“I am putting together a LP gas fire pit table for the patio. The legs (metal) attached to the tabletop (metal) with hex screws. One of the screws will not tighten in its hole. It just keeps turning endlessly. I tried to back it out by unscrewing it but I cannot get it to back out either, again it just turns and turns. Have I stripped it? How do I get the screw out to use a different screw? – WYSK Reader Frustrated in SoCal, Sue
I’m glad you wrote in with this question. Getting screwed over by a screw is something we can all relate to. Whether it’s a stripped screw that spins and spins, or a screw that’s seized in place and just won’t budge, whichever the scenario, they’re all quite frustrating and can put a project on hold until you get that sucker out.
Sounds to me that in your case the screw or screw hole threads could be faulty from the factory. Another scenario could be when you were screwing it in, you accidentally threaded the screw in at an angle, and because some metal can be soft, you ended up distorting the thread pattern.
At any rate, here are several ways to remove a stripped or stubborn screw.
Put the tip of a flathead screw driver (or anything firm and flat) behind the screw-head, and while you unscrew with a screwdriver, pull the screw head toward you, helping the screw to back out as you’re turning the driver. (Sue, I think this method will work best for you.)
Rubber Band Trick
This method works well on heads that are worn and lost their shape, leaving hardly any edges for the driver to grab. Place a flat piece of rubber band over the screw head then firmly stick the driver tip in the head, through the rubber, and turn. The rubber will create traction and help the screwdriver to catch the opening in the head.
Use locking priers (aka Vice-Grips) around the head. Once locked in place, rotate the pliers counterclockwise and back out the screw. This method also works when the head has broken off mid removal.
Carve a Path
For a totally stripped screw head, use a Dremel type tool to saw a slot into the head wide enough to fit a flathead driver. Now you have a fresh slot in the screw and you can use a flathead driver to unscrew it no matter what kind of screw it was.
Basically, this is a bit used on a drill that first burnishes/reams a hole in the screw head, and then another extracting bit fits in that hole, bites into the screw, and allows you to unscrew. There are various sizes and types, but the concept works the same. I like the extractor kits where the drill (burnishing) bit is on one end, and the extractor end is on the other.
Lube it Up
For a screw that’s rusted and seized in place, spray it down with penetrating oil first, let it soak in for several minutes, then try unscrewing.
With these removal tips in your pocket, the next time a stubborn screw says, screw you, mid project, you can look at it square in the, um, head, and say, “buddy, you’re so outta here!”
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