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Our dad was quite a handy guy. If a sow’s ear could be turned into a silk purse, he was the man for the conversion. Armed with a bottle of wood glue, screws and furniture clamps, he would magically transform a stack of scrap wood into a chair, bookcase or other piece of furniture.
Dad used as much “fastening horsepower” as possible so that his finished products would withstand the use and abuse that they would be subjected to by the Carey kids.
When he was joining two pieces of wood, his bottle of wood glue was always nearby. He would slather just enough so that only minimal excess glue would ooze from the joint. We were always curious how he knew just how much enough was.
Glue application was only a part of dad’s fastening ritual. Where glue was applied, screws weren’t far behind – and vice versa. Once dad had all of his parts ready for assembly, he would drill pilot holes for the installation of wood screws. Often, the head of the screw would be recessed and concealed with a short piece of wood dowel that was sanded flush with the surface of the wood. Once he finished, one was hard pressed to determine how the piece had been assembled.
We concur that screws are fabulous fasteners. They are, however, not without fault. When a screw head becomes damaged or rounded off, it is virtually impossible to fully install it or to remove it for replacement.
For years removing a damaged screw had ranked with the best of challenges. But today, removing screws with damaged heads is easily accomplished thanks to a nifty tool appropriately called a “damaged-screw remover.” As is a drill bit, this tool is inserted into the chuck of a variable-speed drill. The specially designed tip of the tool plows into the head of the damaged screw and, with steady pressure, turns the screw out with the power of the variable-speed drill. The key to easily removing the screw is firm steady pressure and powering the drill to the lowest possible speed in reverse. This prevents the tool from slipping on the screw head.
If you thought removing a screw with a damaged or rounded head was a challenge, consider removing a screw where the head is broken off. Impossible, you say? Hardly, thanks to another nifty, not-so-high-tech tool of the trade – the “screw extractor.”
In contrast to the damaged-screw remover, the screw extractor is specifically designed to remove a screw with a broken head. The tool consists of a small metal tube with teeth cut into one end. The extractor is inserted into a drill and placed over the center of the screw shaft. The teeth bore into the wood immediately around the circumference of the shaft. When removed, the extractor takes a core that contains the shaft and a small core of wood surrounding it. The core then is plugged, using carpenter’s glue and a wood dowel. Once dry, a pilot hole can be drilled in the dowel and a new screw can be inserted in the same location.
Finding a damaged-screw remover and screw extractor can be a bit of a challenge. Start with the tool section of your local hardware store. If you have no luck there, try a tool specialty store that sells to the trade. Online tool outlets are another possibility for such tools.