Tuesday , February 20 2018
Home > Shop Tips > Shop Tip: How to Remove a Stripped Machine Screw with a Vise

Shop Tip: How to Remove a Stripped Machine Screw with a Vise

Here’s a quick tip to bring in the new year. A novel way to remove a stripped or stubborn machine screw using a vise.

The idea is simple, a stripped screw tends to lead to problems with the screwdriver “camming out”. To prevent this, pinch the screw and the screwdriver (or in this case, the screwdriver bit or “blade”) between the jaws of a vise. Keep the jaws just tight enough to prevent the screwdriver from camming out as it turns. As the screw starts to rotate, loosen the jaws slightly to allow for it to extract.

Here’s a quick video of the process in action.

In situations where it’s hard to grip the handle of the screwdriver (because it’s in a vise) I recommend using a screwdriver with a square or hex shank so you can get a wrench on it for leverage, or use a bit or blade like I show in the picture and video. Don’t try vise grips on a round shank screwdriver, you’ll just muck it up. Some screwdrivers have a round shank with hex portion (called a “hex bolster”) where the shank meets the handle. This little hex bolster is ideal for getting a little extra leverage when needed.

Screwdrivers with a hex bolster come in handy more often than you might think … if you remember to use it! I’ve started replacing all my cheap, damaged, or worn out screwdrivers with better ones that have a hex bolster near the handle. Here’s a nice set on Amazon by Klein (click image).

There are obviously other methods of removing a stripped screw. Two of which have already been mentioned in responses to this video on YouTube. For instance, one viewer suggested cutting a slit in the head of the stripped screw to use a flat blade screwdriver, while another viewer suggested using an impact wrench (or the impact setting on a cordless drill)  which I have used with great success also.

Lets see how many other ways we can think of to remove a stripped screw. If you have a method, please leave it via a comment on the forum (see link below).

And Happy New Year!



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About Tyler

Tyler is a hobby machinist and 3D printing aficionado. He teaches computer programming and web development at Highline College near Seattle. Tyler founded Projects In Metal in 2008 because he was frustrated by the lack of free plans available for hobby machinists.

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  1. harborfreight8x12

    Hi Tyler.  This is a situation where an impact driver comes in handy.  I am not refering to an air-impact tool but the old fashion impact driver that you smack with a hammer and it makes a quarter turn.  The impact from the hammer keeps the driver bit in contact with the fastener you are trying to loosen (or tighten).

    Regards, Al

    P.S. Impact drivers of this type were common when I attended trade school.  :^)

  2. Two of my favorite tricks is since the head is stripped anyway, if room permits grab it with a pair of vise grips or large side cutters and give a twist or hack saw a slot across it and use a flat blade. As Al said, an impact driver works well. I have an 18 volt Dewalt impact gun that works wonders.


  3. Another method that I have used where it is not possible to use a vice is an impact screwdriver. For those not familiar with impact screwdrivers, they have a fairly massive handle with a removeable screwdriver blade. You can install one of several sizes of phillips or flat blades in the handle. When struck with a hammer the blade is forced into the screw and at the same time causing a twisting motion of the blade (can be set for CW or CCW rotation). The result is turning the screw about 1/4 turn for each hammer blow. I first used this tool in the 1960's for removing very tight phillips screws that were partly stripped from a motorcycle engine. It can be used to tighten the screws as well by setting for the opposite rotation.

  4. So apparently I'm going to have to track down a manual (smack-with-a-hammer style) impact driver. I've never seen one before. I've only ever used an electric or pneumatic impact wrench. But since so many of you mentioned that they work well I'll have to find one and keep it for the next time I have a stuck screw. Thanks!

  5. Is this what you guys are talking about?

    3/8″ hand impact tool set

  6. That's exactly what everyone is referring to.


  7. Yep, that is what we are talking about. Harbor Freight has a cheap one, don't know about the quality, but for about $6 it might be worth a try.



    Image Enlarger

  8. Like the vise idea. I have done the die grinder idea grinding a slot in the head so I can use a flat screw driver and the hand impact tool before. When that has not worked I have also welded (preferably tig) something to the head of the bolt that I need to remove. I have used a piece of square stock, washer on edge or even another bolt. Just need something to get a better grip on. As long as you can get a decent tack weld it will usually unscrew. 

  9. bbutcher85 said:
    “Another method that I have used where it is not possible to use a vice is an impact screwdriver. . . . “
    I have one.  These impact screwdrivers works extremely well.  Be careful where you use them; I've had on one occasion to use it to remove a worn door striker plate on my truck.  The old plate came off real quick and I installed the new plate even more quicker.  I tried to close the door and it wouldn't latch. Surprised  What happened was that while I was impacting the screwdriver, I inadvertently caved in the door pillar. Embarassed
  10. I usually weld a nut onto the buggered screw and turn it out with a wrench…never fails me!

  11. Tyler you seemed a little suprised with the simple cheap impact driver.  It just does not seem expensive enough to possibly be any good!!!!!  Use mine pretty regular.


    Vise is a good idea but I put the tool in the drill chuck on a drill press and hold it with quill pressure.  This allows for handy use of extensions etc.  Turn with what ever is mandatory and fits at the moment.    Wink

  12. I think I was more surprised that I hadn’t heard of it before. I grew up with a dad and a grandpa who had thousands of tools. My dad worked construction for 20+ years and my grandpa worked on the railroad and was an accomplished handyman who built his first house with mostly hand tools.

    So to find something that is apparently common that I never noticed my dad or grandpa use was a bit of a surprise to me.

    I never thought to use a drill press either. Thanks for the tip!

  13. what I have done is place the part on a drill press in the vise. now I can chuck the screw bit tip in the drill. while maintaining pressure via the drillpress quill I turn the chuck by hand and unscrew the stubborn bugger.

  14. Someone else mentioned this technique earlier. Perhaps in the video comments on YouTube. It’s a really good idea as well. Thanks for reminding me!