How to drive screws into wood

  • Advertise with us

« back to Woodworking Skill Share forum

Forum topic by 12strings posted 04-09-2013 04:13 AM 1998 views 0 times favorited 27 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View 12strings's profile


434 posts in 2618 days

04-09-2013 04:13 AM

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


8036 posts in 2277 days

#1 posted 04-09-2013 04:29 AM

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


244 posts in 2359 days

#2 posted 04-09-2013 04:39 AM

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

View darthford's profile


612 posts in 2158 days

#3 posted 04-09-2013 05:34 AM

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

View runswithscissors's profile


2916 posts in 2259 days

#4 posted 04-09-2013 05:52 AM

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

-- I admit to being an adrenaline junky; fortunately, I'm very easily frightened

View Picklehead's profile


1053 posts in 2163 days

#5 posted 04-09-2013 12:05 PM

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!

-- Quote from ebay tool listing: " Has nicks and dings wear and tear dust and dirt rust and pitting but in good working condition"

View johnstoneb's profile


3070 posts in 2407 days

#6 posted 04-09-2013 12:16 PM

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


388 posts in 2374 days

#7 posted 04-09-2013 01:45 PM

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


17796 posts in 3240 days

#8 posted 04-09-2013 01:52 PM

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

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

View SamuraiSaw's profile


515 posts in 2198 days

#9 posted 04-09-2013 01:53 PM

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


1884 posts in 2574 days

#10 posted 04-09-2013 04:09 PM

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


595 posts in 2308 days

#11 posted 04-09-2013 04:51 PM

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 (online now)


3043 posts in 2654 days

#12 posted 04-09-2013 08:32 PM

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


3261 posts in 2909 days

#13 posted 04-09-2013 08:39 PM

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


3599 posts in 2721 days

#14 posted 04-09-2013 08:55 PM

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

View MT_Stringer's profile


3183 posts in 3465 days

#15 posted 04-09-2013 08:55 PM

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

-- Handcrafted by Mike Henderson - Channelview, Texas

showing 1 through 15 of 27 replies

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics