Tools for Removing Damaged Fasteners

Like Pulling Teeth

By Matt Weber

If you’ve ever stripped a screw or broken off the head of a bolt, you know how frustrating it is for your work progress to come to a screeching halt. The project is on pause while you address the problem, and in some cases it can take a lot of time to extract the damaged fastener. Pulling nails is another hassle, whether it’s due to a misfired air-nailer or to reclaim usable lumber. Whatever the reason, the chore of removing unwanted fasteners is dull and aggravating, but often unavoidable. Here are some handy tools to get the job done with minimal headache.

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One neat new tool in the world of screw removal is the VamPLIERS. Uniquely designed with concave shaped jaws that have vertical serrations on the inside, VamPLIERS make it possible to grab on to stripped/rusted/corroded screws, bolts or nuts for extraction. Because the jaws grab the fastener from the outside edge of the head, the head of the damaged screw will need to be exposed (countersunk screws will remain out of reach). However, this method of extraction enables VamPLIERS to work with screws that have special, unique or tamper-proof heads. They’re made from treated high-quality carbon steel, have a smooth varnished finish and ergonomic elastomer handle grips. Visit

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As you may have seen on TV, the SpeedOut damaged screw and bolt removing system works with a power drill. “With the SpeedOut, you can easily remove any stripped screw in ten seconds or less,” claims the marketing pitch, but that’s a bit of a stretch. From my experience it takes a little more time and determination. The process utilizes double-ended drill bits. One end of the bit has a cutting tip that the user drives into the head of the damaged screw, boring out the damaged metal and creating a hollow for the opposite end of the bit. Flip the bit around, and the threaded extraction end of the bit engages with the screw and draws it our when running the drill in reverse. Speed-Out comes in a small plastic case with four bits of varying sizes. It’s important to select the right size bit to match your fastener to get the best results. Visit

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Cordless Drill Nail Puller

The Cordless Drill Nail Puller is a newly patented invention for the DIY and contractor markets. It fits as an attachment to a cordless drill. The slotted nail-puller slips beneath the head of a nail and draws it straight out of the wood into the metal shaft of the attachment. This would be an excellent tool for pulling duplex nails from concrete forms. And by extracting the nails straight out of the wood without bending them, you can reuse the nails.

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Because the nail head must be about 1/8-in. above the work surface for the puller to slip beneath it, the Cordless Drill Nail Puller includes a counter-bore bit. This is a modified spade bit that replaces the directional spur with a hollow cutting tip.

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The counter-bore bit drills a 1-1/4-in. indention around the nail head so the Cordless Drill Nail Puller can remove it.

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Nail Jack Tools

The design of the Nail Jack pliers provides the needed leverage and gripping power for making nail extraction easier, and even offers the ability to dig a nail out of the wood. The digging action is aided by the thin cutting blades that slip beneath the nail heads. The 11-in. version I’ve used for the past couple of years features a patent-pending “Hammer Tap”—a flat area behind the cutters that allow you to use a hammer to drive the points of the Nail Jack into the wood for easier extraction. The Nail Jack even pulls brads from the back of material with little effort. Unlike the claw of a hammer or cat’s paw, the scissoring action of the Nail Jack can grab fasteners with small heads such as finish nails and brads.

I recently discovered that the company has a new product called the Nail Hawk, which is a right-angle hand tool that functions like a scissoring cat’s paw. It looks like an excellent nail-puller, but I haven’t tried it yet because the company had sold out!

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The Extractor

Here’s another tool that’s not exactly new but that I’ve used often over the last few years and can recommend with confidence. The Extractor nail-puller from Jefferson Tool uses serrated parallel jaws that automatically increase gripping force as the tool encounters greater presssure. There is no need to clamp a hand-numbing squeeze around the handle grips. Just engage the jaws and push. The blunt, curved nose of the tool easily transfers leverage from the 11-in. handles and does minimal damage to the wood surface. The Extractor is an ideal tool for pulling small nails like brads, which are difficult to grip with standard pliers. Forged from chrome nickel alloy, the jaws are hardened to an RC 53-56 and are anti-rust coated. Visit

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The NailOut nail-pulling attachment replaces elbow grease with power from an air compressor. Essentially a powered cat’s paw, NailOut removes the toughest nails with the ease and speed of a pneumatic tool. This attachment specializes in removing nails and metal fasteners from decks, siding and framing. This is an aggressive tool that moves a lot of nails quickly, but it can also damage the wood so it wouldn’t be the best choice for delicate jobs. For rough framing and demolition, however, NailOut is a high-productive tool.

It also comes with two chisel attachments. The wide chisel attachment removes gussets, tile, roof flashing, concrete and other demolition type projects. The narrow chisel attachment is a great finesse tool that works faster than a hammer and chisel.

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The new NailBoss from Mayhew Tools is a special attachment for an air hammer. This pneumatic nail remover pushes the nail out of the wood by the tip rather than pulling from the head. From removal of temporary bracing to complete building demolition, those nail-infested pieces of lumber can be cleaned up quickly with the NailBoss. The patented process minimizes damage to the wood with four simple steps: Attach, Straighten, Drive, Remove. Simply thread the NailBoss over the tip of the exposed nail, bend it straight and pull the trigger. NailBoss drives out the nail the way it came in, using a .401-shank air hammer bit. Visit

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The Gutster

The Gutster has been a favorite demolition tool of the EHT team for the last several years. We use it every time we need to tear something apart. Not only does the Gutster pull nails with monstrous leverage using a multi-nail puller conveniently built into the back of the head—but it pulls everything else apart as well.

With a round steel handle and a solid cast head with extended neck, it provides exceptional lifting and breaking power. The innovative design starts at the Gutster’s uniquely designed prying head. Split forks provide greater stability for heavier loads. The spacing straddles joints and studs for maximum leverage. Sharp points pierce tough materials effortlessly, and angled lift plates help ease the bar under materials to allow for faster prying. The angled bar is engineered to provide the most prying power with the least amount of stress and strain. Choose from three sizes with 40-, 48-, and 60-in. handles. The 60-in. version now comes with wheels on the cutting head so the tool moves easily when prying material such as ceramic tile from solid flooring. Visit

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