Screw Extractors: Before You Buy

Screwdriver and screw

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When you can't extract a nail, often the easiest thing to do is pound the nail deeper into the wood, thus forgetting about it forever. But a screw is stuck in limbo: too far out to be covered over with wood filler, too far in to extract with a wrench.

You can still get it out, but you need a small, single-purpose tool called a screw extractor. Screw extractors are never used for anything else except for removing problem screws. It might seem extravagant to have this tool in your shop, rarely ever being used. But when you finally do need it, it's the most valuable tool around.

How to Use a Screw Extractor

You will need a screw extractor kit, a hammer, and safety gear. Make sure that you are wearing eye protection and gloves due to the presence of sharp metal.

  1. Place the end of the punch tool at the center of the screw to be extracted. Use the hammer to sharply strike the end of the punch tool, creating a slight indent on the top of the screw.
  2. Fasten a drill bit smaller in diameter than the screw in the power drill. Place some oil on the top of the screw.
  3. Align the drill and drill bit so they are parallel with the screw. Begin to drill slowly, without putting too much pressure on the drill. Let the drill do most of the work. Drill down about 1/8-inch or as far as 1/4-inch, if possible. You may need to stop once to clear away metal filings with a soft cloth before proceeding.
  4. After finishing, once more clear out the hole at the top of the screw.
  5. Chuck the appropriately sized screw extractor into the drill. Attach the extractor very tightly to prevent slippage.
  6. Note that screw extractors' threads work backward, or counter-clockwise, so you'll need to flip the drill to reverse.
  7. Place the tip of the screw extractor in the screw hole. Turn on the drill, letting the drill draw the extractor into the hole. Eventually, the extractor will reach the bottom of the hole, then begin drawing out the screw.
  8. Maintain a steady, even pressure on the drill as the extractor removes the screw from the material.

Tips For Using a Screw Extractor

  • The success of the screw extractor depends on the depth of the hole, so you don't want too much debris clogging it. Keep the hole clean.
  • Don't force the extractor into the hole. It should draw itself in.
  • Use a drill with a handle so you can keep a firmer grip on the drill. Plus, this will help prevent injury.
  • Extractor kits have different sizes of extractors. Use the size that's right for the screw.
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  • 01 of 03

    Alden's Grabit Single or Multi-Piece

    Alden's Grab it #2 is a single extractor that works on screws from No. 8 to No. 10 and even up to 4 inches long, as the product literature states. This product costs under $10.

    If you think you've got a lot of stripped screws in your future, you can buy Grabit multi-piece packs: 2, 3, and 4 extractors. The four-piece version is called Grabit-Pro 4 Piece Kit.

    Grabit can be found at Lowe's or Home Depot, at Ace Hardware, and at countless other brick-and-mortar locations. 

  • 02 of 03

    SpeedOut

    Speedout Screw Extractor

    Speedout

    SpeedOut is a set of four extractors handles screws from No. 4 up to No. 24. SpeedOut claims that it can remove screws up to 4 inches long, though the product literature also adds that screws over 2 inches long may compromise the tool.

    SpeedOut screw extractor can remove any stripped screw in 10 seconds. It's able to extract screws or bolts, including Philips, flat, or hex heads. The material for the screw extractor is 100-percent hardened carbon steel. The tool is made in the United States.

  • 03 of 03

    Harbor Freight (Pittsburgh Forge) 12 Piece Screw Extractors

    Harbor Freight Screw Extractors

    Harbor Freight

    Of Harbor Freight's 12 piece screw extractor kit, half of the items are burnishers—the other half devoted to reverse drill bits ranging from 5/64-inch to 3/8-inch. The idea is to burnish with the first set, then switch to the drill bits to pull the screw.

    These pieces are made from chrome vanadium steel. The set comes with a quick change adapter.

    This set costs less than $10. Harbor Freight has a generous return policy. So, if the extractors don't work within 90 days, you can return or replace them.