Making Wooden Screws – Lessons Learned

Well, just a few minutes ago my big wood tap screw went KABLOOIE!!  It was made out of cherry, so I didn’t expect it to have an extremely long life.  I’ll have to make another one, maybe.

If you’ve been reading the blog over the past few weeks you know that I became completely enchanted by the big wood screw making process.  Now I can share with you the wisdom I have acquired as a result of this process.

Three wooden bench screws in ash (it’s tough and it’s what I had on hand)

If you’re willing to put in the time (and a little money), making the screws is pretty simple stuff.  The nuts, on the other hand, are difficult to make, at best.  They’re not that challenging in a technical sense.  It’s just extraordinarily laborious work.  Using the type of traditional tapping machine that Underhill shows (shown in previous articles in this blog), the nutmaking process requires hours of manufacturing time and a significant amount of elbow grease.  Fitting is required and though serviceable, the internal threads show an appreciable amount of  damage, created when the scraping cutter traverses the “against the grain” quadrant of the “face grain” presented block.

The nuts are the HARD part!

 The long and short of it is this:  I’m glad I did it.  And since I’ve built the fixturing, I may well make more screws in the future, a few for working, a few as gag gifts.  But my STRONG suggestion is this – BUY THEM.  Wooden bench screws are great for any bench application.  For hundreds of years they were the standard.  They’re still great!  But do yourself a favor, buy your bench screws from a reputable supplier; someone like Lake Erie Tool Works .  If you want to make your own screw, so be it.  But save yourself a lot of headaches and buy the nuts.  You’ll be glad you did.

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4 Comments on “Making Wooden Screws – Lessons Learned”

  1. Dave Says:

    I’m restoring a grand piano, that originally had legs that screwed into the underside of the case by means of a large wooden screw that made up the center of the leg. I live in Davis Ca., does anyone out there know of anyone in my area that can assist me in making the screws and nuts?

    Thanks!
    Dave

  2. Mauricio Says:

    I have made a couple of screws and nuts, however My experience has been that once the tap is made the nut is easy to make, just takes some time to scrape out the nut little by little. I’m making mine in Oak and the nuts are coming out pretty clean. My problem has been getting the pitch right on the screw. I’m using a different method from what you have shown. I’m basically using a nut with a router cutting the threads and feeding into the nut. The problem is that this is really hard to set up just right.

    After looking at your blog again, I’m thinking that your process for making the screw is much better. the lead screw controls the pitch so there are no errors possible there, you just need to center it and get the depth right. Also, your process allows me you to cut the threads in a couple of passes, mine requires me to take it all in one pass which can cause a lot of chipping.

    Your right about this being a long process. You really have to love the idea of making your own screws.

    My advice is if you want to make just one, carve the screw by hand, it will take a while but you are sure to get the pitch right to match the nut. The tap for the nut is easy to make in my opinion, just make it the same way you made your lead screw. Buy just cutting a kerf that rides in a steel plate.

    • Adrian Burleigh Says:

      Hi, Mauricio, I followed your comments and have found that Carter’s design for a tapping guide was improved when I used a piece of thin tempered sheet metal as the guiding blade set to the matching pitch of the tap tread. I cut up an old drywall putty knife blade for the tapping guide jig. Hope this help with your problem of wandering pitch. Good luck.

      • Mauricio Says:

        Thanks Adrian. I’m using a piece of steel from and old saw, its pretty sturdy so I’m not sure that has been the cause of the problem. I think its just a matter of locating the router cutter perfectly. I’m going to make the screw making jig shown here I think it eliminates a lot of chance for error. I’m also going to make it so that the tap does double duty as the lead screw so that the pitch is exactly the same.


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