Tool Tip: Extracting a damaged screw

Posted By on January 5, 2008

Cutting Slot in Screw
Click photos for larger images

Phillip headA friend of mine asked me for some help in repairing a piece of furniture with a couple of damaged fasteners (Phillips headed wood screws). In talking with him about about using a ‘screw/bolt extractor,’ or ‘cutting’ a new slot in the screws (above), I realized this might not be something everyone knows about? Hmm … this might make a good “How to” blog entry?

cut slot
My first thought was to use a screw/bolt extractor, but generally on small wood screws this isn’t the optimum choice in my opinion.
screwextractorUsing an extractor requires a small pilot hole be drilled in the top of a screw, or that the Phillips head opening fit the counterclockwise thread of the extractor (it can be done, but does require the correct sized ‘extractor’ bit).

The other approach, which is the one I generally used on ‘stripped’ straight or Phillips head wood screws, is to cut a deeper ‘clean’ straight screwdriver slot in the head of the screw. If you have a small abrasive disk on the end of a drill or preferably high speed Dremel type rotary tool it is easy to cut a clean slot. An optional method would be a small metal file or hacksaw.
bit in new screw slotOnce the slot is cut, a straight bit screwdriver will improve leverage in easing out the damage wood screw. Often times it helps to work the screw slightly counter clockwise and then clockwise to loosen the screw and prevent stripping again or breaking the head off the screw. (particularly if the screw is rusty)

So next time you are faced with a damage screw head, remember to either put a set of screw extractors and drill bits in you tool bag, or cut a clean slot for a straight bit screw driver to help ease out the fastener.
Hacksaw slot


Desultory - des-uhl-tawr-ee, -tohr-ee

  1. lacking in consistency, constancy, or visible order, disconnected; fitful: desultory conversation.
  2. digressing from or unconnected with the main subject; random: a desultory remark.
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