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Releasing seized wood screws by heat

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What is the issue?
Screws, like almost every fastening, have a tendency to seize up on seagoing vessels. Worse still, many are made from copper-based metals, such as brass and bronze, which do not have the strength to endure much torque.

Why address this?
A seized screw, or set of screws, can halt a project, cause frustration and cost money.

How to address this?
As with all seized items applying a little heat always helps. An old boatbuilder's trick for loosening wood screws is to apply heat to the screw with a traditional soldering iron. It is remarkable how well this works.

A traditional soldering iron
Photo: Michael Harpur

Lay the soldering iron on the head of the screw for about thirty seconds repeating this process two or three times as the effect cumulates. The heat transferred through the metal body of the screw softens the surrounding wood fibres and any glue that might be there. This causes it to break its locking bond with the surrounding wood and the screw then can be turned out with ease.

There is no need to remove it whilst still hot as it works best when cool, as the screw slightly expands in the process and needs time to contract. If the screw remains steadfast just apply the heat for longer and longer periods until it eventually works.

Any soldering iron will work. The traditional soldering iron is particularly useful on a seagoing vessel as it requires no power and can be easily heated on the galley stove. However if you do not have a soldering iron, a length of steel rod with the same diameter as the screw head, cut off square and flat, will suffice.

With thanks to:
Michael Harpur, Yacht Obsession.
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