Extracting a very small stripped screw head

I’m disassembling a mini electronic device that sporadically malfunctions. Unfortunately, I can’t get out the last two screws. They’re Philips head, and the heads appear to have been stripped. These are very small screws: 1/8 inch wide and just a little longer. They’re through a thin plastic plate, so I have to be very careful in getting them out–no brute force methods here. A quick Internet search turned up help only for big screws–i.e., use a hacksaw to drill a new head, which won’t quite work here.

Does anyone have any suggestions? Thanks for your help.


With big stripped screws or bolts, you have a problem, depending on how much the person removing it stripped it and/or rounded off the head.

With a 1/8th screw? Forgive the pun, but I think you’re screwed.

On second thought, if you can find a replacement tiny screw, and the head is accessible, is it possible to just cut off the screw head with a high-leverage sidecutters?

If it’s in a recessed area, I hear cracking plastic in your future.

Sears makes screw extractors for just that. They work very well, but I’ve never tried them on such small screws. You’d have to be very careful. Otherwise perhaps drilling them out. Or, come to think of it, a jeweler could probably do it for you.

Dremmel a slot in the head (and into the plastic - can’t be helped) or dremmel off the head and don’t use thoses screws for reassembly.

A drop of fast setting epoxy on the flat end of a small nail might stick to the screw head tightly enough that you can unscrew it.

That’s good thinking Squink. Might work better if used on the tip of the screwdriver, though.

-I’m a cheap bastard, and I like my tools clean. :smiley:

They make very tiny left handed drill bits for drilling out screws. Most of the time, the screw will back out as you drill it.

Be verrrry careful.

One of the post-docs I worked with in grad school was a whiz at these things. I once had a tiny screw caught in a cryostat. The slot in the head was “stripped”, so I tried to saw a new one with a tiny saw – no dice. This guy came over and took a look. His instructions were explicit:

“Take a piece of glass tubing to make a container around the screw. Glue it in place with RTV (Room Temperature Vulcanizing rubber – the caulking stuff that smells like vinegar). After it sets, pour hydrochloric acid in there. Heat it up with a hot air blower.”

I did. The heated acid dissolved the screw out, without affecting the stainless steel o the cryostat it was wedged in.

Wear goggles if you’re gonna do this. And ventilate well.

This happened to me once while disassembling one of my kids’ Gee Charley Whiz Bang toys. I couldn’t get the last screw out, it’s always the last one, with an extractor or drill because of the small size and being in a recessed well about 1/2 inch. The easiest solution I found was to use an X-acto knife and cut the plastic on the surface around the recessed well. Many light passes made a reasonably clean cut and presto chango, the cover was free without damaging anything. When I put it back together, I just put a drop of superglue on the cut edges and it’s been fine ever since.

I second the nail idea. I had the dead of an Eyeglasses screw snap off. I took a thumbtack(the type with the plastic hourglass shaped body), filed the point flat, touched the tip to superglue, and then glued the tack to the screw’s shaft…carefully…

Wait about a minute, and then carefully twist the tack to unscrew. Works like a charm.

Using the small, finely built pliers on the more full featured Swiss Army knives you can usually grab these screw heads and carefully rotate them out.

I’ve removed them in several ways.
If the screw isn’t recessed try grabbing the head with a small pair of side cutters held at the same angle as you would a screwdriver.
If you are very hand eye coordinated you can drill out the screw so close that the threads will be all that is left and they will just peel out.
The glue trick has never worked for me.
A dremmel tool can be used to make a new groove.I used that method the last time I had to remove screws from plastic.
Easy outs are made for this kind of problem but the smallest ones always seem to break causing a different problem.
The new sears tool sounds interesting if you have the luxury of a lot of room to work.
good luck

Well, I ended up just drilling the heads of the stuck screws off. The plastic panel was held in place by six screws, so losing two didn’t really hurt anything. I managed to clean the circuitry and the device works much better now. Thanks for the help everyone!