There is some good advice out there on how to drive brass screws when installing furniture hardware. To recap:
1. Use the right-size pilot holes. The bit should be the diameter of the un-threaded portion of the screw.
2. Use good screws. If your brass screws are soft, you should first cut the threads in the pilot hole using a steel screw. Better option: Buy better screws.
3. Use a little paraffin to lubricate the threads. No, it won’t hurt anything. Paraffin is mineral spirits that has had its melting point raised.
4. Use a screwdriver whose head fits the slot exactly. Repeat: exactly. Cheap, poorly ground and soft screwdrivers are a scourge on the craft.
With all the above tips in mind, the following video shows how I install screws for hardware and clock them so the slots are vertical. I think the trick that helps me the most is using a birdcage awl, which cuts the wood to make a cone at the beginning of the process. Lots of manufacturers make birdcage awls, which have a square – instead of a round – shank. Or you can make your own birdcage awl with a file (if you can’t find a vintage one).
The music in the video is from Underhill Rose, used with permission. This country soul group features Eleanor Underhill, the daughter of Roy Underhill and the illustrator for the new book “Make a Joint Stool from a Tree.” It’s good audio stuff. The track I used on this video is called “Learn.”
— Christopher Schwarz