Tips to Prevent Wood from Splitting

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Anytime you have to place screws in wood you run the risk of that wood splitting. This is especially problematic when drilling screws into weathered wood or near edges. Since this is a part of wood projects that we must deal with from time to time, taking care to avoid splitting mishaps is an essential part of any job.

One way to discourage wood splits is by drilling a small pilot hole before placing a full sized screw. The pilot hole will not only act as a guide, but will serve to open up the wood slowly rather than placing too much stress on it at one time. The more stress, the more likely it is that a split will occur. Small, well-placed pilot holes are no guarantee that you will not encounter a split but are more apt to aid you in preventing a split than had you not drilled a pilot hole.

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A second option in the battle against splits is paraffin wax. This is available for sale in blocks and can be carried with you quite handily as you go about your day's work and projects. There are also other products and types of screw wax on the market that you can research and consider if you wish, but keep in mind that spray lubricants can damage the finish of your wood, especially if they run. Using paraffin wax to lubricate your screw will make the wood around it less likely to split as the screw penetrates. The wax will also act as a protective barrier, protecting your screw from the elements and saving it from rust. Simply rub your screw against the paraffin wax block on all sides before placement and wipe away any excess once it is in position.

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Something you should not use for the purpose of lubricating a screw is soap. Even though soap has similar lubricating qualities to wax, soap contains water whereas wax does not. Because of the water contained in soap, there will be moisture surrounding your screw should you use it for lubrication. This will result in a screw that rusts and fails sooner than expected and can be difficult to remove once that happens.

While lubricating screws is an excellent idea to prevent wood splits, the same cannot be said for lubricating nails. The reason lubricating wax works on a screw is because of the grooves. There is no smooth surface on a screw, so even a lubricated screw will always have gripping capabilities. What will not have the same capabilities is a nail. A lubricated nail will sure enough go into place more easily, but what goes in easily will come out easily, which means you might not find nails where you left them.

Should you have a wood project that is currently awaiting your attention, pick up some paraffin wax before you get busy adding screws. If you prefer, give pilot holes a try. Either will increase your odds of success, but remember that soap will leave you rusty because soap is always at least a little bit wet.

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April 3, 2014  •  09:16 AM
Drilling a pilot hole is no guarantee that you will not split the wood. The drill hole needs to be the size of the screw's shaft but not the width of the outer diameter of the the threads. The thread will cut its way into the wood outside the hole without forcing the hole to widen and split.

Countersinking the hole for a wood screw also reduces the liklihood of causing a split/crack especially if the screw is going into the wood near the edce. And DO NOT over torque

To securely fasten one board to another the first board should have a hole that is wider than the thread. The head of the screw then pulls the top board tightly down as the screw pulls itself into the bottom board. The screw thread in the top board is doing NOTHINg to hold the two boards together.

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