Last weekend, I was drilling a screw into an alder wood for my latest woodworking project. I must have drilled it too hard because the small screw broke off when it was just about in the middle of the wood. You can see what a problem it was for me. However, having worked with lots of woodworking projects in the past, I faced the same problem once or twice before. I knew a few tricks on how to remove broken screw.
A broken screw is the one where its head had been sheared off. It’s difficult to get the screw out as you no longer have the head which a screwdriver can grip. Luckily, there are several ways for you to deal with a broken screw. I’ll provide the easiest tricks in this guide.
When the screw’s head twists and is cut from its body, you have several options to approach the problem. These options include:
Method 1 - Using the Rubber Band
It is the easiest way to remove a stripped screw that you do not need any special tools.
For this method, you only need:
- Rubber Band
- Put the rubber band between your screwdriver and the stripped screw
- Push with a heavy force and turn slowly.
Method 2 - Hammer Method
In this method, you need:
- A hammer
- A screwdriver or manual hand impact driver (if you have)
- Put your screwdriver on the stripped screw
- Hammer at the end of the screwdriver to get it to go into the stripped screw (because the material of the screw is usually "softer" than the material of the screwdriver). It will add more grip to screw it out.
Tip: If you have a manual hand impact driver, follow the below instruction:
- Place the impact driver bit into the head of the stripped screw.
- Hammer the end of the impact driver several times. When the driver bit sets firmly into the screw head, the impact driver head will rotate and loosen the screw.
- Use either a screwdriver or a drill to remove the screw.
Method 3 - Weld It
This method is similar to method 2. If you have welding skill, it will help you in this case. But make sure that heating does not damage the device that the screw is in.
- A nut or piece or metal
- A welding machine
- A wrench or a plier
- Weld a nut to the broken screw. You also use the piece of metal (with a drill hole on it) instead.
- Once welded, use the wrench to turn the nut or metal piece and the screw will be extracted.
Method 4 - Grinding Tool
- Grinding tool (Ryobi, Dremel...)
- Flat screwdriver
- Cut a straight notched line on the head of the stripped screw.
- Use a flat screwdriver to screw out.
Tip: The cutting notch should be deep enough for removing efficiently.
Method 5 - Leave It in Place
Sometimes, there’s no need actually to get the screw. If it can’t compromise your project, the best way to approach the problem might be to leave the broken screw in its place. The only problem with this is that you will still leave a hole in place, and the screw might be showing, affecting the aesthetics of your project.
- Cutting plier: a plier is a handy tool that is used to hold things firmly. However, its head does not only have a gripping jaw but also a cutting edge which you can use to cut protruding screws. Choose a plier that will suit the diameter of your screw.
- Die Grinder: a die grinder is used to grind, sand, hone, polish, or lap different materials, particularly metal like screws. You can use this to cut anything.
- File: a file is a tool that’s used to remove amounts of materials from workpieces. It has an abrasive surface such as silicon carbide and diamond grain that allows you to refine surfaces.
If the broken screw is not protruding, you can leave it be. However, if there’s a part of the screw above the wooden surface, you will have to cut at least that part. To do that, follow the steps below.
- Prepare your tool
To do the job, you have three options: cutting plier, die grinder, or file. You can choose one and prepare it before you proceed to do the job.
- Cut the protruding part
Using your chosen tool, you can cut the protruding part or grind it to make flush. Make sure that you do this carefully so that you will not damage the wood. It’s better that the cutting plier and die grinder don’t make contact with the wood. If there’s a small protruding part left, use a file.
Method 6 - Grab and Reverse the Screw Out
If the screw hasn’t been secured to tightly on the wood and the tip is protruding, you can easily grab it and remove it. You need a good pair of pliers or drill chuck to do the job.
- Locking pliers: Locking pliers are used to lock things into position with an over-center action. On one side, it has a bold which you can use to adjust the jaws’ space. On the other side, there’s the handle which sometimes includes a lever that you can push to unlock the plier.
- Drill chuck: A drill chuck is a specialized tool which is quite similar to a clamp. It holds objects with radial symmetry. You can mount it on the spindle which will rotate with its headstock.
Again, you can only use this method if there’s a protruding part of the screw. Follow the steps below:
Choose a tool
A locking plier or a drill chuck can be used to perform the task. You can purchase only one of them, or you can prepare both, in case one will not work out.
Latch or lock the tool to the screw
Latch or lock your plier or drill chuck to the protruding shank. Make sure that the tool is in place, so you don’t end up rounding off the screw. The better the grip you have on the screw, the better it is.
If you are using the plier, apply pressure, and manually turn it in a reverse direction to remove the screw. If you are using the drill chuck, you don’t have to use as much effort. You only have to set the drill to reverse, and you will eventually extract the broken screw.
Method 7 - Using Screw Extractors
Screw extractors might be the most reliable solution to remove broken screws. They come with a left-handed thread that allows you to put a drill into reverse and drill a hole into the screw and extract it.
- A Drill
- Screw extractors
A screw extractor is a special tool that helps you drill a hole into the broken screw. When you flip the tool, it’ll bite in the screw. Thus, you can pull it out more easily. Buying a whole set of screw extractors is highly recommended as you will not have to worry about what size you will need for your broken screw.
This is the quickest and most reliable solution. If you choose this method, follow the steps below:
Pick the right tool size
Screw extractor comes in different sizes. You must choose one that’s smaller than the diameter of your screw. However, it should not be too small as not to create the needed impact.
Drill a hole in the screw
Position the screw extractor at the center of the screw and put it in reverse. Push it downwards. You need to be able to drill a hole inside the screw. Also, the screw extractor needs to be embedded in it.
Once the screw extractor is embedded on the screw, you need to set it on the reverse. This time, you pull it upwards so that you can extract the screw from the wood. You don’t need much effort to perform the job. The tool will help you remove it neatly.
Method 8 - Using Screw Removing Pliers - Neji-saurus pliers
If you are facing with ruined screws, a neji-saurus pliers will help you remove it quickly. Its jaw groove and lip design were patented. So it has a particular function that you will never find on regular pliers. You also use it to extract tamper-proof screws.
Method 9 - Bore a Hole in the Wood
You can also fill a hole left by the broken screw using a wood boring extractor. This method works perfectly for small and short screws, which are more difficult to extract when broken. You must remember that wood extractors can only work up to 2 inches deep. If the screw is too deep inside the wood, this method might not be as useful.
You can also do this method with a wood plug cutters, counterbores, and countersinks. These can create bigger holes but not deeper.
- Wood boring extractor: used to create a hole into a wooden surface. However, a wood boring extractor can only reach up to 2 inches deep.
- Wood plug cutter: a plug cutter can create up to .5 inch deep hole. It usually has a built-in shank which makes drilling easier.
- Countersink: a countersink is designed to be attached to a tapered drill bit. However, without the drill bit, one can use with a makeshift shank to cut a section of the wood and make a taper around the broken screw.
- Counterbore: a counterbore works the same was as the countersink. The only difference is that it does not make a taper. Instead, it creates a flat-faced hole.
If you haven’t put the screw deeper than 2 inches into the wood, then you can use this method. To do so, follow the steps below:
- Choose a tool
There are many possible tools you can use to perform the job-- wood boring extractors, wood plug cutters, counterbores, and countersinks. All of them can perform the job neatly. However, wood boring extractors are the most recommended tool.
- Position the tool
Once you’ve chosen a tool, position it at a perpendicular position with the screw. This part is crucial as you will end up damaging the wood if you wrongly position the tool and start creating a hole. Moreover, if you accidentally make contact with the screw while boring, the tool might break.
- Bore a hole
Start the drill and make a hole around the screw. Make sure that you don’t stray from your original position.
- Remove the screw
Once you’ve created the hole, you can simply extract the broken screw.
- Fill the hole
Your problem next is how to fill the hole. You don’t want to leave it hallowed. You can use the wood boring extractor to make a plug. Then, you can use that plug to fill the hole you’ve made.
Method 10 - Pull the Screw Out
This method might require the most effort. However, it also uses the cheapest tool, two-part epoxy glue. The process is not complex, too, and there’s minimal damage in case you fail to follow the process well.
- Two-part epoxy glue: one that’s designed for metal like J-B Weld. You can’t just buy other types of glue as they will not be strong enough to make this trick successful
- Nut: for this method, you will use it to stick to the protruding screw.
- Wrench: use a wrench to grip the nut and turn it to remove the broken screw.
You can go creative and use all available resources. You can use epoxy glue and pull the screw out. Follow the steps below:
Choose the right nut size
It’s important that the nut you will use will perfectly fit the screw. Try fitting several sizes around the protruding screw to find the right size.
Glue a nut to the screw
Prepare a nut and put an epoxy glue around the inner circle. Then, carefully position and attach it to the protruding screw. Make sure that the glue is not stuck on the wooden surface. Otherwise, it will get stuck, and you’ll face a bigger problem.
Dry out the glue
Wait for several minutes and let the glue completely dry before you proceed to the next step.
Unscrew the screw
Use a wrench and attach it to the nut. Then, manually turn the nut so that you can remove the screw.
Method 11 - Using a Left Handed Drill Bit
If the bolt head has been sheared off by sideways force, a left handed drill bit will help you in this case.
- Center punch: use it to make a center punch mark in the center
- Center drill bit: use the center drill bit to drill a small hole
- A left-handed drill bit: measure the diameter of the bolt and make sure that its diameter is larger than the drill bit diameter.
You can follow the steps below:
- Make a center hole on the head of the bolt
Use the center punch and center drill bit to make a small hole on the head of the bolt; you will need the hole for the next step
- Drill with the left-handed drill bit
Put the drill bit in the drill chuck; a left-handed drill bit works in reverse, so make sure select the Reverse on the drill. Let start drilling in Reverse, and you will extract the broken bolt.
What method do you think is most effective? Remember that there’s no perfect way to removing a broken screw. Choose a method that will fit best to the kind of situation you have.
If you can add more methods to removing a broken screw, feel free to leave a comment below.