How to Drill Out a Broken Screw Without Damaging Your Project

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What is a Screw?



A Screw is a popular fastener with a long, thin shaft and spiral grooves known as threads wrapped around it. These threads allow the screw to be turned into a material such as wood or metal, resulting in a firm connection.


When Screws Were Invented?

  • 400 BCE: Archytas of Tarentum, a Greek philosopher known as the "father of mechanics," is credited with inventing the screw thread in 400 BC.
  • Early Applications: Even before the screw thread, the fundamental principle was applied in Mesopotamia and Egypt. Cities like Pompeii, for example, used screw concepts to extract liquids with equipment such as the Archimedean screw.
  • Metal Screws: While wooden screws existed previously, metal screws for fastening objects first appeared in Europe in about the 15th century.
  • Mass Production: Large-scale screw production occurred much later, in the late 18th century.


What are Screws Made of?

Screws are often produced from a variety of metals, the most common of which is steel. Steel is an excellent all-purpose screw material due to its low cost and strength.

However, depending on the exact application, different screw materials have distinct advantages:

  • Stainless Steel: Stainless steel has exceptional corrosion resistance, making it appropriate for use outdoors or in damp situations.
  • Brass: Brass is a corrosion-resistant and machinable metal that is commonly utilized in electrical and decorative applications.
  • Aluminum: Aluminum is lightweight and suitable for situations where weight is an issue, but it may be less robust than steel.
  • Titanium: Titanium has a high strength-to-weight ratio and great corrosion resistance, but it is the most expensive alternative.

Other less popular screw materials include nylon or plastic, which are used for specific applications requiring electrical insulation or weight reduction.


How is a Screw Made?

The manufacturing process for screws involves several steps, including:

  • Wire drawing: The metal is formed into a long, thin wire.
  • Heading: The screw head is made by hammering or upsetting the wire's end.
  • Threading: The shaft's helical threads are created using rolling or cutting tools.
  • Pointing: The screw's tip is designed to allow for easy entry.
  • Finishing: To prevent corrosion, the screw might be coated with a protective layer.


Are Screws Recyclable?

Yes, metal screws make good candidates for recycling. They can be melted down and recycled into new screws or other metal goods.


Video related to How To Remove Stripped Screws


How Screws Work?

  1. Turning the Screw: To impart a turning force, rotate the screwdriver in the head.
  2. Threads Act as Inclined Planes: With each turn, the screw is pushed upwards along the threads, similar to a little ramp.
  3. Lever Advantage: The distance between the screwdriver handle and the screw head generates leverage, which increases the effort driving the screw in.
  4. Gripping and Holding: As the screw penetrates deeper, the threads bite into the material, forming a strong grasp that keeps objects together.


How to Measure Screws?

Screws can be measured in two ways: by their length and diameter. The length is measured from the screw's tip to the underside of the head. The diameter, or gauge, is measured across the screw's body, excluding the threads.  Both length and diameter are usually measured in millimeters (mm) or inches.


Are Screws Better than Nails?

In general, screws have some advantages over nails, but it all depends on the job. Here's an overview of how they compare:

Pros and Cons of Screws


  • Stronger Holding Power: The threads have a firmer hold on the material, making them perfect for applications that require a more secure connection.
  • Removable: Screws can be simply unscrewed if you need to disassemble something for repair or adjustment.
  • More Resistant to Pulling: Screws are more resistant to pulling pressures than nails, making them appropriate for applications where items may try to fall apart.
  • Greater Variety: Screws come in a greater range of sizes, head types, and materials to meet various requirements.


  • Slower Installation: Driving screws normally takes longer than hammering nails, especially if predrilling is required.
  • Cost: Screws often cost more than nails.
  • Potential for stripping: Overtightening a screw can damage the head or threads, making removal difficult.


Pros and Cons of Nails


  • Faster Installation: Nails are easier to hammer in, making them perfect for large-scale applications.
  • Lower Cost: In general, nails are less expensive than screws.
  • Good for Shear Strength: Nails can withstand forces attempting to slide two linked components past each other.


  • Weaker Holding Power: Nails are less resistant to pulling forces than screws.
  • Difficult to Remove: Removing nails frequently destroys the material and might be difficult.
  • Limited Reusability: Nails frequently bend when removed, rendering them useless.
  • Less Variety: Nails often come in fewer head styles and are made of metal.

Ultimately, the best choice depends on your specific needs and priorities.


Can Screws Be Used for Framing?

While some specialist framing screws exist, nails are commonly used for framing projects due to their lower cost and speedier installation. Screws, on the other hand, provide a more secure hold, which might be useful in some instances.


When Screws are Stripped?

A broken screw can be difficult to deal with, but depending on the situation, there are several solutions. Here are some strategies you can try:

If the screw head is broken off but the shank (shaft) still protrudes:

  • Locking Pliers: Using locking pliers, grab the shank as close to the material's surface as feasible. To remove it, apply delicate yet forceful pressure and twist counterclockwise (a normal screw).

If a small part of the head remains:

  • Slotted Screwdriver: If a flathead screwdriver still fits in the remaining slot, apply downward pressure while spinning counterclockwise to increase grip and hopefully back it out.

If there's enough exposed screw for gripping:

  • Vice Grips: If the broken screw shank is long enough, clamp it using vice grips and spin counterclockwise to remove it.

When the above methods fail or the break is flush:

  • Screw Extractor: This specialist tool has a tapered spiral flute that bites into the broken screw.  First, drill a pilot hole in the center of the damaged screw before gripping and removing it with the extractor's reverse-turn drill setting.
  • Easy-out: Like a screw extractor, but with a reversed thread that bites into and loosens the broken screw as you move it counterclockwise.  Again, a pilot hole is required before using the easy-out.

In worst-case scenarios:

  • Drilling it Out: If all else fails, you might have to drill out the entire screw. This is more difficult and requires precise drilling in the center of the screw to avoid injuring the surrounding material. To remove the screw in pieces, you will need to use increasingly larger drill bits.

Here are some additional tips:

  • Work slowly and carefully: Avoid using excessive force or instruments that do not fit properly, since they can exacerbate the condition.
  • Lubricate: Before attempting to remove the threads, apply a penetrating lubricant, such as WD-40, to assist the release of the hold.
  • Right-sized tools: Make sure you're using the correct screwdriver or extractor size for the screw.
  • Consider professional help: If screw removal is above your comfort level or the stakes are high, seek the services of a professional handyman or contractor.

Remember that the optimal method is determined by the specific situation and the available tools.  By following these guidelines and selecting the appropriate solution, you should be able to overcome the broken screw and get your project back on track.


Where are Screws Used?

Screws are employed in a variety of applications, including furniture manufacture, home repairs, bridge construction, and airplane assembly. Their adaptability makes them an essential component of the DIY industry.



Understanding screws, their functions, and the right ways for removing broken screws can provide you with essential DIY information. So, the next time a screw throws a fit, you'll be prepared to handle it with confidence, saving your project and emerging victorious.


Ella is a skilled embedded systems engineer with experience in PCB design and microcontroller programming. She is committed to following the most recent developments in the field and is constantly seeking for ways to apply them to her work.


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