How to drive screws into wood

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Forum topic by 12strings posted 507 days ago 1253 views 0 times favorited 27 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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401 posts in 1018 days

507 days ago

Any technical tips & tricks on how much to tighten screws, whether for hardware, assembly, or whatever. I usually feel like I could easily hand tighten most screws enough to strip them right out, which obviously not what I want to do.

Everyone just says “don’t over-tighten.” So…

Is it just experience?

If you hear wood crunching or tearing is that the right place to stop, or is it already too far?


-- I'm strictly hand-tool only...unless the power tool is faster and easier!

27 replies so far

View doubleDD's profile


2402 posts in 677 days

#1 posted 507 days ago

I would have to say it a combination of everything you were told. I personally use screw wax, a soft based beeswax for most hardwoods that I work with. It helps the screw go in easier and with less chance of it breaking. Also the larger the thread on the screw the larger the hole I would pre drill. Hope that helps you out.

-- --Dave, Downers Grove, Il. When you run out of ideas, start building your dreams

View Craftsman70's profile


241 posts in 758 days

#2 posted 507 days ago

Don’t use drywall screws for wood, especially hardwood as they tend to break off much easier.

View darthford's profile


532 posts in 557 days

#3 posted 507 days ago

Drill proper size pilot holes and anything below #10 I use stainless.

View runswithscissors's profile


907 posts in 658 days

#4 posted 507 days ago

When you get to be old and weak like I am, you won’t have that problem.

View Picklehead's profile


568 posts in 563 days

#5 posted 507 days ago

When driving brass hardware screws, use a non-brass screw of the same size first, then remove it and replace it with the brass screw. Brass is really soft, and the screws will “lose their heads”, followed shortly by your doing the same!

-- You've got to be smarter than the tree.

View johnstoneb's profile


656 posts in 806 days

#6 posted 507 days ago

everybody has contributed good ideas. It comes down to experience you have to strip a few out and break a few to learn what works. When I worked as a mechanic we used to say , you tighten it until it strips then back off a half turn. Obviously you didn’t do that but the idea was you tighten just short of stripping. In metal you can use a torque wrench but in would it comes down to feel.

-- Bruce, Boise, ID

View grfrazee's profile


325 posts in 773 days

#7 posted 507 days ago

Also, don’t use an impact driver with solid brass screws. Find a steel screw of the same size/thread and screw that one in first. Then back the steel screw out and hand-screw the brass one in.

I didn’t know about the steel screw trick when I built my folding chairs, so I lost a couple half-way through drilling them in. Had to get creative on covering up that mistake.

-- -=Pride is not a sin=-

View chrisstef's profile


10697 posts in 1640 days

#8 posted 507 days ago

A little bit of beeswax on the threads goes a long way too.

-- "there aren’t many hand tools as awe-inspiring as the #8 jointer. I mean, it just reeks of cast iron heft and hubris" - Smitty

View SamuraiSaw's profile


450 posts in 598 days

#9 posted 507 days ago

Pilot holes are essential, especially in hardwoods. But even in softwoods a pilot hole will prevent wood splitting and preserve the head of the screw. It is not necessary to tighten a screw to the point the head is burying itself in the material, the head should be snug in the pilot hole recess.

Using a lubricant on the screw, especially in hardwoods, is another requirement. I use beeswax, parafin, and even bar soap in a pinch.

-- Artisan Woodworks of Texas....

View madts's profile


1247 posts in 973 days

#10 posted 507 days ago

I always use glue when I can. Then the screws are just use to align the parts. That way over-tightening is seldom a problem.

-- Thor and Odin are still the greatest of Gods.

View bbc557ci's profile


541 posts in 707 days

#11 posted 507 days ago

A little bit of beeswax on the threads goes a long way too.

Yep. And I’ve used an old bar of soap before, which worked just fine. Lube and pilot holes are the best IMHO.

-- Bill, central where near the "big apple"

View DS's profile


2131 posts in 1054 days

#12 posted 507 days ago

My drill/driver has a clutch. I know that certain screw types, certain woods and screw lengths have different clutch settings and I’ve learned them over ther years.

I use pilot holes in finished and/or hard wood. I use wax on the threads if it will be a long drive into hard wood (an old candle of my wife’s works well). I’ve seen impact drivers handle stuff that my basic drill/driver couldn’t touch.

Brass screws are always in a pilot hole, waxed and driven with a handheld screwdriver. My drill has too much juice for that kind of delicate work. A good titanium-tipped #2 Phillips with a comfortable handle will be the best $20 you ever spent, IMHO.

Trial and error is a good teacher. Unfortunately, the “error” part can be frustrating, but you start to get a feel for things that way.

-- "Hard work is not defined by the difficulty of the task as much as a person's desire to perform it.", DS251

View Grandpa's profile


3098 posts in 1309 days

#13 posted 507 days ago

A good cheap source for wax is toilet rings. They sell pretty cheap and are large. I needed some wax to carry in my drill bag. I bought some Australian bees wax in the hair dressing section of a Jewel super market store. This had bottle with screw on caps and even smelled good.

View Dallas's profile (online now)


2869 posts in 1121 days

#14 posted 507 days ago

-- Improvise.... Adapt...... Overcome!

View MT_Stringer's profile


1851 posts in 1864 days

#15 posted 507 days ago

I have just about wore out a bar of Irish Spring! :-)

-- Handcrafted by Mike Henderson - Channelview, Texas

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