I’ve used a bench grinder to try to shorten longer screws, but they’re hard to hold safely. Any recommendations?

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Q:

The screws that come with door and drawer pulls never seem to be the right length for the project I'm building. I've used a bench grinder to try to shorten longer screws, but they're hard to hold safely. Any recommendations?
—Greg Palmer, Omaha

A:

Rest assured, Greg, that you have several options safer and faster than the grinder.
* Keep a selection of 8-32 truss-head machine screws on hand in varying lengths. They usually increase by 14 " increments.
* Buy breakaway screws [Photo above] that snap to the correct length in 14 " increments. A20-pack of 8-32×34 " truss-head screws (no. 35535) costs $4.95 at Rockler (800 279-4441, rockler.com).
*If you need to use the too-long screws that came with your hardware, you can cut them down to size in either of two ways:

1. Use electrical wire strippers with shearing holes [Photo below]. The front jaw has threaded holes of various sizes, and the back jaw has a larger hole for the waste end of the screw to slip through. Using the 8-32 hole, thread in a screw to the desired length and squeeze the handles to shear the screw. Uscrewing it deburrs the rough end. Note: Don't thread the screw in from the back of the pliers—a short offcut is difficult to back out of the threaded hole.

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2. Hacksaw the screw to length [Photo below]. First, spin a nut onto the screw shaft above where you'll make the cut; then, clamp the screw in a vise, and cut the shaft to length. Threading off the nut deburrs the screw end.

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* If you cut a screw too short, simply drill a counterbore in the workpiece so the screw can reach the pull [ Photo below].

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