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Connector/Screw FAQs

Q: Why shouldn't I just use drywall screws?

A: Drywall screws are excellent for doing what they were designed for; penetrating through a paper-wrapped slab of a chalk-like substance (gypsum), then into a piece of dry pine. 

They feature an aggressive rolled thread, have a small shank, (the un-threaded part of the screws length) and are made very hard, through a quick heating process, to keep the drive sockets in the heads from stripping out. Sounds good, but there are some drawbacks to the drywall screw that make it an inappropriate fastener for most cabinetmaking and furniture making applications. The hardness of the drywall screw makes it prone to breaking, just as the head encounters resistance.

Believe it or not, what we need is a softer screw. Screws which are made for use in wood, plywood and particle board, undergo additional heat treating known as annealing, which takes a tempered (hardened) screw down a few notches in hardness. This leaves the screw with a little "spring" to it, which allows it to survive the rigors it will encounter in cabinetmaking.

As for the aggressive rolled thread and the smaller shank, these are still present on these high-tech "production" screws, such as the Hospa, Zip-R and Spax screws. What about the higher price of these vs. the drywall screw? Think about the last time you had to repair the damage caused by your driver gouging across your panel because the head snapped off. What did you save using the drywall screw?

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Q: What's the difference between Varianta, Spax, Confirmat, Zip-R, and Hospa screws?

A: Varianta screws (also known as Euro screws) were made for use in "system holes", or simply 3mm or 5mm holes used for holding hardware such as hinges and slides. Because they are always used in a predrilled hole, they are blunt, with parallel sides, and are very strong. Varianta screws are available in pan head, washer head, flat head, and several special heads. They are offered in Pozidrive/Phillips and Robertson style (square) and were designed for use in particleboard, where they give excellent results. For a complete selection of Varianta screws see our catalog.

Spax® screws contain a number of innovative features that put them ahead of the wood screw pack. Let's start with the head and work our way to the point. The head has a special recess called "Unidrive", which allows it to driven with a Phillips, a Robertson (square) or a Pozidrive screwdriver or bit. Where the head meets the threaded shaft (the neck) there is a secondary bevel that strengthens this otherwise vulnerable area (heads don't snap off). The threads are deeper than all other screws (greater tearout resistance) and the threads nearest the tip are serrated (notched like a saw) to allow the edges to cut smooth threads. The serrated edges do one more thing; they are slightly fatter than the remainder of the threads, so the friction is greatly reduced. The steel is stress relieved, which leaves them hard but not brittle, and lastly they are finished with a slick "Teflon type" coating (polytetrafluoroethylene if you really must know). Pre-drilling is largely a thing of the past. For a complete selection of Spax screws see our catalog.

Confirmat screws actually aren't even screws, but are more like a threaded steel connector or dowel. They create a strong joint that can be repeatedly assembled and disassembled. They are installed with a special 3-step bit that drills a pilot hole, a through hole and a countersink in a single drilling operation. Confirmats are the ideal choice where high pull-out resistance and strength is needed, such as in a corner joint. Available in several diameters, lengths and head styles, they can be disguised with color matching trim caps that can be snapped into a recess in the head. This cap can be removed and reused at any time. For a complete selection of Confirmat see our catalog.

Zip-R screws are made for use in hardwood, softwood and particleboard where pre-drilling is not desired. When you drive a typical screw into wood, the screw acts like a round wedge that is forced into the wood. This is why we get splits. Zip-R screws feature a special thread type known as "Type 17" which works like the gullets on a drill bit. As the screw enters the wood it actually drills a hole and the dust created by this drilling action enters the special slots in the Type 17 thread eliminating the wedging action of the screw and the dust around it. This screw also cuts a thread into the wood which allows the parts to be disassembled and reassembled a few times without a substantial loss of grip, as is seen with many "self tapping" thread designs. For a complete selection of Zip-R screws see our catalog.

Hospa screws are manufactured for use in particleboard where edge screwing is often done. If you are using drywall screws, you will find these to be a great step-up, as they do not have the tendency to snap as drywall screws do. Predrilling may be necessary in some applications. For best results drive Hospa screws with a Pozidrive bit. For a complete selection of Hospa screws see our catalog.


 

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Q: What's the difference between Phillips, Pozidrive and Robertson (square) screws?

A: Philips drive screws are the screws that have cross-slots that look like an X, stamped into the head. Patented in the 1930's, these were a vast improvement over the antique "slotted" screw, which tended to cam-out easily and were difficult to drive with power drivers.

Robertson (square) drive screws were patented in Canada in 1908 and address problems that the Phillips driver doesn't quite solve. They allow the screw to be placed on the driver prior to the screw being placed in position. What this meant was that for the first time you could start a screw overhead or in a tight spot without an extra hand holding the screw onto the driver.

Pozidrive screws answer the Phillips shortcomings. The differences are subtle. At first glance it appears to be a Phillips, but on closer examination you'll notice a second set of cross-blades at the root of the large cross-blades. These added blades are for identification and match the additional makings on the head of Pozi-drive screws, known as "tick" marks. So, the marks are for identification.

Two features of the Pozidrive screw and driver combination make it unique, and superior to the Phillips. First, the tip or the Pozidrive driver is blunt, which also helps it to seat better into the recess in the screw, unlike the Phillips which comes to a sharper point. This becomes a problem as the tooling that forges the recess in the head of the screws begins to show signs of wear. The recess becomes more and more shallow, which means the driver will bottom-out too soon and will cause the driver to cam-out.

The second unique feature is the large blades on the driver have parallel faces, where the Phillips blades are tapered. The straight sides of the driver allow additional torque to be exerted without fear of cam-out.

Knowing this, we can see why a Phillips driver will have problems driving a screw with a Pozi-recess, as a Pozi-driver would have little luck driving a Phillips head screw. One more tip. In a pinch it is possible to drive Pozi-drive screws with a Phillips driver, but you will need to grind down the tip slightly, and expect some slipping to occur.

For a complete selection of screws see our catalog.


 

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Q: To use 32mm/Euro hardware, do I need to buy new equipment?

A: Woodshops in North America have been slowly testing the waters of the 32mm system and the hardware designed for use with it. In most cases this means using their existing tools and methods while taking advantage of a few of the more attractive features of the 32mm system hardware. No doubt you have seen that many cabinets being sold today feature 35mm cup hinges. These hinges allow the installer to mount the cabinets without doors getting in the way, then quickly and easily hang and align them once the cabinets are installed. To install these hinges, a shop needs a simple fence with stops for the drillpress or an inexpensive jig for a hand held drill to aid in locating the 35mm holes properly. These hinges are just the tip of the iceberg. Connectors allow you to install permanent "clamps" in those impossible to clamp joints as well as making the joints RTA. (Ready To Assemble) System holes can be used for adjustable shelves, drawer slides and for mounting doors. Sure there are production tools that can do the job faster and more accurately, but these aren't needed until you decide which parts of the "System" are for you.
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