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Tip #139
Using Brass Screws

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How to avoid breaking or marring brass screws:

Brass screws are far more delicate than their steel or stainless counterparts. Chances are, you've already discovered that when you "boogered-up" the slot on the head of a decorative brass screw - or broke one in two during tightening. Here are a few simple tips to help you avoid these problems:

  • Always drill properly sized pilot holes when using brass screws in hard woods. This is often not necessary when using brass screws to hold soft wood pieces such as pine or poplar together.
  • It helps to coat the threads of brass screws with beeswax or bar soap prior to driving.
  • If you must drive a brass screw into a piece of hardwood...and the only pilot drill bit you have is too small for the job...coat with wax or soap and drive it in one or two turns. Stop and give your screw ample time to cool off from the frictional heat you've created. Then give it another turn or two. BE PATIENT. Heat is a primary cause of brass screw breakage.
  • Never drive brass screws at high speeds with a power screwdriver. Again, this will create heat, which will cause the screw to break faster.
  • To avoid messing-up the head of a brass screw, it is imperative that the screwdriver blade fits the screw slot perfectly. The tips of most screwdrivers are ground at an angle. To correct this problem, use a file or grinder to dress the driver tip so its sides are parallel and not tapered. This will create a tighter fit between the driver tip and screw slot... minimizing the tendency of the tip to slip out of the slot and mess it up.

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