15 Revolutionary Techniques for Driving Screws
We’ve been there. You’re driving a screw and it breaks, or you strip the head, or you’re trying to get the dumb thing started and it pops off the driver bit and tumbles to the floor. Ugh! We feel your pain. Driving screws can be a real exercise in frustration, but it needn’t be. Here are 15 tips to help make your next fastening chore a little less screwy.
Wooden Plugs Hide Screw Heads
Using plugs is an easy way to hide screw heads. Simply drive a countersink bit deep enough to create a recess called a counterbore. Then just drive your screws, add a little glue, and gently tap the plugs in. Once the glue dries, you can sand the plugs flush. To make the plugs even less noticeable, align the grain of the plug with the grain of the workpiece. You can make your own plugs or buy packs of them at home centers and woodworking supply stores.
Give Paint-Clogged Screw Heads a Tap
Bit Extenders Go the Distance
Sometimes the place where you need to drive a screw can be hard to reach without a bit extender. This accessory chucks right into your drill and comes in a bunch of different lengths. Most have quick-release jaws that accept hex-shank drill and driver bits. Buy more than one and you can click them together for even longer reach. Flexible bit extenders are also available.
Impact Drivers Require Spare Bits
If you’ve ever used impact drivers, you know they pack quite a wallop. And sooner or later, all of that torque will snap the ends off your driver bits. Be sure to buy hardened bits made specifically for impact drivers, but be forewarned?they still break, so keep plenty of extras on hand.
Screw Too Long? Drive it at an Angle!
Ever drive a screw that you thought was short enough, only to have the tip of it break through the other side of your workpiece? Instead of dashing to the hardware store for shorter screws, try this trick: Drive the screws that you already have at an angle. They’ll have just as much holding power but won’t poke out the other side.
Screws for Hanging Cabinets
When you’re installing cabinets on walls, use ‘washer head’ screws. Their large heads are far less likely to pull through, which is especially helpful if you’re working with crumbly materials like particleboard. The self-drilling tips can eliminate the need for pilot holes. And depending on the brand, you can get them with either star-drive or square-drive heads, so they’re less likely to fall off your bit or strip out. The screw shown is made by FastCap.
Self-Drilling Screws Save Time
The specially designed tip and threads on many modern construction screws can eliminate the need for pilot holes. Just before this writing, we drove a dozen screws of this type through doubled-up 3/4-in. red oak boards with no pre-drilling. They all drove easily with no stripping or breakage and sat perfectly flush without the need for a countersink bit. We also observed no splitting when driving them near the ends of the boards. Impressive! SPAX and GRK are two brands available.
Slower Speed = More Torque
Most cordless drill/drivers have a speed switch on top. The lower the speed setting, the higher the torque.
Generally, you’ll want a faster speed for drilling holes and a slower speed for driving screws?especially when they’re long ones.
Toothpicks Fix Stripped Holes
If you have a stripped-out screw hole and can’t use a larger screw, simply apply some wood glue to a few toothpicks and shove them into the hole. Once the glue dries, cut off the protruding ends of the toothpicks and drive the screw. Just be careful not to overtighten or you’ll strip the hole again.
Two Jobs, One Bit
You can drill a pilot hole with a standard drill bit, then create a recess for the screw head with a countersink cutter. Or, you can do both at once with a countersink bit. Pick one up at a home center or woodworking supply store.
Drywall Screws are for Drywall
We’ve used drywall screws for all sorts of carpentry projects, with mixed results. They’re strong, which is great. But they’re brittle, which is not. With so many different types of wood screws available, you’re better off using drywall screws only for hanging drywall.