View Full Version : Screw Slots

October 22, 2007, 09:49 PM
Does anyone know any tricks to clean up "boogered" screw slots?
Brownells has a 3 pack slotting file set for $100.00, a little pricey for a once in a while user. Anything on the market any cheaper? Thanks, PK

October 22, 2007, 10:07 PM
Probably cheaper and look nicer to just get new screws.

October 22, 2007, 10:12 PM
Yup, almost always a better choice to get new screws if you can.

October 22, 2007, 11:51 PM
When I was refinishing a gun with mistreated screws, the usual technique was to polish the head of the screw on the hardwheel. You probably don't have a large polishing setup, so what you can try is putting a sheet of 400 grit wet and dry paper on a flat surface, and polish off the raised burrs on the edge of the slot. Once those are dressed down, polish the whole head, keeping the polishing marks going in the same direction.

When you cold blue, try this technique: pour out about half a cap-full of cold blue. Finish polishing your screw, clip it in a pair of hemostats, dont touch it, degrease with brake-kleen, and dip it head first in the cold blue. Let it sit in there for a minute, bring it out and soak it in some break free.

As the other guys have noted, if the gun is even halfway modern, it might be easier to just get new screws. Try Gun Parts Corp.

James K
October 23, 2007, 12:50 PM
OK, here are some tips.

If the edges of the slot are buggered and raised (the normal situation) clamp the screw in a vise with the slot in line with the vise jaws. Then take a light hammer and start to tap the raised metal, pounding toward the slot so as to both flatten the raised part and drive it back into the slot. Do this from both directions. Then chuck the screw in a drill or drill press and hold a file on the screw head as the screw turns to reshape the head contour. Finally, with the screw still turning in the drill, use emery paper or cloth to smooth the screw head and polish it appropriately to the gun finish. Then, for a blued gun, use cold blue to blue the screw. Alternatives are heating to get a heat blue or Parkerizing. For stainless steel, usually simply polishing is enough.

Now if you have to recut the slot, here is a way. Instead of buying an expensive file set, buy some cheap hacksaw blades, the finer tooth the better. If you look at the blade you will see that the teeth are offset to the sides, alternating from one to another. You don't want that, so grind the blade flat on the sides to remove that "set". Then grind lightly on the edge of the saw blade to make sure the teeth are flat, not rounded. You now have a screw slot "file" that will cut/restore a screw slot.

The nice thing about this is that those hacksaw blades are cheap and you can grind them to the appropriate width without worrying about cost. Done the way I say, the screw slot will be difficult or impossible to tell from the original, and a buggered screw will look about as good as new.

Now, how to prevent screw buggering. When you have a stubborn screw, use that drill press. Insert a stub driver blade into the chuck and with the gun on padding on the drill press table, bring the blade down into the screw slot. Don't turn on the power! Hold the chuck down or lock it down and just hand work the chuck back and forth and just about any tough screw will come free. The reason screws are buggered is that the screw driver rides up and out of the slot; with the drill press holding it down, it can't do that.


October 23, 2007, 03:13 PM
"Now, how to prevent screw buggering."

The first thing is to get corectly sized hollow ground hardened screwdrivers or tips.
If a slot is 'between' sizes, grind the larger down to a snug fit.
NEVER use a tapered screwdriver on a gun screw.

James K
October 24, 2007, 08:51 PM
Unfortunately, even with the "correct" screwdriver, it is possible to bugger a screw head unless the driver is held down very firmly, especially in a shallow slot screw. I generally try the screw with normal pressure but if it doesn't break free, I soak it with a penetrant. If it still won't come after a long soak, I go the drill press route.


October 25, 2007, 01:23 AM
Thanks Jim, the hacksaw blade trick is a good one. I have restored several old pieces over the years doing the metal prep. and woodwork myself. I have always had my local Smithy recut the boogered screws which is so common on old guns. I have ordered obsolete screws in the past only to recieve screws that were the same or in worse condition than the ones I wanted to replace. Thanks all for the good information.

James K
October 25, 2007, 06:56 PM
The neat part about using hacksaw blades is that you can grind them to the width of the slot. You don't want to do that with a $60 file.


October 30, 2007, 11:00 AM
One of the truly great inventions of mankind was the gray wheel. Scotchbrite is a brand name, and a fine grit gray wheel is great for finishing. I have taken the screw shanks in a cordless drill many times, carefully held them to a fine grit belt sander while spinning, and the do the same thing with the gray wheel, heat to blue, drop in oil and yer done. :)

Harry Bonar
October 30, 2007, 05:45 PM
Yes, a good screwdriver - yes they still bugger!

I try to put the metal back both on the sides and top of the screw and as Jim says, use your hacksaw blades (I've got ten hacksaws - I've got a "thing" about hacksaws and hammers:D).
I peen down the screw head and then put it in the drill press and with a fine file and contour the head, not forgetting the sides. It should be bright.
Then, with it held solidly in the vise I do Jims' hacksaw trick - always using a backstroke to take teeth marks out, and polish again in the press. The final polish takes some good 240 and a stiff finger to make.

I've got a can of wretched used engine oil and heat the screw and head to a good blue color (about 700 degrees F. and plunge it in the oil and then withdraw it quick enough so it smokes and touch flame again and again dipping and burning oil off each tome - it works! Work fast or your color will go to grey then you'll need to start over again - this is a chemical change in the steel.
Then sit back on that ego trip like some do and never tell a young smith any of your secrets. Old Harry Pope, crichity, mean old smith he was - when he was old he so, so wanted some young man to tell his secrets to.
So many smiths, when old and knowledgeable, like to act like Gods;' elder brother - what a shame -- here on the Forum we welcome young smiths and inquiring minds and we'll all help.
Harry B.

Bill DeShivs
October 30, 2007, 09:18 PM
Dipping in oil is not necessary.

October 30, 2007, 10:37 PM
Dipping, filing, drill presses,......all are fine but my solution is just to scream at the boys in the back until they fix the problem ;)

WildaniamloudandvulgartooAlaska TM

Harry Bonar
October 31, 2007, 11:50 AM
I "dip in oil" to arrest and strengthen and even up the blue color.
Harry B.:)
There's no one in the back room for me to scream at!
Harry B.

James K
October 31, 2007, 08:07 PM
Hi, Wildalaska,

So you are the guy up front who was always screaming at me! Where did I put that gun?


October 31, 2007, 08:15 PM
My favorite lines are:

"dude you see this screw slot? It looks like you installed it with a backhoe while you were on crack! Fix it"

"Would you let your Momma handle this one after you butchered it?"

How about:

"This scope is so crooked it could run for congress! Fix it!"


"No wonder this gun doesnt shoot...the action screws are loooser than my bowels after a 12er of Bud. There are things called screwdrivers you know!"

"Buy a new lathe?...thats nice, you cant figure out how to use the old one so we will just buy a new one...here, take the $10,000, we dont need it for stuff like payroll"

WildihavemoreAlaska ™

My personal favorite..."It's OK, I dont have ANYTHING else to do but wipe your butts, let me know when you are ready to be toilet trained" ;)

PS...Our crew is fantastic by the way, some real talented guys

James K
October 31, 2007, 08:29 PM
One of mine, directed at an especially clumsy guy who did our bluing prep for a while, "Lean harder on the wheel, Charlie, you haven't got all the markings ground off yet." (The customers, and worse, the boss, thought he was great because the reblued guns were always shiny. No markings, no corners, but shiny.)