Articles about DIY


The heads of wooden matchsticks have been used in the making of homemade bombs. These bombs are very unstable, and very dangerous. Always use caution when working with or around wooden matchstick heads.

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How to Repair Stripped Screw Holes in Wood

by Damien Andrews

One of the problems regularly confronted by do-it-yourselfers is the old stripped screw hole. Sometimes the stripped holes are in drywall, and sometimes they're in wood. This treatise will deal with stripped holes in wood only.

Many years ago the do-it-yourselfer was introduced to wood fillers. These are marvelous little chemical concoctions that can easily be used to fill dents, cracks and holes in wood – any kind of wood. Some are designed for outdoor use, and some for indoor use. All of them can be sanded and/or drilled – or otherwise worked – to suit the final need. Most can be painted. These are really great products, and they've most assuredly earned their place on the do-it-yourselfer's shelf. Some of these products, while exhibiting excellent qualities for matching a finish, don't really hold on very well when screwed into. Also, they all require drying time – some up to 24-hours. Lastly, rarely can you fill a hole with such a product and not have to do a second fill – which means that, including drying time, it could be a couple of days to repair a simple stripped (reamed out) screw hole in wood. This is hardly functional in many instances, such as when you're repairing an exterior door that you don't want to leave unserviceable for 48-hours.

Fortunately, the prepared do-it-yourselfer has alternatives to wood fillers. Stripped holes in wood can easily be prepared to accept, and tightly hold a new screw in minutes. Even if the new screws will be considerably smaller than the screws that were removed from the stripped hole. You'll need a couple of things, but they're cheap, available anywhere, never dry out, easy to keep on the shelves, and eminently useful in numerous situations.

Two things that live on my pegboard shelves are wooden kitchen matches and round wooden toothpicks. For safety, I stock the wooden matches that clearly announce that they are the "strike on the box" type. "Strike anywhere" kitchen matches are great for camping and for use in the confines of the kitchen, but also present certain safety hazards that don't apply to the "strike on the box" variety. The toothpicks I've had the best success with are the round, uncolored variety.

To fill a stripped hole in wood for immediate use:

Step 1 – Grab some of the wooden matches – enough to fill the hole. Strike them and blow out the flames. (This is so that you don't throw away the un-struck heads, which can be a safety hazard.) Now snip off the burnt ends of all the matches and safely discard them. This can be done with tin snips, end cutters – or just a good pair of shop scissors.

Step 2 – Grab the correct number of matches – enough to barely fit in the hole, and then tap them into the hole gently with a hammer. Since the matches are squared and the hole is round, there will be spaces left around the matches.

Step 3 – If you can't tap another match into any of the voids remaining in the partially filled hole, then you can either a) bevel (sharpen) one end of a match and drive it in or b) use one or more of the toothpicks to fill space. It really depends on the sizes of the remaining voids. Do this until the voids are pretty much filled in. You don't have to fill every square millimeter of the hole, but you do want it well filled so that your new material is tightly wedged into the hole.

Step 4 – Trim off the matchsticks and toothpicks until they're flush with the top of the hole. If the hole was very large, say ½" or so, you may need to saw the excess wood off. Tin snips will cut a large number of matchsticks. Use a wood rasp or file to put a nicer, closer-to-flush finish on the newly installed wood fillers, if needed/desired. You can give it a final sanding, if you choose, but it's not necessary.

Step 5 – Mark and then drill into the matches/toothpicks with the appropriate drill bit for the screw you'll be using. Now just install your screw!

This repair is quite strong, and will render many years of superb service. As you might expect, this repair won't last as long outdoors as it will indoors. Of course, if you required a first rate appearance on your repair, you could trowel a very tiny bit of wood filler into the minute remaining voids left around your freshly inserted wooden sticks, and then sand the work before drilling. This will add time to the repair, but you definitely won't have to fill twice since you are not filling a deep hole. This variation of the repair process affords the best appearance, and also the strongest hold for your hardware.

Pro Tips:

• If your stripped hole location deems a stronger repair than mentioned above, simply put one or two drops of wood glue onto the edges of some of the matchsticks and/or toothpicks just before tapping them into place. Use the glue very sparingly. It really doesn't take much to create a powerful, permanent bond, and you don't want to wait long for drying. Good wood glue will dry in 30-minutes.

• Burn the tips off of 30 or 40 matches and cut the burnt tips off and discard them, as described above. Drop the remaining matchsticks into a small, disposable can – an old soup can that's been washed out will work great. Now toss a handful of your wooden toothpicks into the can also. Cover the wooden pieces with any outdoor wood preservative treatment and allow them to soak for a while. After the pieces have soaked long enough, pour off any excess wood preservative. Dump the sticks and picks onto a piece of cardboard or paper, put a paper towel into the bottom of the can, and dump the treated wooden sticks back into the can – so that they rest on the paper towel in the bottom*. Use these for outdoor stripped hole repairs to dramatically extend the service life of the repair.

*You may want to cover this can with aluminum foil as most wood preservatives put off an unpleasant odor for some time.


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