|Brass screws -- they'll drive you
You have to be careful installing brass screws because the brass is soft, at least
it's a lot softer than steel screws we're used to. So it's easy to strip the slot
or twist the head right off.
What can you do about it? It goes without saying that you drill a pilot hole,
the question is how big. I don't have a formula. I eyeball it. I hold the screw
and the drill bit I'm considering using up to a light. With the screw held behind
the drill bit, I want to see just the tips of the threads extending beyond the
thickness of the bit.
In my experience, you don't need to drill the hole so all of thickness of the
threads bites into the wood. It will hold well enough if just the tips can get
Then, to decrease friction when driving in a brass screw, I use a little soap
or wax to lubricate the screw. But that can create problems if the soap or wax
gets on unfinished wood.
My favorite technique is to "cut" the threads in the pilot hole with
a steel screw of the same size and type as the brass screw. It's a hassle, but
a lot less hassle than trying to remove a "headless" brass screw.
Brass Screws Follow-up comments originally appeared with Tip #14: I wrote about sizing pilot holes for brass screws.
Yancey Holmes emailed me with his technique for matching pilot holes and screws.
He said, "My drill bits are indexed in a steel box -- each bit is held in
a hole of its diameter. I simply hand thread the screw into different holes until
I find the one it fits into easily."
Go to Tip #13