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Neil sent me this link to a cool trick for holding round-head screws while you cut the threads shorter. Cut a thin slit in a correspondingly-threaded nut, through one of the points. A rotary tool with an abrasive disk is probably a good tool for this. Then you can thread the screw in and grip the nut across the flats with pliers or a vise. Compression across the width of the slit will hold the screw firmly in place, and you can use the flat side of the nut to guide the saw.

Sean Michael Ragan

I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I write for MAKE, serve as Technical Editor for MAKE magazine, and develop original DIY content for Make: Projects.


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Comments

  1. vt-pete.livejournal.com says:

    Great trick, I wasn’t aware that other make-ers even did this. I do this all the time. Usually I wedge the screw between two bits of pine in my bench vise and go at it with the cutoff wheel on my Dremel. I will try this next time.

  2. erikscott says:

    By far my favorite way to do this is to keep stacking nuts and/or washers onto the screw until the only part exposed is the part I want to get rid of. Grab it with pliers, and run the threads into a disk sander. Grind the remaining part of the screw down to the stack of nuts. When you thread the nuts back off, they’ll clean up the thread for you. Leave one nut on there, then taper the sharp end of the screw with a file so it starts into threads easier. Finally remove that last nut and you have a custom-length screw. You’re pretty close to guaranteed to get a 90 degree end this way.

  3. jakari says:

    Depending on what you’re cutting, many/most electrician’s wire strippers/crimpers also have threaded bolt cutters built into them. I think mine does 4-40, 6-32, 8-24, and 10-24. You open the jaws of the crimper, thread the screw through the face of the tool on one side that tapped, and then squeeze. Shears off the other end clean.

    Obviously not much good for really hard fasteners; it’s really meant for trimming the kinds of screws used in electrical work, but much easier and quicker than using a cutting tool.

  4. Jeep says:

    This is the kind of information I wish MAKE would get back to. It has gotten out of hand and reach with all of the modern “art” installations, etc. I wish they would focus more on the nuts and bolts and how-to’s.

  5. Frank says:

    I have 2 methods…

    1) Brute force – I just clamp them in a vice and cut. Make sure you clamp the threaded side you are going to discard. You need at least 2-3 threads to grip on to.

    2) Precise – I have a strip of metal, 30mm wide, 6mm thick, that I have drilled and tapped holes for the common sizes that I use – 3,4,5,6,8,10mm, 1/8,1/4″. Then, similar to erikscott’s method, I thread the screw through a stack washers and through the metal strip. Using a junior hacksaw, I cut the screws square and all exactly the same length.

  6. selfSilent says:

    I’ve never come across a screw that I couldn’t cut down in a second using the side cutter found at the back of most plier jaws.