In Shop Blog, Techniques

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Q & A: Are Broken Screws Removable?


Argh! I broke off a brass screw
while installing a small hinge. Can I get
it out?



Join the club! Every woodworker
has faced this problem.The best answer
is to drill around the screw with a hollow
bit, an unusual device with reverse
teeth. Furniture repair guys used to
painstakingly make these screw extracting
bits themselves, but now we
can buy three sizes for about $14 each
from a mail-order catalog.

Here’s what you do: Buy a hollow
bit with an inside diameter that’s larger
than the screw. Use a drill press to make
a perpendicular hole in a piece of scrap
that’s the outside diameter of the hollow
bit.This guide block keeps the bit from
wandering.Clamp the guide block over the broken screw.Then chuck the hollow
bit in a portable drill set to
“reverse.”Drill around the screw.When
you get near the bottom of the screw, it
will unthread itself from the wood.
(The hollow bit’s teeth are backward so
they cut when the drill is in reverse.)
Sounds too good to be true,but it really
works! Plug the hole with a dowel.

Next time you use brass screws,drill
a pilot hole first, then screw in a steel
screw to thread the wood. Replace the
steel screw with a brass
one and lubricate
it with a toilet wax
ring or moist soap


Note: Product availability and prices are subject to change.

Screw extractors:

Woodcraft,, 800-225-1153,
#124210, 1/4-in. outside
dia, (removes up to #8
#124211, 5/16-in. outside
dia. (removes up to #10
#124212, 3/8-in. outside
dia. (removes up to #12

This story originally appeared in American Woodworker February 2001, issue #85.

February 2001, issue #85

Purchase this back issue.


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