If a screw head is damaged, it can be very difficult to remove. Sometimes cutting off the head of a fastener is the only viable solution, and cutting screws and other fasteners is often the best way to avoid major damage.
It can also happen that screws, bolts or nails turn out to be too long for a job. It can be very useful to be able to cut a screw to be shorter without damaging the thread.
Whether you need to know how to cut a screw shorter or how to cut a screw to remove it, there is more than one method. Here are effective ways to cut screws for either purpose.
Related: 5 Types of Screws Every DIYer Should Know
1. Bolt cutters
Bolt cutters are designed to cut screws, bolts and other metal fasteners. These fasteners can often be large in diameter, so bolt cutters come in a variety of sizes with long handles and lever mechanisms. This provides heavy-duty cutting capability with minimal user effort, and bolt cutter blades are typically hardened to improve durability.
Although simple, this versatile tool will cut through steel chains, many padlocks, and even rebar. Bolt cutters can also be a very useful alternative in the event of a power outage. The only challenge bolt cutters face when cutting screws is that they are a bulky tool, so it can be difficult to get the blades on small screws or in tight spaces.
Our recommendation: HK Porter PowerPivot Bolt Cutters at Home Depot for $54.97.
These high quality bolt cutters come in a range of sizes and have a compound action that multiplies power delivery.
A hacksaw is a general purpose hacksaw generally defined by its blade length. They can range from 6-inch mini hacksaws to 24-inch heavy-duty tools. On small hacksaws, the spring steel of the frame provides all the tension needed to hold the blade, while a tension lever or knob is used in larger models.
When cutting screws, nails or bolts, the thin blade makes it easy to reach tight spaces. Small hacksaws can cost just a few dollars and are a valuable addition to any DIY toolbox. The disadvantage is that they can require considerable physical effort depending on the size of the screw to be cut. A good hacksaw blade always helps, and bi-metal blades can improve cutting performance.
Our recommendation: Craftsman 12-inch Hacksaw on Amazon for $14.98.
This Craftsman hacksaw is a well-made mid-range tool with a comfortable handle that’s manageable in size, and it offers reliable cutting ability at a competitive price.
3. Reciprocating saw
A reciprocating saw mimics the action of a handsaw, but its powerful motor makes cutting through screws and other metal fasteners almost effortless. It’s another versatile tool, and with the right blade, it’s capable of cutting through wood, plastic, and composites.
To effectively cut a metal screw, you’ll need a specially designed blade, like this option available on Amazon, a favorite in our guide to the best reciprocating saw blades. Reciprocating saws are very maneuverable tools offering good control and balance. However, their heavy-duty capabilities can make it difficult to access screws in confined spaces or work on small fasteners.
Our recommendation: Milwaukee Sawzall Cordless Reciprocating Saw at Walmart for $222.17.
Milwaukee invented the reciprocating saw, and their latest cordless model uses brushless technology for better battery management while delivering great performance.
4. Oscillating tool
Oscillating tools are easy to handle and offer a fast cutting or sanding motion with variable speeds reaching over 20,000 oscillations per minute. They usually come with a range of quick-change attachments that are suitable for a wide variety of DIY tasks. Their versatility makes them popular with DIYers and professional users such as plumbers and electricians.
Versatile oscillating tool blades cut wood, plastic and metal, and are angled to cut protruding screws and other fasteners flush to the surface. Although the blade attachment system varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, replacement and specialty blades like these available on Amazon are designed to fit all popular brands.
Our recommendation: Porter-Cable Oscillating Tool Kit on Amazon for $134.95.
Porter Cable’s Oscillating Tool comes with a collection of attachments for cutting, scraping, grouting and sanding, and it all fits in its handy case.
5. Angle grinder
Angle grinders are often considered heavy-duty tools capable of cutting through concrete, thick bolts, and rebar. However, angle grinders can also be used with finesse to polish, sharpen and cut or shorten screws, nails and other metal fasteners.
Angle grinders come in a variety of sizes, and 4½-inch models (the outside diameter of the disc) are by far the most popular. The type of disc used is a critical but simple choice. Spare parts are clearly labeled either stone cut or metal cut; these cutter wheels from Amazon are typical. Although they are DeWalt branded, they will fit any angle grinder with a standard ⅞ inch arbor.
Our recommendation: Metabo HPT Angle Grinder on Amazon for $46.99.
Metabo’s lightweight 4½ inch angle grinder is great value for money and comes with a powerful 6.2 Amp motor, side handle for better control and five spare grinding discs.
Each tool above provides a proven way to remove damaged screws in a variety of situations. Most of these methods also solve the problem of cutting screws shorter. These tools get the job done and require minimal effort, but it’s important to be careful when cutting screws or other metal objects. Eye protection is always recommended. Also keep in mind that the cut piece may be very hot right after being cut, so don’t try to pick it up right away.
Related: How to remove a broken bolt
The prices shown here are accurate as of the date of publication 08/04/2022.