Tightening screws around hinge on antique project

How do you fix a loose screw that just won't tighten up?

Loose screws are the bane of many woodworking projects, especially MDF and particleboard. This video explains possible options for fixing them.

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Chris Marshall: How do you repair loose screws that just won't tighten up? Well, I'm going to show you three repair options that you can try. Now, this first one is a pretty common example, loose screws on the hinges of a passage door. This particular door happens to be made out of MDF, which doesn't have a grain structure to it, so it doesn't hold screws very well anyway. To make matters worse, these hinge screws are pretty short. In a case like this, the fix just couldn't be easier. Even though these hinge screws are too short to hold very well, this door has a wide style here that can definitely accept longer screws. The easy fix, just install longer screws of the same gauge.

I'm replacing these number eight screws that are only 3/4 of an inch long, with some number eight screws that are two inches long. Problem solved but be sure to drill longer pilot holes for the new screws first. Here is another repair option. Here I've got an antic cabinet door, again, with some loose hinge screws. Now, here's the original hinge screw. I could just go with longer screws like I did for the passage door, or I could go with some slightly larger diameter screws like this, and go that route instead. Sometimes going up a gauge or two in screw size will do the trick because the larger screw will cut new threads in the wood but because this is an antic cabinet door, I want to reuse these original screws again.

The fix this time will be to fill those screw holes with some form of convenient wood product and then start over again with the same screws. Now you've got lots of easy common options for filling old screw holes. You can use round toothpicks, stick matches, wooden golf tees, any of these can work. I just use one with a diameter that comes closest to the screw size I need to fill. Here for these small holes, I'll use some match sticks with some glue on them, push them in and trim the excess off flash. Then drill pilot holes and thread the old screws back in. A little paste wax helps to make it easier to drive into place.

If you've worked with particle board, you probably already know that it does not hold screws very well. The threads crumble on this soft material, especially if you overdrive the screw. There's a sturdy fix to loose screws in particle board. You can use a dowel for better holding power. Just drill the screw hole completely out using a drill bit that matches the size of the dowel you have on hand. I'm using a doweling jig here to help keep my drill bit from wandering. Then fill the hole with a piece of dowel and plenty of glue and tap it down into place. Now you can go ahead and reassemble the joint. Just remember to drill a new pilot hole for the screw. The dowel is going to give you much stronger threads so the screw this time.

Remember these options next time you need to repair a project with loose screws. They're quick, easy, and permanent solutions. I'm Chris Marshall with Woodworker's Journal Magazine, and thanks for watching.