Fred’s Head from APH, a Blindness Blog

Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

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Friday, February 05, 2010

Removing a Stripped Screw with a Rubber Band

Almost everyone whose done some DIY project or handled an electric drill have found themselves at one time or another enjoying the ease of powered hand tools, only to apply too much torque and strip the screw clean. Here's what to do when you've stripped the screw and don't have a specialized extractor kit.

  1. The first thing to do is to immediately stop using the tool/technique which stripped the screw. Most of the time, this means switching over from a power tool over to a hand tool solution, as you can better control the amount of torque/pressure applied to the stripped screw.
  2. Switch to a short length screw driver with a bigger head; switching screw head types (Phillips or over to a cross-head attachment) may also work. If you've got a screwdriver kit which includes a Torx (6 points) or an Allen (hexagonal), these shapes may give enough grip to remove the stripped screw. Just remember to go slowly, apply as much pressure downward, and abide by "righty tighty, lefty loosy" so you don't make matters worse.
  3. Sometimes a screw is just stripped enough that none of the alternative sizes work. You've still got hope! A rubber band may aid in providing enough grip to remove, or at least loosen, the screw. Place a wide band rubber band inbetween the screw driver (we recommend bumping one size up from the screw head which caused the strip) and the screw, then apply hard, but slow force as you turn. If you're fortunate, the rubber band will fill in the gaps caused by the strip and allow extraction.
  4. Perhaps the rubber band trick worked…but only to a certain point and you're still not able to completely remove the screw. That's when a locking clamp-style needle nose plier can come to the rescue, grabbing and locking the section removed from a flush surface. We don't know how many times this affordable tool has helped us removed old or poorly constructed screws, but it's been enough times that we highly recommend stocking even the smallest of toolboxes or drawers with one.
  5. Finally, if none of these work, you can play the part of Rodin and chisel the screw some depth to provide more tension lost from the strip. But only with the most careful of force, as this may risk losing your screw completely into the surface! You don't want to hammer the screw into the wall/surface, so err on the side of caution. We recommend this as a last resort.

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