Tip 1: Do use a self-centering bit when mounting hardware
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Self-centering bit for mounting hardware
A self-centering bit helps you mount hardware more accurately.
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Close-up of self-centering bit
A self-centering bit has a spring-loaded retracting shaft, which keeps the hole centered.
Even with a steady hand and a sharp eye, it's
tough to drill a perfectly centered pilot hole for
hardware installation. And if the hole is off-center,
the screw won't seat properly. But there's
an easy solution. Self-centering bits ($8 to $20)
drill a centered pilot hole, resulting in perfectly
centered screws. There are several sizes of
self-centering bits available. Choose
one to match the size of screw
Tip 2: Do use the clutch
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Adjust the clutch
Adjust the clutch to prevent overdriving or screw breakage.
At times, drills can provide too much
power, causing screw heads to snap off
or strip, especially with small brass or
aluminum screws. Most newer cordless
a clutch, which
Set the clutch
by twisting the
ring near the
chuck to the smallest number. Try driving
a screw. If the clutch releases (you'll
hear a ratcheting noise) before the
screw is fully driven, move the setting to
a higher number. Choose a setting that
drives the screw fully before the clutch
Tip: Using square or
and bits reduces the
tendency for the bit
to slip off the
Tip 3: Do line it up and push hard
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Good drill/screw alignment
Align the bit squarely in the screw head, apply pressure to keep it firmly seated and drive the screw slowly.
Driving screws with a drill can be tricky until
you master the technique. The most common
mistake beginners make is applying too little
pressure. Coupled with bad alignment, this
spells trouble. If the bit is skipping out of the
screw head and you already know that the bit
isn't worn, then improving your technique will
help. First, be sure the driver bit is aligned with
the screw shank. If the bit's sitting crooked in
the screw, it won't engage firmly and will slip.
Then, with the bit firmly seated, start the drill
slowly (assuming you have a variable-speed
drill) while pushing hard against the screw.
Apply extra pressure with a hand on the back of
the drill body. The combination of correct alignment,
pressure and slow speed will ensure that
the screw goes in without bit slippage, which can
damage the screw head and driver bit.
Tip 4: Don't mount bit directly in chuck
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Bit mounted in drill chuck
directly in the
chuck are hard
to use and more
difficult to change.
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Bit mounted in holder
A bit mounted in a magnetic bit holder is easier to change and holds screws better.
Magnetic bit holders are so handy that it's surprising they're
not included as a standard accessory with every cordless
drill. Bit holders are readily available wherever cordless
drills are sold ($3 to $8). Some have a sliding sleeve that
keeps your fingers safer by allowing you to drive long screws
without holding the screw shank. Here are a few other
advantages of using a bit holder:
- Driver bits are easier to install and remove.
- The extra length allows better visibility and
makes it easier to keep the bit aligned
with the screw.
- Long bit holders allow easy
access to hard-to-reach areas.
- You can stack two bit holders
for an extra-long reach.
Tip 5: Do drill pilot holes for toe screws
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Photo 1: Start the pilot hole
Start the bit at a right angle to
the piece you're fastening.
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Photo 2: Continue at an angle
Tip it to the correct angle
and drill the hole.
Driving screws at an angle (toe-screwing)
is a common technique
for making right-angle connections.
But if you simply angle the screw in
the desired direction, it will usually
just slip down the board. The key to
successfully driving screws at an
angle is to use this two-step process
to create an angled pilot hole.
Choose a drill bit with a diameter
equal to the screw shank, not including
the threads. First, estimate the
entry point based on the length of
the screw. Then start the bit at a right
angle to the wood at this point
(Photo 1). As soon as the drill bit
engages the wood, tilt the bit to the
desired angle and finish drilling the
pilot hole (Photo 2). Now drive
the screw into the angled pilot hole
to complete the job.
Tip 6: Do use a countersinking drill bit
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Close-up of countersink bits
Countersink bits provide a clean hole for the screw head.
Countersinking bugle head screws so they
are flush or slightly recessed leaves a neat
appearance. You can drill a pilot hole and a
countersink in one step with a combination
countersink and drill bit. For straight-shank
screws, the less expensive ($3
to $5) straight-bit design works
fine. For tapered-shank wood
screws, use a countersink fitted
with a tapered-shank bit
($10 to $15).
Countersink bits are
available with or without
stop collars. An adjustable
stop collar lets you
set the maximum
depth of the countersink
for more consistent
results. Also, you can hide the
screw by drilling a deep countersink,
called a counterbore, and
gluing a plug into the hole.
Countersink drill bits are available in sizes to
match screw sizes. If you're an avid woodworker,
it's worth buying a full set. Otherwise,
a No. 7 or No. 8 will cover the most
common screw size.
Tip 7: Don't use a worn bit
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Worn driver bit
This worn bit
should have been replaced
with a new one before it
got this bad.
Using worn driver bits is a common mistake.
If you're using the right technique and the bit
is still skipping in the screw head, it's time
to replace the bit.
The trick is to
have spare bits
on hand so you
can replace them
at the first sign
of wear. The next
time you're at
the home center,
buy a 10-pack of
No. 2 Phillips
bits and you'll
always have spares. Don't forget to
get a few of the other sizes and
Tip: Match the driver bit
size to the size of the
recess in the screw
head. The three common
sizes of Phillips
bits, smallest to
largest, are No. 1,
No. 2 and No. 3. Can't
tell by looking? Pick
the bit with the
Tip 8: Do drill clearance holes
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Close-up of clearance hole
The clearance hole allows
the screw to spin until the
boards are tight together.
Have you ever screwed two
boards together but not been
able to pull the two pieces
tight together? This happens
when the screw threads
engage in both pieces of wood
while there's still a gap
between them. One solution is
to clamp or nail the boards
together before making the
permanent screw connection.
If you don't want to mess with
clamps or nailing, you can
drill a clearance hole through
the first board to solve the
problem. Choose a clearance
hole bit that's large enough to
allow the screw to spin freely.
Even cupped or twisted
boards are easily drawn tight
with this method.