The humble screw is one of the oldest machines in the world. It’s a simple inclined plane wrapped around a cylinder—its usefulness is undeniable. Yet we all run into problems once in a while.
Not all problems require big solutions, however. Sometimes small tips and tricks are all we need. Let’s take a look at some “screw tips” for times when we run into small problems with these wonderful machines.
WEAR SAFETY GEAR
The potential for eye injury is just as high at home as it is in the workplace. Eye injuries often happen during do-it-yourself projects when screws, nails, and hand tools are involved. Always wear safety gear, even when doing something as simple as screwing a fixing into a wall.
PILOT HOLE, CLEARANCE HOLE, AND COUNTERSINK
When working with wood, especially near the ends, it is very important to drill pilot holes and use a screw-shank clearance hole. The pilot hole is a small hole bored into the bottom board to provide a path for the screw to enter. Then pre-drill a hole through the top board that is slightly larger than the screw shank.
With no friction in the top board, the screw can pull the two boards tightly together. If no clearance hole is needed, then you want to countersink the screw head prior to driving it.
STAINLESS STEEL IN OR NEAR SALTWATER ENVIRONMENTS
Stainless steel contains chromium which, when reacting to oxygen, creates a thin passive layer on the stainless steel. This layer resists corrosion, but in the presence of salt, the layer begins to break down. To help prevent this, use Stainless Steel 316 which contains molybdenum, a substance that helps fight off corrosion in saltwater environments. This simple switch will ensure that your stainless steel screws stay in the best condition possible.
When the threads of the fastener and the nut stick together, it is called galling. To prevent galling, apply a good lubricant on the fastener before you use it. The best lubricants have a graphite base. It’s a simple trick, but it can make all the world of difference, as you don’t want the fastener to become adhered to the nut. Choose one of the leading graphite-based lubricants to help prevent this problem.
ALWAYS USE THE RIGHT SCREWDRIVER
Households often have several sizes of different screwdrivers sitting around. You need to make sure that the screwdriver, no matter the type, fits snugly in the screw head without wobbling and without slipping out easily. You don’t want to damage the screw head with an ill-fitting screwdriver.
Avoid using stainless steel and aluminium together. Galvanic corrosion occurs when electrons leave the aluminium and transfer it into the stainless steel in rainwater or humidity. This process weakens the aluminium, causing it to decay at a faster rate. This is also true in or near a saltwater environment.
DON’T MIX FINE AND COARSE THREADS
Each type of thread has its own purpose. Using fine threads in a coarse thread hole won’t follow the track because the threading is shallower than the coarse threading. This could result in a bad fit or the screw itself breaking off. Either of these eventualities is not optimal, so make sure you don’t mix fine and coarse threads. Otherwise, you may face these results.
MAKE YOUR OWN MAGNETIC SCREWDRIVER
If you have a rare earth magnet or any other large magnet, you can even make your own magnetic screwdriver. Just swipe the end of your screwdriver back and forth on the magnet a few times. The magnetization lasts for months. And when it weakens, you can just do the same process again.
Galvanising is coating the fastener in a layer of zinc. This gives the fastener better resistance to corrosion. This means, however, that you need galvanized nuts as well, as the fasteners are incompatible with normal ones. Always use galvanised nuts and fasteners together, to get the best results. See our specialty fasteners for more ideas.