Removing broken screw with no head on it

andreadegFebruary 18, 2012

Okay, I did something not too bright. I was drilling a screw into a solid oak cabinet for door hardware, and I didn't drill a pilot hold first. The screw, which is fairly small, broke off in the wood; the phillips head broke off leaving the body of the screw embedded in the wood. There is about 1/8 of an inch of the screw exposed, sticking out of the cabinet, but the head of the screw broke off. All the screw extractors that I've seen require that the head of the screw be intact.

Any ideas how I can get the screw out of the wood?

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HandyMac

Try a small pair of vise grips to see if you can clamp them on the head of the screw. Then unscrew.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2012 at 1:32AM
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andreadeg

Oh, should have mentioned that vise grips didn't work. The screw didn't budge at all.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2012 at 1:38AM
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snoonyb

Drill a hole in a thin piece of plastic or metal to use as a shield and lay over the screw.
Attach a vise grip, nose first, not the side of the jaw.
Make sure its as tight as you can get it, you may only have one shot.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2012 at 1:46AM
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sombreuil_mongrel

If it's in a place where a bit of damage won't show, cut away a little wood around the screw stub so pliers can get a better purchase on it.
There are wood screw extractor bits that are like tiny hollow drills that take out a core of wood surrounding the screw, which you can then plug and proceed when the repair has dried.
Casey

    Bookmark   February 19, 2012 at 11:43AM
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brickeyee

Try vice grips again.

They need to be VERY tight.

If the vice grips still slip, use a broken wood screw extractor.

The hollow extractors can be a problem in a drill though, so use a piece of 1x lumber with a hole through it the outside diameter of the hollow extractor.
Clamp the 1x in position any way you can with the hole lined up with the broken screw.
Use the hollow extractor to drill a plug centered on the broken screw.
Try to estimate how deep the screw penetrated into the wood and barely go that deep with the extractor.use pliers to grab the screw stub and break off the wood plug.

Glue a piece of tight dowel into the hole.

If you are careful everything should be hidden by the hinge when you are done.

Pilot holes are required in most hardwoods, and if you are using brass screws drive a steel screw of the same size to almost flush, then remove the steel screw and install the brass screw tightly.

Here is a link that might be useful: Wood Screw Extractors

    Bookmark   February 19, 2012 at 1:51PM
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shadetree_bob

Stick a hacksaw blade between the door and the cabinet face and cut the screw off. If that does not work, then one time I removed all the other hardware and screws and then rotated the door until the screw came out. If you have clearance to rotate the door, that will be the least destructive way. The screw will be sticking out of one or the other, the door or the frame far enough to get a good hold of it to remove it with vice grips. Good thing about the rotating way is that you can reuse the same hole, only this time drill a pilot hole.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2012 at 2:04PM
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snoonyb

Besides a pilot hole for the new screw, coat the threads with bar, hand soap.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2012 at 3:41PM
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andreadeg

very good advice everyone; thanks. I'm off to go try the vice grips again and then if those don't work I'll go to HD and see if they have a screw extractor and to find some scrap wood to help with stabilizing the screw extractor.

Not that it matters a whole bunch, but the piece of wood that the screw is stuck in is a false drawer front and I can't rotate it at all.

Thanks for the tip about using a steel screw first.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2012 at 4:44PM
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woodbutcher_ca

Hi, Try electricians dykes (wire cutters) They will lay flat on the wood and you can get a good grip on the screw. Just don't cut it off. Move it back and forth like tapping a thread that may help.
Good Luck Woodbutcher

    Bookmark   February 19, 2012 at 8:49PM
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andreadeg

Well, here is what happened...went to Home Depot and they said that the smallest screw extractor wasn't small enough for my embedded screw. They suggested drilling out the screw. I tried that, it didn't work. I bought a different pair of vice grips thinking they might work, the screw still didn't budge.

So, I moved the handle to the side a bit, drilled a new hole to the left of the stuck screw and installed the handle. The handle is now slightly off center. However, I don't think anyone will notice but me.

My oak cabinets are solid! When I was drilling a pilot hole for my screw, my drill bit completely bent, and, the engine in the drill was smoking. I have to go get a new drill bit now so I can install the other handle. It's a completely new drill, but, I guess not strong enough for the job. Maybe I better get a new drill too.

Thanks for all the advice. I'm sure it was really good advice but I couldn't make it work. Note to self...drill a pilot hole!

    Bookmark   February 20, 2012 at 1:22AM
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brickeyee

I have never seen wood screw extractors at HD.

They did have tapered left hand thread bolt extractors at one point.

A correctly sized pilot hole and a steel screw for at least the first time the hole is used are needed in hardwoods.

If you are using tapered screws there are tapered drill bits available to match them.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2012 at 10:19AM
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stash-hdy

Another way is to drill out to the depth of the screw next to the screw with a VERY small bit 180 degress around the broken screw. Once you do that you can move the screw toward the drill out and then it will be free to be removed. Fill the hole with plastic wood, let it harden and reinsert the screw after you drill a pilot hole. This assumes that your handle will cover the drill out area.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2012 at 10:30AM
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kudzu9

andrea-
If you are having trouble drilling into oak, it means one of two things: 1) you're using a dull drill bit, and/or 2) you have a drill with a reversing lever that was set in the wrong position. Even a cheap electric drill should not have a problem with this.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2012 at 5:32AM
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andreadeg

Interesting. The drill is brand new and the drill bit had never been used before. Maybe I need a different set of drill bits that are sharper. I'm going to take it to Ace Hardware (where I purchased it) and see what they say about it.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2012 at 3:24PM
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kudzu9

andrea-
Good luck...I'll be interested to hear what Ace says about this problem.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2012 at 3:56PM
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kudzu9

andrea-
Did you ever check to see whether the reverse switch was the issue?

    Bookmark   February 24, 2012 at 7:25PM
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andreadeg

So finally went to Ace tonight and they said that my original drill wasn't worthy of the job. I bought it on clearance and the drill bits were apparently poor quality steel. I upgraded the drill and bought some special drill bits; they allowed me to exchange the old drill for a new one. Mystery solved. Thanks!

    Bookmark   February 26, 2012 at 12:19AM
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brickeyee

"the drill bits were apparently poor quality steel"

Many of the low cost drill bits and bolts from China are so soft (we refer to them as 'butter bolts' and 'butter bits') that they are nearly useless.

Quality tools are not cheap.

Cry once when you purchase quality tools, or cry every time you try and use the junk tool.

I have seen 'pump pliers' (AKA 'channel locks') that had so much slop they would slip size when used on a tight fastener.
But they only cost about $6.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2012 at 11:34AM
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andreadeg

Yeah, lesson learned on the cheap tools. It's the old "pay me now or pay me later" axiom.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2012 at 12:53PM
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jonnyp

Cry once when you purchase quality tools, or cry every time you try and use the junk tool.
Harbor Fright
Maybe Garden Web should start a tool forum ?

    Bookmark   February 27, 2012 at 7:14PM
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lbpod

Dang, I learn somfin new every day.
I thought this was a tool forum.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2012 at 10:30AM
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andreadeg

I thought you all might be entertained by the ongoing saga of the drill bit, drill, and my oak cabinets.

So, I finally installed the other handle yesterday. New Dewalt drill, new Dewalt steel drill bits (not a split head the first time), and the drill bit broke. Yep, it did break off in the cabinet door, but it had gone far enough through that I could dislodge it from the back of the door. The split drill bit did better, it didn't break, but it was smoking, hot and looks a little crooked now.

This is a brand new Dewalt drill, brand new steel drill bits. I'm thinking that oak is darned sturdy.

For now my bathroom saga is done, but I will be putting hardware on my other bathroom cabinets and kitchen cabinets too. If you happen to have any advice on how I could improve the installation of cab hardware on my oak cabinets, I'm all ears.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2012 at 11:59AM
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lbpod

You obviously put side pressure on the drill,
instead of pushing straight into the bit.
You also don't realize you did that, but you
did. That's the only way a good bit could
snap off like that.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2012 at 2:38PM
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andreadeg

Well, I suppose that's possible, but I doubt it. I was using the level at the back of the drill so I know the drill was straight.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2012 at 9:03PM
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snoonyb

The untrained will pickup a pistol grip drill motor and hold it so that their first finger is engaging the trigger.
Holding the tool so, with the arm fully extended out, reveal that there is an offset from the straight line described by the bit, chuck and motor in relationship with the arm.
This, especially with smaller bits, can make them susceptible too minor deflections.
Moving the hand up so that the thumb and first two fingers are along the armature housing and using the third finger as the trigger finger brings the bit, chuck, motor and your arm more in line.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2012 at 11:00PM
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andreadeg

I will definitely keep that in mind for my next set of cabinets which I'll be updating before the end of summer. Thanks for the tip!

    Bookmark   March 5, 2012 at 12:08PM
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Sesame9

I know this is an old thread but for future reference if you have a Dremel try using a cutting disc 1/64. With a steady hand cut a slit in the top of the exposed screw just deep enough for a small standard screw driver and unscrew. I've done this several times and it works like a charm. Even if you have to penetrate the wood a little it's the size of a scratch mark and easily disguised. Good luck.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2012 at 2:24PM
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