June 23, 2000 (Ira Pilgrim)

Screw It

I'm not a slow carpenter. I'm not a fast carpenter. I might be called a half-fast carpenter.

Author unknown

At parties, the conversation often turns to health problems. When it does, I usually declaim in a loud voice that I got tennis elbow from screwing. All heads and ears turn to me. I then explain that I built a camping trailer and that I used screws instead of nails and got tennis elbow from using a screw driver. My orthopedic surgeon told me that using a screw driver causes tennis elbow more frequently than using a tennis racket. This was before the days of battery operated screw drivers and inexpensive screws that can be easily used with them.

As far as I am concerned, the nail is an obsolete piece of hardware. I have lots of them left over that anyone can have for the asking. The only people who use nails are the time-is-money boys who can throw a house together in record time using nails and a nail gun. Of course, if they used screw nails, which are nails with a few threads(twists), it would do a fine job, but heaven help the carpenter who makes a mistake. Not only is it major surgery to remove a screw nail, but you will often wreck the wood that you have nailed. Of course, I don't have to worry about that because I never make misteaks. The screw, on the other hand, is as easy to take out as it was to put in. And it is easy to put in if you have an electric screw driver, preferably a battery operated one. The reason for using a battery operated screw driver is convenience; you don't have to drag a power cord around. My Makita drill is a gem of a tool. You can now buy its equivalent for a third the price that I paid for mine.

Another big advantages to screws is that they pull the two pieces of wood tightly together, particularly if you have drilled a hole in one piece that is a hair larger in diameter than the screw you are using.

Anyone who has built a deck or a floor with nails knows that eventually the nails pop out, particularly if it is subject to the weather. Then you have to live with it and trip over them, or replace them with large screws. Most of the time, you might as well start over again from scratch.

Anyone who does woodworking knows that if you really want to fasten something well, the way to do it is with the combination of screws and glue. In the old days, only cabinet makers and true craftsmen did it that way. Most wood butchers used nails and if it never moved due to people walking on it, or expanded and contracted due to temperature and humidity, it might stay together. The screw and glue combination often outlasted the wood. Again, there is a problem if you make a mistake and discover it after the glue has dried. If you use just screws, it will be almost as strong and will be easy to take apart should you have to do so.

As you have no doubt guessed by now, my motto is "Screw It!"

Next column

Return to the Light Stuff Home Page

Return to Ira's Home Page