How to Identify Types of Screws for Building Wood Furniture

Updated February 21, 2017

Building wood furniture requires not only the proper tools but also the appropriate fasteners. Wood screws are designed specifically for the builder working with wood or wood products and may be differentiated according to drive type, head shape, the material used to produce the fasteners and the actual dimensions of the wood screw itself. Dimension may be further subdivided according to screw length, diameter and thread pitch or count -- a measurement of how fine the threads are on the screw.

Refer to your furniture plan to identify the type of wood screw recommended for your woodworking project.

Search tool catalogues or pictorial images and/or charts of wood screws online.

Find a book on woodworking at your local library or bookstore that includes an informational chapter on wood screws.

Identify the drive design of your wood screw. The simplest screw will feature a single slot on the screw head. The slotted screwdriver required will be one that snugly fits the width and length of the screw slot.

Distinguish between Philips, Pozidrive and Combination drives. A Philips screwdriver may be used to drive all three designs whereas a slotted screwdriver will only work on the slotted and combination screw.

Match other drives with the correct screwdrivers required. Prefabricated wood furniture often comes with screws sporting hexagonal holes that must be driven with a Socket, Hex or Allen driver. Square drives require a Robertson driver and a screw with a six-pointed star design is driven with a Torx driver.

Check your furniture plan to see if your screws must be countersunk -- driven flush with the surface of the wood -- or driven to rest on the wood surface.

Choose a flat or oval screw with a flat or rounded top that tapers gently to the shank, or stick-like section of the screw, for countersunk work.

Select a round, pan or truss screw where countersinking is not needed. The round screw sports a domed head; the pan features a slightly rounded head with short vertical sides; and the truss has an extra-wide head with a rounded top.

Select screws according to the dimensions of the material being fastened together and the hardness of the wood. Thicker wood requires longer, thicker screws and harder wood requires more threads per inch or a higher thread count to bite into the compact wood grain.

Determine the correct length and gauge number of the screw. The length of the screw is measured from the surface of the material to the point of the screw. Gauge is calculated by measuring the head of the screw in sixteenths of an inch, subtracting 1/16 and doubling the remaining top number. If, for example, the diameter of the screw head is 4/16, taking away 1/16 equals 3/16. Double three equals six. The screw is a 6 gauge.

Choose a screw with a higher pitch number or count for use in making hardwood furniture.


Outside furniture should be constructed using non-rusting galvanised metal screws.

Things You'll Need

  • Furniture making plans
  • Tool catalogue
  • Pictures of wood screws or chart of fasteners -- online
  • Book on furniture making -- from library or bookstore
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About the Author

Kevin Ann Reinhart, a retired teacher-librarian, has written professionally since 1976. Reinhart first published in "Writers' Undercover" Cambridge Writers Collective II. She has a bachelor's degree in English and religious studies from the University of Waterloo and a librarian specialist certificate from Queen's University and the University of Toronto.