The 10 Different Types of Screw Heads You Need To Know

When it comes to fastening, there are few tools that compare to the mighty screw. While nails and clips are appropriate for many circumstances, screws have the edge in versatility and durability, meaning they should always be your first choice for many projects. Unfortunately, screws have been used and adapted for so many situations that it can be frustrating to find the right one for the job. Even worse, it can be difficult to make sure you have all of the relevant bits on hand. To build a toolbox that has the right bit for every head, you first have to know all of the most popular heads in current use. If you can cover those bases, you’ll drastically reduce the chances that you’ll be caught unprepared when it’s time to put that new living room chair together!

Before we get into the list, let’s take a look at the reasons why screws are the right choice for the job.

The Benefits of the Screw

Use Less Power – Because of the mechanically beneficial way that screws work, you have to use much less energy to drive it in when compared to knocking a nail into place. With the use of power tools, you have a job that is measurably easier to complete than one that requires nails. Whether you use power tools or plain old standard hand tools, though, using screws will usually win out in terms of effort.

Built Tough – There’s a phrase in the popular consciousness that gives perhaps undue credit: “That person is as tough as nails.” Maybe the phrase should be saved for screws, though, because the way screws are built actually gives them strength and durability that most nails lack. Over time, nails tend to loosen and deteriorate. This is much less likely to happen with screws.

Won’t Rust As Easily – For any furniture, carpentry, or construction that will be exposed to the elements, rust should be a major concern. Unfortunately, both nails and (most) screws are made from metal, meaning that this is an unavoidable prospect. On the other hand, screws offer a much tighter hold on the material, meaning there is less room for moisture and other contaminants to get in and “infect” the screw’s shaft. In turn, this can give the screw a big advantage in terms of rust.

Very Easy to Remove – Nails and other fasteners can, of course, be removed, but the process is not always an easy one. In many cases, you may need a special tool to help you get those fasteners dug out of the material. With screws, removal is a much easier process – for the most part. They come out the same way they went in, so as long as you have the right bits at your disposal, you should be able to get them out with minimal effort. Unless…

How To Avoid a Stripped Screw

A stripped screw is the bane of every carpenter, amateur or professional. For varying reasons, the head gets damaged during the removal process, making it much more difficult to take it out of the material. It should be noted that some screw heads have a stronger tendency to strip than others – flathead screws are notoriously bad about this. If you consistently have problems with stripped screws, you may want to consider adopting a different head type for the majority of your projects.

Here are some additional tips for avoiding a stripped screw:

  • Find the right screw for the job
  • Match your screwdriver with the appropriate screw
  • Screws are less likely to strip when using manual tools as opposed to power drills
  • When using a power drill or one that uses electricity, go easy on the pressure
  • Make sure your screw is properly aligned with the driver and goes into the material straight

Of these, the most important tip lies in finding the right screw head/screwdriver match. And that, in turn, means possessing knowledge about all the different screw heads out there. And guess what? We’re finally at that point in the article where we run them down. Let’s jump in and see what we can see!

Flat Heads

The most ubiquitous type of screw head is the flat head, which is sometimes known as the slotted head screw. These screws are designed to fit flush with the surface of the material you’re working on, preventing the head from being exposed. This has its advantages from an aesthetics standpoint, and it is why many carpenters prefer countersunk screws to their brethren. On the other hand, flat heads offer the weakest point of contact, leading to the stripping problems we discussed above. This is actually a feature, rather than a bug: They are designed that way to prevent people from over-tightening them. Flat head screws come in several different angles – 82 degrees is the most popular variety but other angles can easily be found. Probably the most popular screw heads in use today.

Phillips Heads

We’ve officially arrived at the second of two screw heads that almost everyone knows about. The classic Phillips screw head is as common as table salt, and there are two very good reasons for that. One, the cross-shaped slot gives your screwdriver much more leverage and makes it much less likely that you’ll drive the screw in at a peculiar angle. Two, you can typically use a variety of screwdrivers to drive one of these screws in, so it has the advantage of additional versatility. These popular screw types got a big boost in the early days of automotive manufacturing, owing largely to Henry Ford’s decision to use them on the assembly line. Other industries took notice, and the rest was history.

Combination Screws

If you want screws that will work whether you have a flat head screwdriver or a Phillips head tool on hand, you’ll want to take a close look at combination heads. These heads provide the stability of the Phillips design with the versatility of the flathead slot. Those whose carpentry work is limited to putting together furniture with an assembly guide are often heard wondering why all screws aren’t created like this one. Sometimes we wonder ourselves!

Raised Screw Heads

In a sense, these screws are the polar opposite of countersunk screws in that they are decoratively designed to stick out of the material. For that reason, their heads are raised to form a kind of “dome” that looks a bit more attractive in a piece of furniture. Utility-wise, there is very little reason to prefer this screw to the others mentioned above; they are plenty efficient, but you’ll mostly want to use these when you want an added touch of decoration.

Hex Screws

Say, remember when we talked about putting together assembly-style furniture? Well, anyone who has tackled this job is probably familiar with the hex screw. With a hexagonal shape on the head, these screws require a simple tool known as an Allen wrench (sometimes referred to as a hex key). Fortunately, most furniture manufacturers will sell you both the screws and the accompanying wrench as part of the entire package, so once you put together one of these bad boys, you can keep the wrench aside for any future jobs. Fair warning, though: These wrenches can start taking over your home if you buy a lot of this kind of furniture!

Pin Screws

These are a little different from the screw heads mentioned elsewhere on the list. By using a small pin in conjunction with a screw (of any type), a manufacturer can introduce a simple security measure into each project. Because without the specific bit you need to remove this specific screw, you won’t be able to budge it. Even if you have a full array of Phillips screwdrivers and the pin head screw is designed to work with Philips, you’ll be out of luck. You have to get the pin out before the screwdriver will seat into the screw. It can be frustrating to encounter these screws unexpectedly, but they do have their purpose.

Bugle Screw Heads

If you work with drywall or know anyone who does, you’re probably familiar with the widely-used bugle screw head. Similar in their construction to basic flathead screws, the bugle screw head uses its curved taper below the head. This, in turn, makes it somewhat preferable to its competitors because it does less damage to the surface of the material. This isn’t as important when working with sturdy materials such as hardwood or metal, but it can make a big difference when using drywall or plasterboard. These screws are also praised for their capacity for self-drilling; you won’t need to create a pilot hole to use these bugle screws.

Pozidriv Screw Heads

A brief look at a Pozidriv screw sitting next to a Phillips screw may befuddle the layman observer. They are shaped exactly alike, are they not? Well, they are and they aren’t. A Pozidriv shape may look identical to a Phillips at first glance, but further study reveals that there are four additional grooves in the head – one sitting exactly between each point on the cross. Used in conjunction with the right bit, this feature gives Pozidriv screw heads the advantage of greater stability under force – meaning fewer stripped screws. However, you can usually remove these screws with a Phillips head screwdriver if that’s all that you have on hand.

Truss Head Screws

Truss head screws are among the most common head types in use today, owing much of their popularity to commercial construction. Sometimes known as mushroom screws, these head types come with some common traits: A low-profile surface that is slightly rounded and a top that is wider than standard. Because truss head screws have a lower profile, they are often used as a way to prevent people from tampering with the construction. These screws are often used to attach bookshelves and free-standing cabinets to the studs in the wall behind, and they are also ubiquitous in the sheet metal industry.

Sentinel Security Screws

Let’s say you’re putting together a cabinet, and you believe that you’ll never need to take the screws out again. In other words, there is no disassembly in your future. In that case, you might consider Sentinel security screws. These screws have a lot of surface room for the driver to sit flush against the head, making them easy to drive and difficult to strip. But their biggest advantage is that they literally cannot be removed once they’ve been implanted; they can only turn in a clockwise direction. Once they’re in, they’re in for good. If you’re worried about people tampering with your equipment, you can use a Sentinel screw to keep everything intact.

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