screws – Serrated Teeth: These screws are designed with barbed or serrated teeth that prevent the screw from backing out of its hole. The vibrations tend to shake the screws out of place – these spikes stick to the wood holding the screw in place.
— Remove the screw heads: You can remove the screw heads to make the screws stick permanently. After the screw is firmly in place, use the drill bit to carve the sockets from the head of the screw. However, this method will prevent you from tightening the screw in the future.
— Epoxy: You can also try using epoxy glue or putty on the pre-drilled pilot hole of the screw. These substances should hold your screws firmly in place.
Fast magnetic cleaning:
Instead of picking up screws and nails to clean and scraping your hands and tables while moving, try this quick cleaning method. To start, turn over (or turn inside out) a plastic bag or even a sock. Put a magnet in the bag and pick up the spare parts with the magnet. After placing all the pieces in the bag, turn it right side out. And, voila, the cleaning is in the bag! Craftsmen can also use multiple bags to keep parts separate and organized.
Craftsmen can also purchase a magnetic roller for wrapping metal parts on floors and countertops. A magnetic cylinder is a series of circular (dough-shaped) magnets stacked on top of each other in a conductor. They are usually kept by hand and used like dustpans or sticks to pick up pieces of scrap. You can also use a magnetic cleaner (made by Evolution) to keep it clean. A magnetic sweeper sweeps across floors (much like a vacuum) to pick up small metallic materials. A magnetic sweeper essentially works like a “super sweeper,” picking up material even on uneven surfaces (ie cracks or tiled areas).
These magnet merchandising tricks and screw optimization techniques will help keep you and your store organized, clean, and safe from physical harm and mental anguish.
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