While I was installing hinges on a cabinet door, the head of a brass screw broke off. How can I remove the screw without making a mess of my project?

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Q:

While I was installing hinges on a cabinet door, the head of a brass screw broke off. How can I remove the screw without making a mess of my project?
—Kenneth Hill, Troy, Mich.

A:

The tool you're looking for, Kenneth, is a broken screw extractor. (To buy one search for "screw extractor" at woodcraft.com.) When installed in a drill, these diminutive hole saws cut a removable plug of wood from around the threaded shaft of the broken screw. Because their outer diameters match common plug-cutter sizes, you simply fill the hole with a plug cut from a scrap of the same wood, hiding the mistake. One word of caution: Don't overtighten the chuck when inserting the extractor in your drill, as you could crush the tube.

Brass screws are fragile. On your next attempt, be sure to pre-drill a properly sized pilot hole. Then drive and remove a steel screw of the same size and thread count to plow the way for the brass screw. Finally, tighten the brass screw by hand with a screwdriver to avoid twisting off the head.