Screws. Seems simple enough, we all know what screws are. If you are just starting out in woodworking however, you might be surprised at the variety of choices that exist on the market. There's a rule in woodworking that you should always buy the hardware first before you start building. And although screws and fasteners would be lower on the list of priorities, it is still important.
Knowing what kind of screws are out there to choose from will help you when it comes time to plan and build your next project. I recommend that you take a closer look at the screws the next time you are at a hardware store. You might see something there that you didn't even know existed. Another good idea is to order a bunch of woodworking catalogs. They are easy to look through and you can get a sense of the types of screws and other hardware that is available to you.
All that being said, lets take a look at some of the more common screws that are used in woodworking. Firstly, they can be divided into two sections, finishing screws, and non-finishing screws.
Finishing screws, such as brass or brushed nickel screws will be used in visible areas, usually to secure other hardware like hinges or fancy handles for example. Most often the screws that are needed will come with these specific hardware items.
The majority of the screws that are used in woodworking however, will be the non-finishing screw type, meaning that when the project is completed, the screws will be hidden and they will not be easily visible. They will be used in both fastening pieces of your work together as well as in the jigs and fixtures that you build.
By far the most convenient types of screws to use are square head screws, also known as Robertson screws. (History Note: Invented in Canada, they are not as popular in the U.S. because of a past issue with licensing) In my opinion these are the best screws to use. The square head design does not slip easily, and the screw itself can be held on its own by the screwdriver freeing up your hand while you are working with it.
Lastly, screws not only have different lengths, but also varying thicknesses and threading. Most woodworking will use a typical thread. The thickness of the screw is measured in gauges, typical sizes are #6 and #8.
A tip for for jig building, buy a few hundred 3/4 and 1 inch long screws. You don't want to start using all sorts of different screws that are laying around the shop. Keep everything standard and you will save time in the future.
So, as much as screws seem to be a simple thing, check them out before you start building.