Dremel Fix for Problem Screws

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Introduction: Dremel Fix for Problem Screws

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


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


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

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


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

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


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


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.

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.

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    29 Discussions

    I have a rusted stubborn screw on my outdoor sillcock, holding the valve wheel. What Dremel cutting wheel do you suggest to create a new slot ? reinforced ? This is the only thing I need a Dremel for. Can you also suggest what rotary tool I need for this one cut ?

    no packing nut.jpg
    1 more answer

    What I would try and do is replace the entire sill-cock. They arn't that expensive and you can get one of the new 1/4 turn ones that are a lot easier to use and have better water flow. I can't tell from the picture but if it is typical there will be 2 screws on either side that hold it to the sill. when you remove those you should be able to pull the pipe out enough to get a wrench on the pipe and then unscrew the valve from the pipe. (turn the water off first) Put some pipe compound on the new one and screw it on and your all done.

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

    1 reply

    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.

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

    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?

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

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

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

    how have I never thought of this before

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

    If your straight-bladed screwdriver happens to be a Craftsman heavy-duty with the square shank like these http://toolmonger.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/12/DM_Sear5screwdrivers.jpg, 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.

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

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

    Awesome idea!

    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.