Woodworking Tips
Woodworking Tips Index
Woodworking Brass Screws
Brass screws -- they'll drive you nuts.

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 a grip.
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."

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