How To Remove Stripped Screws From a Pocket Knife

Just bought some spiffy new scales for your Lander, but got a little too excited and accidentally stripped out your scale screws? It happens to the best of us sometimes. We've heard from a few customers that have had issues removing screws while swapping scales. Some of this is user error. Other times, it's a combination of features on the Lander that make screw removal challenging. So, in the spirit of education, here are a few tips and tricks to avoid stripping screws. And a couple tricks on how to remove stripped screws from a pocket knife if you do strip them: 

How To Prevent Stripped Torx Screws

  • Use high quality bits. We recommend Wiha bits. These are properly hardened and magnetized for convenience. Bad bits are the road to stripped-screw heartache. 

  • Replace your bits. Stripped bits = stripped screws. Sure, it seems obvious, but if they're worn out or damaged, they're only going to hurt your knife.

  • Use strong in-line even pressure When torqueing on your screws, maintain a 90 degree angle by placing the palm of your hand on the butt of the driver. This helps you apply even, controlled pressure to the screw. We make a delightful little pocket knife bit driver with a rotating end cap that helps with teardown. 

Do This:

holds holding knife and removing the screws


Don't do this:

wrong way to use a screw driver

  • Don't to force it. You can prove you're a yoked beast at the gym-- your knives' screws are not the place to test your strength. Use light to moderate torquing pressure. Brute force + tiny knife scale screws = stripped screws
  • Use heat if you have a stubborn screw that won't come out. Fire up a heat gun, hair dryer (Ben's favorite!), or a soldering iron for more precise heating. The heat helps break loose thread locker on stubborn screws. Be patient and don't burn or melt your scales if they are made of plastic, wood, or micarta.

Hand heating up knife with hair dryer

    Signs you need to replace your Torx bits: 

    • The teeth of your torx bit look rounded or worn down This is a sure-fire way to destroy the screw heads you are working on. The teeth need to seat well into the holes on the screw to get proper grip.
    Good vs Bad in bids
    • The teeth on the bit are twisted and or warped. The teeth and channels between the teeth should all be well-aligned vertically. Any twisting will result in bad performance and inevitably stripped screws.
    • The torx bit is bent or broken

      How To Remove Stripped Screws From A Pocket Knife

      • Drill it Out: Use a drill press or handheld drill with a 1/16” drill bit to drill into the center of the stripped out screw head. Drill down about 1/16" into the screw head.

      Drilling Out Knife Screws
      • Extract. Use a screw extraction bit to bite into the sides of your freshly drilled hole. Run your drill with the screw extractor bit in reverse. It will bite into the side of the hole and catch. Then slowly, run lefty loosey until the screw comes out with the screw extractor. If it's not biting, try drilling your hole deeper, then return to the screw extractor bit. 

      Hand holding drill bits and pointing to them

      How Do You Extract Stripped Screws Without A Drill? 

      • Elastic band - Easiest first try, simply place a rubber/elastic band between your driver bit and the screw. Apply strong downward pressure while attempting to turn the screw. This usually works better for larger screws and bolts. For knife screws, try a smaller rubber band.

      • Use a flathead bit and a hammer. This will force the flat head into the gap of the torx bit. This will give you just enough bite to turn the screw. When using this method, you need to make sure you have a small enough flathead bit.

      • Try allen keys these sometimes have enough bite to turn a stripped out torx screw. Not always a reliable option, but you could get lucky.

      • Try a Dremel tool or file on raised screws to cut a notch with a grinding wheel so that you can use a flat head bit to turn the screws loose. 

          • Center punch: Allows you to use the spring loaded punch to manually turn the screw. By pulling back on the plunger you load the spring with energy. On release, it drops a hammer and hits the screw. You can use this to deliberately knock the screw in a counterclockwise direction. Aim for the edge of the screw, not the center hole. This will turn the screw instead of impact it deeper into the hole. Though slower, this is one of the safer and less destructive ways to remove a stripped screw.


          Should You Use Loctite On Your Knife?

          • Don't use Red Loctite. Red loctite is almost never necessary for knives, especially for handle scales. We use Red Loctite on thumb-studs when we know for certain that we don't ever want them to come loose
          • Use Blue Loctite. Most of the time you don’t “need” Blue Loctite, it’s nice to have if you are worried about your screws coming loose over time. When Blue Loctite is applied in small amounts it will help keep your screws in place. If you use too much, and or over-tighten it can make screws very difficult to remove. If you applied too much Loctite you can use a wire brush and alcohol to clean the old dried up stuff once you remove the screw. 


          So... you know that old adage, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?" The easiest way to prevent stripped screws is to use the right bits, don't force it, and give it that gentle downward pressure into the screw. Bon voyage, amigos!