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Piggy backing on this question about wood screws, are there any industrial standards to define quality in wood screws? When I purchase machine screws I usually look for which standards are adhered to. For example McMaster lists these standards for their socket head machine screws:

Screws that meet ASTM A574, ASTM A574M, and ISO 898-1 comply with specifications and testing requirements for material quality. Screws that meet ASME B18.3, ASME B18.3M, ISO 21269, and ISO 4762 (formerly DIN 912) comply with specifications for dimensional standards.

This is usually how I know I'm getting an inferior product when I have to buy machine screws from the big-box home store. Are there any corresponding standards for wood screws? Is there any way to tell a quality wood screw from a junk one from the big boxes?

  • There is no listing for wood screws in the ASTM index, unfortunately mine is the 1986 Ed. – blacksmith37 Sep 17 at 0:33
  • astm.org/Standards/D1761.htm etc.I've never seen a box telling me the contents comply with such a standard, and I'm not sure if the single example (there are others you can find with a simple web search) of "D1761" can be considered a "standard" by which fasteners could say they comply with. But wood fasteners can be tested using published ASTM standards. Maybe this is for specific customers, like Federal. There is a reason DoD wrenches cost hundreds of USD. – jdv Sep 17 at 16:28
  • There are some screws that are regulated by code (i.e. framing screws strongtie.com/strongdrive_exteriorwoodscrews/sdws-q_screw/p/…), but I haven't seen a generic "wood screw" standard. – SaSSafraS1232 Sep 18 at 16:18
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Is there any way to tell a quality wood screw from a junk one from the big boxes?

By sight, probably not. Packaging, and any claims it might make, certainly wouldn't be anything to go on1. Apparent quality and consistency of the screws may be something to go on but it would be hard to be definitive, and visual cues won't tell you anything about the material qualities of the steel2.

You don't specify the application(s) you're interested in, but within reason the only area you need to be really fussy about screw selection is structural work, where strength is critical for safety. More particularly exterior structural work, where strength and the quality of the coating are both important factors.

But just for lighter stuff around the house and for general furniture use you can be much less fussy. Screws of old were only a type of mild steel and they did OK3. Excluding anything with a fault, the typical screw of today is an order of magnitude better than those.

Shootouts and comparative reviews are a useful starting point for selecting the screws you're going to buy for different applications and here's a selection:

Choosing Woodworking Screws on Woodworker's Journal.
Screws are Screws – Aren’t They? from Popular Woodworking.
Drive screws that don't corrode from Wood Magazine.
These Are the Screws You Should Be Using on Popular Mechanics.

One last point, if you're not a working pro who needs to be able to drive dozens of screws in a day don't be too down on any screws you might try that don't power-drive well. They may be perfectly good fasteners that work well driven by hand or using a ratcheting driver of some kind such as a Yankee screwdriver. For long or very big screws I like to use an old carpenter's brace4.


1 Standard caveat emptor caution.

2 Drywall screws are a great example, they look really good but the slick black coating doesn't tell you that they're typically too brittle for woodworking.

3 And they're still viable. Many woodworkers today hoard old screws and use them as much as they can. Worth noting also in this context that many screws used traditionally in furniture work were only brass, and as soft as it was it was good enough for the purpose.

4 Many traditional two-jaw chucks in braces can grip hexagons quite well despite not being made for this, opening up the world of drivers that an old brace can power to literally anything available with a hex shaft. This is surprisingly quick and so far there is no amount of resistance one of these can't overcome, hardly surprising given braces were intended for drilling big holes in hard wood as needed.

  • Thanks for the thorough reply. I'm mostly asking because I feel like the big box screws cam out more frequently. I suppose I need to be more gentle with the impact driver though. – tir38 Sep 17 at 17:06
  • Yes impact drivers can be the problem rather than the screw being at fault (within reason). Another thing very much worth exploring though, since you have a driver already, is simply changing the head style you buy. Are you using Pozi screws by any chance? Pozi isn't great for cam-out despite being specifically designed to improve on this over Phillips. Torx or better yet Robertson are a huge improvement in this regard. – Graphus supports Monica Sep 18 at 7:40
  • no, not using Pozi. But I might start playing more with Robertson screws – tir38 Sep 20 at 20:48

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