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15 Revolutionary Techniques for Driving Screws

We've been there. You're driving a screw and it breaks, or you strip the head, or you're trying to get the dumb thing started and it pops off the driver bit and tumbles to the floor. Ugh! We feel your pain. Driving screws can be a real exercise in frustration, but it needn't be. Here are 15 tips to help make your next fastening chore a little less screwy.

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Wooden Plugs Hide Screw HeadsFamily Handyman

Wooden Plugs Hide Screw Heads

Using plugs is an easy way to hide screw heads. Simply drive a countersink bit deep enough to create a recess called a counterbore. Then just drive your screws, add a little glue, and gently tap the plugs in. Once the glue dries, you can sand the plugs flush. To make the plugs even less noticeable, align the grain of the plug with the grain of the workpiece. You can make your own plugs or buy packs of them at home centers and woodworking supply stores.

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Give Paint-Clogged Screw Heads a TapFamily Handyman

Give Paint-Clogged Screw Heads a Tap

If you live in an old house, you've probably run into screw heads clogged with layers of paint. Instead of trying to scrape out the paint, try this trick: Simply take a driver bit, set it on top of the screw head, and give it a couple of taps with a hammer until it seats itself in the screw's slots. Plus: 14 handy hints for painting.
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Lubricate ScrewsFamily Handyman

Lubricate Screws

Rubbing wax onto screw threads makes the screws easier to drive, especially when driving screws by hand. Spend a few minutes looking for some wax instead of an hour trying to remove stripped or busted screws. You'll be glad you did.
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Bit Extenders Go the DistanceFamily Handyman

Bit Extenders Go the Distance

Sometimes the place where you need to drive a screw can be hard to reach without a bit extender. This accessory chucks right into your drill and comes in a bunch of different lengths. Most have quick-release jaws that accept hex-shank drill and driver bits. Buy more than one and you can click them together for even longer reach. Flexible bit extenders are also available.

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Impact Drivers Require Spare BitsFamily Handyman

Impact Drivers Require Spare Bits

If you've ever used impact drivers, you know they pack quite a wallop. And sooner or later, all of that torque will snap the ends off your driver bits. Be sure to buy hardened bits made specifically for impact drivers, but be forewarned?they still break, so keep plenty of extras on hand.

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Perfect Junk Drawer DriverFamily Handyman

Perfect Junk Drawer Driver

Ratcheting screwdrivers make driving and removing screws by hand a breeze, and many come with an assortment of bits that store inside the handle for just about any type of screw head. Keep it in your kitchen junk drawer and you'll always know where it is.

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Screws Too Long? Drive it at an Angle!Family Handyman

Screws Too Long? Drive it at an Angle!

Ever drive a screw that you thought was short enough, only to have the tip of it break through the other side of your workpiece? Instead of dashing to the hardware store for shorter screws, try this trick: Drive the screws that you already have at an angle. The screws will have just as much holding power but won't poke out the other side.
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Double-Duty Bit HoldersFamily Handyman

Double-Duty Bit Holders

Special bit holders allow one drill/driver to do the work of two. With one type, you just snap a driver bit onto the countersink bit. Another has a countersink bit on one end and a driver bit on the other. You just drill, flip and drive.

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Screws for Hanging CabinetsFamily Handyman

Screws for Hanging Cabinets

When you're installing cabinets on walls, use 'washer head' screws. Their large heads are far less likely to pull through, which is especially helpful if you're working with crumbly materials like particleboard. The self-drilling tips can eliminate the need for pilot holes. And depending on the brand, you can get them with either star-drive or square-drive heads, so they're less likely to fall off your bit or strip out. The screw shown is made by FastCap.

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Self-Drilling Screws Save TimeFamily Handyman

Self-Drilling Screws Save Time

The specially designed tip and threads on many modern construction screws can eliminate the need for pilot holes. Just before this writing, we drove a dozen screws of this type through doubled-up 3/4-in. red oak boards with no pre-drilling. They all drove easily with no stripping or breakage and sat perfectly flush without the need for a countersink bit. We also observed no splitting when driving them near the ends of the boards. Impressive! SPAX and GRK are two brands available.

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Slower Speed = More Torque

Slower Speed = More Torque

Most cordless drill/drivers have a speed switch on top. The lower the speed setting, the higher the torque. Generally, you'll want a faster speed for drilling holes and a slower speed for driving screws, especially when they're long screws.
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Toothpicks Fix Stripped HolesFamily Handyman

Toothpicks Fix Stripped Holes

If you have a stripped-out screw hole and can't use a larger screw, simply apply some wood glue to a few toothpicks and shove them into the hole. Once the glue dries, cut off the protruding ends of the toothpicks and drive the screw. Just be careful not to overtighten the screws or you'll strip the hole again.
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A Right-Angle Adapter for Close QuartersFamily Handyman

A Right-Angle Adapter for Close Quarters

A right-angle adapter is a handy gadget for driving screws in places where the body of your drill won't fit.

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Two Jobs, One BitFamily Handyman

Two Jobs, One Bit

You can drill a pilot hole with a standard drill bit, then create a recess for the screw head with a countersink cutter. Or, you can do both at once with a countersink bit. Pick one up at a home center or woodworking supply store.

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Drywall Screws are for DrywallFamily Handyman

Drywall Screws are for Drywall

We've used drywall screws for all sorts of carpentry projects, with mixed results. They're strong, which is great. But they're brittle, which is not. With so many different types of wood screws available, you're better off using drywall screws only for hanging drywall.