Proper Screwdrivers and a tip for seized screws

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Skip
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Proper Screwdrivers and a tip for seized screws

Post by Skip »

I noted in the reposts there is a thread on screwdrivers. Good info there.

But since then a lot of bit drivers and bit sets have come on the market. Professional grade gunsmith screwdrivers are pricey (and for good reason) but you can build a good quality set of screwdrivers suitable for working on reels without spending a week's wages.

The older reels I've worked on use what I've always called gun screws, the slots are cut flat on the bottom with perpendicular sides. The proper screwdriver for these screws is flat ground or hollow ground so the working surface of the tip fully and precisely fits the slot. This fit allows pressure to be evenly distributed, more pressure can be applied without risk of slipping and damaging the screw head or the reel. Any slop between the driver tip and the screw head will result in all the pressure being applied in small areas at the ends of the slots which makes damage much more likely.

Fit is critical with Phillips screws too. Get the right size tip for the screw head.

You can buy good quality hollow ground bits without spending a ton of money. Also much more commonly available are smaller aka micro/precision hollow ground driver sets meant for electronics, phones, etc. You can usually find the right size driver for even the smallest reel screw in one of these sets.

I also pick up used screwdrivers at gun shows, yard sales, flea markets, etc. If you don't have the right size driver or bit you can file one to fit from one of these drivers. You risk taking the temper out of the steel if you use a grinder and it's not that much faster than using files.

Sometimes you get a tough screw that is seized in the hole. Often the screw heads on seized screws are damaged from prior efforts to remove them. Your favorite penetrating oil should be your first tactic, let it soak. Kroil, PB Blaster and Liquid Wrench are all good products.

Sometimes you can get a better fit between a damaged screw head and the bit or screwdriver tip. Set the reel frame in a solid position on a solid table or in a vise. Put the driver in the screw head and tap the handle with a small machinists, gunsmith's or jeweler's hammer. Sometimes this will improve the fit on a damaged head and the impact may actually help loosen the screw.

For those tough ones, an impact driver is an option. Again, the reel must be very securely held. Obviously you don't want to use any more force than necessary. But the impact driver has the advantage of simultaneously using the downward force of impact to hold the driver in the head and to re-direct the force applied to rotate the screw.

There is another way, an old gunsmith's trick, if you have a drill press and a press table vise. Secure the reel in the table vise with the problem screw directly under the chuck. Use the hand feed to hold the bit down in the screw head and turn the chuck or spindle manually, either by hand or with a wrench, strap wrench, etc. You can apply a lot of pressure to prevent stripping the screw head and have a lot more control than you have with an impact wrench. I've gotten some really stuck screws out of guns this way.

Hope this information is of use.
Last edited by Skip on Sat Dec 14, 2019 2:41 am, edited 3 times in total.

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john elder
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Re: Proper Screwdrivers and a tip for seized screws

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Good comments, Skip! I would throw in the suggestion that before you use all that torque with the drill press, try heat and cold . I use a heat gun, which generally is enough and you don’t have to burn a propane or butane torch where you likely have a lot of inflammable solvents. This works really well on screws stuck in Pillar’s, where you can apply heat directly to the area where the screw is stuck. No need for red-hot. Get the pillar too hot to touch, then put an ice cube on it till the part cools...then give a go. If no luck, repeat...it will come.

The drill press trick or other means like the impact driver work fine as long as the screws are tough enough to handle it. Nickel silver and brass screws are more likely to break, giving you the opportunity to practice your skills in drilling out the broken screw and retapping the hole, then rounding up a new screw....voice of experience here! Have had lots of practice on mine as well as any number of broken screws that have come through the shop!


PS: i was in ORCAn Tim Gelinas’ shop awhile back and he put me onto this Wheeler gunsmithing set....i think it costs me about 60 bucks on amazon. I have always harvested and modified screwdrivers like Skip describes and my wife looked at me like i was nuts for getting more. However, the only shortcoming is that the user has to take a minute to find the best fit... much easier than finding a new screw!

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Re: Proper Screwdrivers and a tip for seized screws

Post by Skip »

Great addition on the use of heat. I was just shooting from the hip after talking about messed up screws with Tommy. I use a heat gun, also a little butane torch which lets me be a bit more precise about where I apply the heat.

I'm a hobby gunsmith and over the years have accumulated a bunch of good gunsmith screwdrivers. I looked up the prices of Grace wood handle flat ground drivers and was made glad I bought mine a long time ago. I also use a Winchester branded driver and bit set no longer in production, some Brownell's, Chapman's and Forsters. I haven't used Wheeler's but Brownell's carries them and Brownell's only stocks quality products. There are some smaller sets from Wheeling that are less expensive but still have a good selection of slotted and Phillips tips that fit the screws we usually see on reels.

I recently bought some stuff at Harbor Freight that surprised me with the quality. Their Pittsburgh line has a lifetime warranty. I got an electronics set that has very small bits and it has come in very handy. One of those bits fit the little sideplate screws on the Mitchell CAP 304 I'm rehabbing perfectly. HF has really upped their game, if you are careful about what you buy you can find some good, usable tools at a good price.

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Re: Proper Screwdrivers and a tip for seized screws

Post by Midway Tommy D »

There is another way, an old gunsmith's trick, if you have a drill press and a press table vise. Secure the reel in the table vise with the problem screw directly under the chuck. Use the hand feed to hold the bit down in the screw head and turn the chuck or spindle manually, either by hand or with a wrench, strap wrench, etc. You can apply a lot of pressure to prevent stripping the screw head and have a lot more control that you have with an impact wrench. I've gotten some really stuck screws out of guns this way.
:shock: It would just be my luck that I'd put a little too much torque on the chuck and pop the head right off a really stubborn screw. :bash: I won't even use a cordless or electric drill in most applications, especially on reel repair, because I need to feel how much torque I'm putting down. I may start a screw in wood with a drill but I always end it by hand. :)
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Re: Proper Screwdrivers and a tip for seized screws

Post by Skip »

Tommy, the beauty of the drill press trick is that you have complete control of the pressure applied, both the downward force and the rotational force. I think you're more likely to break a screw head off using an impact driver.

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Re: Proper Screwdrivers and a tip for seized screws

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I'm not sure if it was noted but don't forget a drop of penetrating fluid thrown into the mix before even begining!
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Re: Proper Screwdrivers and a tip for seized screws

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I have the same Wheeler set as John does. It's perfect for every application except the tiniest of slotted screws. Very high quality.
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Re: Proper Screwdrivers and a tip for seized screws

Post by jimbofish »

For applying heat to screws, I've had success using a soldering iron with a chisel tip applied directly to the screw slot. Puts the heat exactly where its needed.
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Re: Proper Screwdrivers and a tip for seized screws

Post by Skip »

Good addition, Jimbo. I keep an untinned spare tip for my old Weller for those times I need to apply heat to a spot.

I've been doing some research on the gunsmith bit sets on Amazon and there is a lot of conflicting feedback. A lot of criticism of the metallurgy in particular, bits rounding and breaking. For example, the Wheelers are reviewed as everything from the best to junk.

I don't put a ton of faith in Amazon reviews but this is hard to figure. A lot of this stuff comes from China and the truth is Chinese metallurgy and manufacturing quality has come a long way. Anyone who has seen how their knife quality has improved has seen this improvement over the last 20 years. I guess it's possible that the tempering of bits is a process that is harder to have consistent quality control, so there are some bad apples out there even in the better quality sets, but I just don't know.

My old Smith & Wesson branded set was actually made in Taiwan and has served me well. I'm guessing I've had that for 30 years, anyway.

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Re: Proper Screwdrivers and a tip for seized screws

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Chapman sets have been recommended before and have served me well for the last year or two. They are still “Made in the USA” and reasonably priced.
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Re: Proper Screwdrivers and a tip for seized screws

Post by fishhead »

I have the same Wheeler Gunsmithing Screwdriver Set and it works great. It has everything you need for every size screw without buggering up your screws.

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Re: Proper Screwdrivers and a tip for seized screws

Post by john elder »

A quick video from the Nationals, in case your screwing ... or someone elses... does not go well:
https://www.dropbox.com/s/nv8b1yfufa94p ... s.mov?dl=0
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Re: Proper Screwdrivers and a tip for seized screws

Post by reelsmith. »

Thanks for that John !

That method never occurred to me. Makes perfect sense.

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Re: Proper Screwdrivers and a tip for seized screws

Post by Midway Tommy D »

Thanks for sharing, JE! I've often filed off the raised edges with mini files but never considered tapping them down to narrow the slot first. I'll soon be drilling me a bunch of different size holes in a piece of maple or white oak. :bow:
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Re: Proper Screwdrivers and a tip for seized screws

Post by Brian F. »

john elder wrote:
Wed Oct 28, 2020 8:21 pm
A quick video from the Nationals, in case your screwing ... or someone elses... does not go well:
https://www.dropbox.com/s/0uyqwqsidyjf7 ... 3.mov?dl=0
This is pretty AWESOME, John! :bow: We need to find a place for these here or on the website. :bow:
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Re: Proper Screwdrivers and a tip for seized screws

Post by wrong99 »

Great video. Awesome results. So simple, yet....

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Re: Proper Screwdrivers and a tip for seized screws

Post by john elder »

Thanks, that was one of 6 short videos that were in the Reel Restoration workshop that.....ahem.....many of you did not attend! :roll: At any rate, you can feel free to browse other videos in my workshop folder where that link resides.

Brian, I can post more here as well...probably a good place to put the links rather than start something new!

j
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