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I found myself in the shop yesterday building a quick bracket to mount some equipment in the house. Because I have a ton of scrap metal lying around (and a nice MIG welder), I built it out of metal. I tacked together a couple of pieces of 1/8″ x 5″ flat bar to make a flat panel, and I was about to weld on a couple of pieces of 16-gauge square tube when I noticed a box sitting on the shelf above my shop sink: drill screws.

Otherwise known as “self-tapping metal screws,” these little suckers are handy as hell. Because they feature a little drill bit on the tip of the screw, you don’t need to pre-drill holes for them. And the threads are tough enough to thread themselves, so you can leave the tap and die set in the drawer. Just flip the drill to high speed, hold the screw in place for a sec while it drills in, then drive the screw in. Done!

They’re no replacement for a drill and a tap, but they do a better job than you might think. You can easily remove the screw and re-install it afterward, which is enough for me. Essentially, you get a pain-free way to fasten two metal items, and you can pull them apart (more than once) with nothing but a screwdriver.

Instead of welding, I chose the drill screws, and it totally paid off. I ended up placing the bracing a little too far forward, but took only a minute to back the screws out and shoot them back in and over a little.

These screws saved me a ton of time, and I plan to keep a box around. You should, too. Expect to pay around $5 for a box of a bunch at your local big-box.

 

11 Responses to S#!& You Should Have: Drill Screws

  1. minh says:

    self tapping/drilling screws are a racer/mechanic #2 best friend only second from zip ties. The majority of bumpers and parts are mounted with these screws on a grassroot race car.

  2. Matt says:

    Great for square tubing where you can’t get a nut inside. Sometimes they are the only solution.

  3. karst says:

    I am a HVAC contractor and we use them everyday. We call them tek screws.

  4. Brett from Utah says:

    “tek screws” in the electric world too- they’re you’re best friend for lost electrical hardware, and mounting sheetmetal parts…

  5. fred says:

    We use various teks including those that come with wafer (washered heads) and neoprene washer heads that provide water tight sealing. Some can be found at your big box – but ask your supplier about sealtites:

    http://www.sealtite.com/

  6. Chuck says:

    Hell, no self-respecting pro would ever be without a decent supply of self-tapping screws. If nothing else, they come in handy for holding things in place so you can drill other holes.

  7. Brau says:

    My old boss was too cheap to buy self-tapping screws so I kept a few on hand to get the hole started then replaced them with the cheapies the boss provided. It’s a lot faster than pre-drilling when you can use the same nut driver.

  8. Ben Granucci says:

    Tek screws in the theater world as well. Great for attaching wood nailers to metal framing and so many other things.

  9. Geoff says:

    I used some just the other day to fix a downspout that came loose on the house. I pushed the elbow back onto the bottom of the gutter fitting & drove a couple of ’em in and the job was done. I always have some on-hand.

  10. DaveS says:

    Self-tapping screws have no drill point, but rely on the sharp tip piercing the metal so the threads can get a grip. They’re commonly used with thin sheet metal, though with persistence I’ve gotten them into steel tube as thick as 14 ga. That also ruins the sharp point, so sometimes it takes two screws to make a single attachment.

    Drill point self-tapping screws are recommended for thicker material or wood-metal joints where turning a self-tapping screw would drill out the wood too much. I’ve used drill point self-tapping screws into 1/4″ plate with little trouble.

    Tek is a brand of drill point self-tapping screw. As with most branded fasteners, there are some differences between Tek and other screws, but in use they don’t perform vastly differently. Genuine Tek screws sometimes cut better threads or have more efficient drills, but only to a degree you would notice when driving large numbers. It won’t matter for occasional use.

    A problem with all drill point self-tapping screws is that drilling with the screw sometimes overloads the head, which shears off during driving or as the head contacts the material. No screw is immune, but cheaper brands seem to be more prone to this. Cheaper brands are attractive because the drill point can sometimes double the cost, compared to sharp pointed self-tapping screws.

    No drill point self-tapping screw is intended to drill more than a couple of times. After that there’s no cutting edge left on the drill point – which is often press-formed rather than cut into the shank.

  11. Bullfrog says:

    Me and my father use these for roofing with corrugated sheet metal. and pretty much anything else where sheet metal is to be attached to something.

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