Wood Screws Today vs. 50 Year Old Ones

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Forum topic by NedG posted 12-13-2014 08:30 PM 1046 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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56 posts in 1733 days

12-13-2014 08:30 PM

If you know wood screws that were commonly available 50 or so years ago, or if you have had the opportunity to take apart something fastened with wood screws that long ago, you will know too that the wood screws used then are far superior to those available today. The material, finish, and means of manufacturing today are very different from earlier screws. Screws today are relatively very weak. I wonder if anyone know of a source of screws similar to those earlier screws. They were certainly better than what passes for a wood screw today. Thanks very much. Ned

8 replies so far

View josephf's profile


124 posts in 1516 days

#1 posted 12-13-2014 09:27 PM

i do not believe this to be true . if your comparing them to cheap drywall screws sure . But construction grade screws have come along way .they now need to hold up to impact drivers that keep getting stronger . star drive has replaced many of the proceeding heads that would cam-out easily . we have superior finishes for ext work . I just love the varity I can easily purchase and i am thinking of just the last 10yrs . actually your probable in for a surprise when you see what you can now purchase

View OggieOglethorpe's profile


1172 posts in 1529 days

#2 posted 12-13-2014 09:40 PM

Exactly… Apples to apples… I’ve taken apart many antiques.

There are some GREAT screws available today, and you don’t even have to suffer straight or Phillips slots.

View poopiekat's profile


4188 posts in 3154 days

#3 posted 12-13-2014 09:53 PM

I’m with you on this, NedG!

Just today I bought some vintage brass #10 screws 2” long to add to my cache of antique fastener stock.. When used with the proper tapered bit and counter-sink, it makes a superior, well-integrated joint. Younger joiners who never were taught this old-school method will naturally gravitate to the newest speedy straight bodied screw and latest head drive paraphernalia. I am respectful of their choice. I just don’t use them except for some quickie structural stuff and jigs, etc, that’s all.

Driving a vintage fastener with a bit of wax, especially using a bit brace and flat driver bit is a very gratifying experience.

-- Einstein: "The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift." I'm Poopiekat!!

View bondogaposis's profile


3969 posts in 1770 days

#4 posted 12-13-2014 10:14 PM

They are still available at Blacksmith Bolt.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View runswithscissors's profile


2127 posts in 1444 days

#5 posted 12-14-2014 10:43 PM

True woodscrews have a smooth shank under the head. That part is supposed to be in the piece being attached; the threaded part in the piece being attached to. All-thread screws only work if the pieces are firmly clamped together at the start.

Try screwing together 2 pieces that aren’t tightly together (you can test this by placing a temporary shim between them before you drive the screw). After pulling the shim out, there is no way you can pull the pieces together with the screw. The threads in both pieces have locked them in their relative positions.

Trouble with true woodscrews, though, is that the smooth section isn’t always the same length as your wood thickness. On the other hand, smooth shank screws don’t twist off as easily as all-threads.

Back when I drove screws by hand, I preferred straight slots. With power drivers, though, I find them almost impossible. Phillips are okay if you can prevent cam-out, but square drive or star drive are better. If you want the worst of both worlds, get the combo screws (square & phillips). You don’t have to worry about cam-out, as that’s already been done for you.

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

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4188 posts in 3154 days

#6 posted 12-14-2014 10:52 PM

The tapered design of old-style wood screws employed the widening smooth shank to exert extra pressure to force two pieces more tightly together. This was the reason why tapered pilot holes were an important part of the design.
Modern screws exert pressure only by the threads in one piece, and the bottom side of the screw head in the other. The ‘shank’ does not play any part in mechanical tightness of the joint, it only spins free in the clearance of the pre-drilled hole.

-- Einstein: "The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift." I'm Poopiekat!!

View NedG's profile


56 posts in 1733 days

#7 posted 12-15-2014 03:37 PM

Thanks to all who replied to my question. I am ordering some screws from Blacksmith Bolt when they open today. Smooth shank screws are the way to go, and hardware store wood screws are made of a pot metal (or other weak material) that break too easily. Ned

View MrRon's profile


3891 posts in 2663 days

#8 posted 12-15-2014 06:33 PM

Traditional wood screws may be stronger, but they didn’t have the drives other than slotted drives; no Phillips or square drive. Today’s screw styles do have their place. The Kreg screw is a good example; a traditional screw wouldn’t work. Different materials also call for different screws. Plywood and MDF can’t use traditional screws

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