Tag Archives: screws

Shop Fasteners

IMG_1468I consider myself a furniture maker; to me, that’s a sub-group of woodworkers. A furniture maker is more narrowly focused on building furniture. As a result, I have a narrow view on fasteners.

In my shop, I do not have the need for a drawer full of various-sized screws and nails. Throughout my shop life, I’ve found that I use one size slot-head screw for most every furniture-building need. That size is a #8 x 1-1/4″ flat-head wood screw.  That length allows me to join, even if I countersink the screw, two pieces of 3/4″ thick material – the thickness most commonly associated with furniture – without the worry of the the pointed end of the screw making an appearance on the show side of my project. (My hardware, whether brasses from a specialty hardware supplier or low-end hinges from my local hardware store, comes with the screws needed to use the pieces purchased. I do replace Phillips-head screws with slot-head screws)

I buy these screws by the gross. When I use them, for the most part, I strip off the zinc plating using gun bluing purchased from a sporting goods store – at least that’s where I easily find the solution.

IMG_1469Other screws I buy are square-drive, self-tapping screws used for jigs and other shop stuff, and I sometimes purchase other sizes of wood screws if I find the need. But that’s not often.

I have a similar philosophy when it comes to nails. I keep 1-1/4″ and 1-1/2″ fine finish (reproduction) nails on hand. And I have 1-1/4″ shingle nails (the headed ones in the above photo). The finish nails are used on show faces of nailed-together furniture, and the shingle nails are used mainly for backboards, and for interior work where the nails seldom show.

I’ve had a box of headless brads gathering dust in the shop for nearly 20 years. I discovered that these nails were a pain to install and set, IMG_1471but more importantly, I discovered that the small rectangular depression left by the #18-gauge nails driven by my air-powered nail guns look almost identical to hand-driven brads.  The only difference is that on occasion, hand-driven brads need to be pulled, and that messes up the surface. And before you write that air-driven brads can shoot out the sides of your projects, remember that you need to accurately size the brads for the task, and pay attention to grain direction. I have a couple of lengths of #18-gauge brads – 1″ and 1-1/4″.

I also use a #23-gauge fastener. These fasteners disappear, and are perfect on small moldings.

You can call me nail and screw deficient, but I’ve made it 22 years and built a few more than 500 pieces of furniture using just the fasteners. I think that’s all I need.

Build Something Great!



Filed under Hardware, Methods of Work, Shop Tips

Broken Screws

IMG_1433A couple of weeks back, and a few times since, I’ve found myself talking or writing about brass screw installation and how to do it without problems, so I thought I’d post a few tips and tricks to refresh the idea if you’ve seen this in the past, or bring it to your attention if you have yet to read this anywhere. Brass screws are softer than steel screws (Duh!). But I’ve seen steel screws – especially screws sold at home centers – break many times, so keep that in mind, too.

The proper method to install brass screws is to drill and countersink your holes using the proper devices. I find that’s easy to follow if you’re driving 3/4″ or longer screws. Shorter screws, for me, present more of a problem, especially when driving screws for hinges. What I do is locate the center of my hole using an awl, such as a birdcage awl from Czeck Edge. Then I drive a steel screw of a matching size and with similar threads. I then pull the steel screw and turn in the brass screw.

ExtractorBut what do you do if your brass screw breaks as you tighten, or over tighten? Then you need a screw extractor as shown at the right. This is simply a tube that has saw-like teeth cut at the ends. You center the tool over your broken screw, and with the extractor chucked in your drill, spin the tool until it’s below the screw depth. When you break out the plug – this is basically using a plug cutter – the broken screw pops out. While this is actually a plug cutter, the biggest difference is that the extractor is correctly sized to an outside diameter which can easily be filled with a dowel, or other cut plugs.

There is something strange when using a screw extractor. The tool is meant to be spun in your drill while the drill is set in reverse. If after a few seconds your extractor is not going into the wood, change the spin direction.

Another interesting tidbit is that these extractors are difficult to hold in position as you begin the cut. If you have an area that you don’t want to hack up as the extractor wriggles around before it bits into the wood, there is a method of work that saves your surface. As I wrote above, screw extractors are sized to be easily replaced with dowels. To make that happen, they need to be sized to standard diameters, which means you can also drill a hole the exact diameter using a drill bit. If you drill a hole with a matching diameter through a scrap, then locate that hole perfectly over your broken screw, the hole guides the extractor. No marred surfaces.


The above photo was pulled from an issue of American Woodworker magazine. You should expect to hear about and read about many new things with American Woodworker in the coming months and years. Why? If you haven’t yet heard, F+W Media – owner of Popular Woodworking Magazine of which I am currently the managing editor  has purchased the company which owns and operates American Woodworker. You can read a press release here, if you’re so inclined to do so.


Filed under Hardware, Methods of Work, Shop Tips