Tips for Driving Wood Screws | Rockler Skill Builders

whether you're a seasoned wood worker or

a newcomer chances are you've driven

some screws and if you've driven screws

you've also run into the accompanying

problems you may be had a part that

splits or the two parts that you're

screwing together don't come together

fully maybe the screw head itself strips

out or the screw completely breaks we'll

run over some tips today that will help

you avoid those problems in the future

if you're experiencing any of these

problems chances are you're just taking

the screw and trying to drive it right

through the bare wood the solution is to

create a path for the screw before you

drive and there are a couple of ways to

go about this the first option applies

when you're dealing with soft woods here

all you really need is a pilot hole and

that's just a hole that's slightly

smaller than the diameter of the screws

threads it gives just enough clearance

so that the threads are the only thing

biting into the wood and it allows the

screw to pull the two parts together

here I'm going to be driving a number

eight screw so I chose a 9/64 diameter

drill bit to make the pilot hole this

drill bit allows me to drill the pilot

hole and the countersink at the same


the screw drives easily into the pilot

hole and the collar sink allows the

screws head to sit flush with or

slightly below the surface of the work


now if you're working with hardwoods a

simple pilot hole is probably not going

to be enough you're also going to need

to drill a clearance hole a clearance

hole is drilled only through the top

workpiece in other words it's the

workpiece that you're going to drive the

screw all the way through and that

clearance hole is just slightly larger

diameter than the threads of the screw

so that allows the screw to pass all the

way through and the threads are only

biting in the lower workpiece allowing

the screw to pull the two parts together

one way to drill these two holes is to

start with your smaller diameter drill

bit for the pilot hole for that you're

going to drill all the way through the

top piece and into the bottom piece then

you'll switch to your larger diameter

bit for the clearance hole for that

you'll only drill through the top piece

let me show you how to do this this time

instead of using the combination

countersink bit I'm going to use a

dedicated countersink and two straight

twist bits I'm going to start by

drilling the countersink in some

situations I drill the countersink after

drilling the pilot hole next I'm going

to drill the pilot hole here I'm setting

the depth of the drill bit to match the

length of the screw

finally I drilled a clearance hole I put

a piece of tape on the drill bit to mark

the depth of the top piece so I know

where to stop so I don't go too deep now

I'm going to drive the screw

and you'll see that the because of the

countersink the head of the screw sits

nice and flush with the surface of the

work piece so now you've seen how having

a pilot hole and a clearance hole really

helps to draw the two work pieces

together it also prevents splitting

because the screw is no longer acting as

a wedge and it prevents stripping the

head and breaking the screw because

there's just not enough resistance

anymore so next time you're driving

screws remember these tips pilot holes

clearance holes and countersinks these

are all ways to help you prevent

problems and get great results