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How to fix a broken bridge screw?

Discussion in 'Tele Home Depot' started by D_Schief, Aug 23, 2013.

  1. D_Schief

    D_Schief Tele-Holic

    Apr 23, 2005
    Richmond, VA
    Disclaimer: I have limited wood-working skills and limited tools.

    I have a tele body that has one of the bridge screws broken off just below the surface of the body. The other three screws seem to do an adequate job of holding the bridge firmly in place, but I just feel like four working screws should just be "better." (Or maybe it's my anal-retentive nature that hates knowing that things ain't exactly right hidden there under the bridge!)

    So I have a DeWalt 18volt battery powered drill. Can I drill out the screw with that without making a huge mess? What type of bit is required? It seems like if I can drill it out (or carefully chip away enough wood to get a firm grasp on the screw shaft with a pair of pliers) that I could then clear out a clean hole, glue a piece of a dowell rod and then sand it smoothly over, and re-drill the bridge screw hole. It will all get covered by the bridge in the end.

    Which of these techniques (or what other approach) would you use? Or, would you just leave it alone and go with the three good screws?
  2. guitarbuilder

    guitarbuilder Doctor of Teleocity

    Mar 30, 2003
    Ontario County
    You need to get a piece of tubing slightly larger than the diameter of the screw shank and file some teeth into it. Then put that into your drill and drill down around the screw. When you are even with the bottom, break off the plug and pull out the wood and screw. Then plug the hole and redrill for a new screw.

    see post 2 in this thread.
  3. D_Schief

    D_Schief Tele-Holic

    Apr 23, 2005
    Richmond, VA
    That seems like something I can do, so long as I don't really have to use a drill press and can just use the DeWalt.

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  5. Vizcaster

    Vizcaster Friend of Leo's

    Sep 15, 2007
    Glen Head, NY
    Happens to the best of us. But don't go trying to dig holes around it for a pair of pliers. if the screw is thick enough and close enough to the surface, you could try to cut a slot in the broken shank with a cutoff wheel on a Dremel rotary tool in order to sort of create a slot-head on the screw to be removed with a very narrow screwdriver - but that's tool-intensive and can easily make a mess of the surrounding wood.

    The tubing-extractor trick is the way to go here, especially because when you're done, it leaves a clean round hole that you can repair with a plug or a dowel.

    Another tool-heavy option, but a "plug cutter" is preferable to a dowel since the plug cutter tool allows you to make your own plug that's better than a dowel in two respects: (1) face grain instead of long grain, and (2) you have some control over the species of scrap wood that you're using to cut the plugs from. Ideally a plug cutter is used with a drill press and a bandsaw to liberate the plugs from the scrap, but a hand drill and a screwdriver to pry them out works also. However for this application you might not want to use a tapered plug cutter (which are great for cosmetic repairs since they're really tight glue line at the surface, but aren't as good for a structural repair like this since a tapered plug can leave a gap hidden under the surface). Oh, and good luck finding a thin 3/16" plug cutter unless you get the pricey kit from Stew Mac. So what you're looking for is a 1/4" or 5/16" plug cutter (3/8 is starting to get pretty big) and a matching drill (bit) to size the hole after you're done with the tubing.
  6. Ronkirn

    Ronkirn Poster Extraordinaire Vendor Member

    May 1, 2003
    Jacksonville, FL
    the root of the recurring problem is the screws that come with 'bout all hardware are made of a very poor grade steel assuming you were lucky enough to get screws that are actually made of steel...

    What those of us that have grown tired of the repair Jack shows in the posted thread is to chunk the screws that come in the package, and get Stainless Steel screws to replace 'em.

    the source for the SS screws: 'bout any large Hardware Store, or McMaster Carr...

    Oh... If you're ordering from McMaster... they also can supply Stainless Steel tubing.... YOu can make the tool from it... advantages.... the drill chuck will not crush it... and its hard enough to stay sharp through the operation.

    Ron Kirn
  7. Bentley

    Bentley Friend of Leo's

    Jul 25, 2012
    Kelowna B.C, Canada
    Yeah, copper tubing is what I could find, and I had to make about 4 drill tubes because they were too soft.
  8. jefrs

    jefrs Doctor of Teleocity

    Nov 20, 2007
    Newbury, England
    ^^^ This what to do.
    Probably the only thing to do if you cannot grip the screw. If there is a little showing you might cut a screwdriver slot with a Dremel cutter, or you might get a pin chuck or a vise grip or an engineers clamp onto it.


    1) use a 'cork borer' - usually a set of concentric sharpened tubes with tee handles to push and rotate them. They do not fit a drill.

    2) old telescopic aerial - sharpen the end like the cork borer (spin the end against the bench grinder) cut a slot or two across it with a small knife swiss file. These tubes are not tough so use a wheel brace, a hand powered drill, not the electric hand drill. Like most ad-hoc tube hole borers, they seem to need re-sharpening several times with the file to get the job done.

    Where I've had this happen in a wall, I've had to use a hammer and cold chisel to remove enough plaster and brick to get at the screw so I could pull it out, wall-plug and all, and then repair the damage with repair cement and filler-plaster, and start over again. Similar effort here except we want to limit the damage.
  9. jefrs

    jefrs Doctor of Teleocity

    Nov 20, 2007
    Newbury, England
    Option "do nothing" - leave it alone, is a serious option.

    The bridge plate will not fall off.

    The strings hold a tele bridge on, the screws just stop it wandering about. Buggering about with it can do more harm than good.
  10. jefrs

    jefrs Doctor of Teleocity

    Nov 20, 2007
    Newbury, England
    You are probably best using a wheel brace because you can really feel where these are going with the best control.
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