Introduction: Dremel Fix for Problem Screws

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If you do any work with drills and screws you know that it eventually happens, a stripped head. You know how it goes, driving the screw home and it binds up, slows down and then the bit slips and spins and chews up the head. So you go from a Philips cross to a rounded out hole. Usually it happens just before you get the screw seated. Its to close to the work to use vise grips on it and its not far enough into the wood to just leave it. So now what? Often trying to back it out just strips it the other way so now it doesn't go in or come out.  Well there is an ideal Dremel fix for this.

Step 1: Enter the Dremel

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Put the cutting wheel on your Dremel and use it to cut a slot into the messed up screw head.
Don't cut it to deep but deep enough so you can get a regular straight bladed screwdriver into it. It should be cut close to the middle but if its a little off don't worry about it. All you want to do is get this screw out, not make it look pretty. Avoid cutting into the wood if you can. And of course don't have anything flammable around when the sparks are flying.

Step 2: Remove the Problem

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Now take a big bladed screwdriver and slowly power your screw out. You can use a power driver for this but often straight bits will slip out of the slot and you could end up damaging the wood. Once you get it up a little bit you can use your vise grips on it to take it the rest of the way or just continue on with your screwdriver.

Step 3: Frustration Free Replacement

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Now you can drive a new screw in and seat it the way it should be. A nice and easy procedure and it prevents a lot of frustration, damaged wood and even mashed knuckles.

Step 4: Next Challenge

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Another problem I have run into is with screws that have been puttied over. It looks great, not having those screw heads showing, but when you need to remove them for any reason it becomes a problem. Fortunately there is a Dremel solution to this also.

Step 5: Use the Burr

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Install your carbide burr, the thing that looks like an oversized Dental drill. Use it to remove the filler over the top of the screw. If your trying to preserve the wood them cut carefully as this can take off,  jump out of the hole and damage the wood.

Step 6: Clean the Screw Head

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Dremel down until you hit the screw head. Polish up the top of the screw but don't try to get the putty  out of the screw slots

Step 7: Now Get You Hammer.

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Rather than trying to clean the slots in the screw out there is an easier way. Take your bit and your hammer and TAP the bit into the screw head. You will see it sink down into the slots and usually it tightens up the bit in the slots. Just add your drill to the bit and power out the screw. Fast, easy and makes it possible to salvage the wood rather than destroying it.

Another little frustration made better with a Dremel.


ChrisD235 (author)2017-02-07

Will the packaged cutting disks be ok for this job? I got 540's with my Dremel 3000?

Vyger (author)ChrisD2352017-02-09

If what you are talking about is the little disks that look like a thin cutting stone yes they work fine also. They tend to be pretty fragile and sideways motions causes them to break but they will cut the screw top just fine. I found the reinforced fiber ones last a little longer. I have used the other ones for cutting slots in copper pipe but it always takes a few of them to do it.

russ_hensel (author)2016-09-01

Just a note to let you know I have added this to the collection: Difficult Dis-assembly: Taking Things Apart for Repair


There are a lot of things that are hard to take apart and lot of methods.

holymoses (author)2015-07-22

"Very helpful instructable. If there was a thanks but on, I would be pushing it."


SamusAran28 (author)2014-12-18

Very helpful instructable. If there was a thanks but on, I would be pushing it.

shema1999 (author)2014-07-14

I have a collection of dead hard drives that I make things out of. They all have 1 or 2 tiny screws that have been stripped by the prior owners. Any suggestion on how to remove these itty bitty ones?

Advar (author)2013-10-09

Guess we could call this an unscrewup...? :)
Nice 'ible, thanks.

mekennedy1313 (author)2013-09-05

Use robertson not philips screws and the likelyhood of this goes way down!

Monomann (author)2013-08-29

Great idea! Gotta love the Dremel. What would we do without it??

the ringer (author)2013-08-28

how have I never thought of this before

Samuel kos (author)2013-08-28

Great idea

jtruesdell8 (author)2013-08-28

I usually do the first part with a triangle file, but indeed a dremel works much faster.

fzumrk (author)2013-08-28

I can verify that this works pretty well.

r_harris2 (author)2013-08-28

If your straight-bladed screwdriver happens to be a Craftsman heavy-duty with the square shank like these, or something similar, you can also do a two-person attack, where one person bears down like crazy, and the other uses a small wrench to turn the screw. As mentioned in the 'ible, if you can turn it just far enough to get ahold with vice-grips, then file a couple of flat sides and you will really be able to clamp onto it.

jasonmhandyman (author)2013-08-28

Thats great! This method is much simpler than using an easy out and drill.

jasonmhandyman (author)2013-08-28

Thats great! This method is much simpler than using an easy out and drill.

jgutowski (author)2013-08-28

Awesome idea!

Bill WW (author)2013-08-27

Yes, good idea,

Years ago I bought a box of screws that a combination square/Phillips head. Bad idea. It just meant that every time I drove the screw with my standard Phillips head bit, the crummy head stripped. I will use your method to get them out.

djzadjza (author)2013-01-20

another thing you can do for striped screws is cut the head so it has two parallel flat spots on opposite sides. making it into a sort of hex bolt but only two flat sides, then you can work on it with a pliers. this works great for larger diameter screw heads where you need more torque. great instructable.

djzadjza (author)djzadjza2013-01-20


katala (author)2012-07-03

Seems like one can do this to bolts too, that are stripped. You can either cut a groove to use a screwdriver, or cut the edges back into a clean hexagon, or whichever shape is best for your socket wrenches.

gmichaelt (author)2011-01-25

Fine idea. I've used it many times.

I'll second the suggestion that you use a smaller diameter cutting disc (meaning, practically, a well-worn one) to ensure that your cut across the screw head largely remains within the diameter of it. As ever, 'aim small, miss small'; take care to cut the new slot as close as possible to the mid-line of the screw head. There being so little exposed material, you don't want to 'screw up'.

Another thing you can try, as an adjunct to this method, is to 'punch' the screw a bit in order to facilitate its eventual extraction: take the original bit (or screwdriver), insert the point into the damaged screw head, and drift with a hammer (not too hard, but with some force). In many cases, this will reduce the friction you'll have to overcome while backing the screw out; the punching of the screw into the material - however slightly - will likely enlarge - however slightly - the spiral trace of the thread the screw has made in the material.

Finally, given the general aversion to slotted screws (lo! the many better alternatives available), it wouldn't be a terrible loss to take a few of your flat-bladed screwdrivers and Dremel the tip to a slight shovel-point (to fit deeply into the curved bottom of the slot you'll be making with this technique), leaving a centering 'tongue' at the middle of the tip, so that you can dedicate such screwdrivers to this kind of job. The 'tongue' will help by keeping the otherwise dull-normal flat blade from slipping laterally out of the slot.

jonpersonals (author)gmichaelt2011-07-24

I like this idea. The next thing is to take a old screwdriver and arc it, and keep it for future use. A old trick I have used, is to coat screws with fine valve grinding compound and then screw this really does help altho it sounds strange. .. I just tried it and it works great.
In a pinch I have used a handfull of sand , washed out the big particles and then used the small ones for the grip improver

Diabloscope (author)2010-12-09

we do this all the time , when replacing Ignition switches with the One time use bolts that mount the switch to the sterring column, with the wood you might want to use the stick attachment and a smaller used wheel ,less chance of etching on the wood especially on a nice deck or cabinet work .

Great putting it out there for people to see this handy trick !!

pettrik (author)2010-12-06

Now, where were you when I needed you last week?!? ;-)

Great instructable! Thank you for sharing.

CrLz (author)2010-12-03

Very handy!

mossDboss (author)2010-12-03

great instructable.

About This Instructable




Bio: The name comes from the First Star Trek movie, that pretty much says it all.
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