Removing and Replacing Old Screws

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Removing and Replacing Old Screws Can be Complicated if the Screws are Antique


Removing and replacing old screws that exist in antique furniture is sometimes a very simple job. In the best case scenario, the screws are already loose and will practically fall out on their own. On the other hand, with tight screws it is sometimes difficult to remove them, and getting them out can actually cause damage to the wood.

Why go to the trouble of replacing old screws? Well, in many cases it is not necessary. But there are some situations when furniture is extremely wobbly or unstable, it has loose hinges, or the drawer pulls need to be replaced. In these cases the only way to repair the furniture is to remove and replace its old screws.

The last thing you are going to want to do is dig around an old screw that is wedged in a piece of valuable furniture. This will likely cause excessive damage, may de-value the furniture, and may also create a situation where a time-consuming repair will have to take place. Attempting to remove and replace old screws without damaging the wood is imperative. The recommended course of action is to find and use the best tool possible for removing old screws. Simple solution, right? Unfortunately, it’s not always that easy.

Finding the Right Tool

If you are an antique enthusiast you may have noticed that the screws used to build very old furniture were handmade, which means that the heads of the screws vary in size and shape. Today’s modern screwdrivers are not usually compatible with antique screws.

Besides finding the right type of tool to remove antique screws, the ease of getting the screw out depends on the condition of the screw head. It is easy to damage antique screws while trying to remove them, so taking extreme care is important. The best advice is to use a screwdriver that looks like it will fit – but if the blade is either too big or too small it will undoubtedly cause irreversible damage to the screw – which will make it even harder to remove.

Make sure to use the best possible screwdriver at a completely perpendicular angle because angling the screwdriver will likely cause the screwdriver to slip. This will cause damage to the screw and to the surrounding wood. Turn the screwdriver in a counter-clockwise motion using even pressure. If the screw will not budge, try to tighten the screw a fraction, and then attempt to un-tighten it again.

If you absolutely cannot remove the old screw with a screwdriver, you may have to scrape out the wood that surrounds the screw. Unfortunately, this will likely cause a need for more extensive repair work after you replace the old screw with a new one.

Replace it With a Larger Screw

Once you are able to remove the old screws, you are going to want to replace them with larger or wider screws that will dig deeper into the wood. The new screws will need to fasten themselves to previously untouched wood in order to be held securely in place.

An alternative is to glue a small piece of wood into the old screw hole, a piece of wood match stick or small dowel will work. Even a golf tee will do the trick.  The new screw will grab the new glued wood. This works great for hinges with worn out or loose screws.

Removing and replacing old screws can be challenging but is an easy antique furniture repair for pieces that simply need additional reinforcement or new hinges. Because the wood fibers that surround old screws break down over the course of many years, replacing the screws is often a necessary solution, and is usually the only way of preventing problem from becoming worse.

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