How to Cut Screws: 5 Easy and Effective Methods

Cutting through screws and other metal fasteners can seem like a tough task, but the following tools help make the job quick and easy.

By Bob Beacham | Published Apr 8, 2022 4:26 PM

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how to cut screws

If a screw head becomes damaged, it can be very difficult to remove. Sometimes cutting a fastener’s head off is the only workable solution, and often cutting screws and other fasteners is the best way to prevent major damage.

There can also be occasions when 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 so it’s 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. The following are effective ways to cut screws for one or both of these purposes.

Related: 5 Types of Screws Every DIYer Should Know

1. Bolt Cutter

how to cut screws

Bolt cutters are designed to cut through screws, bolts, and other metal fasteners. These fixings can often be substantial in diameter, so bolt cutters come in a variety of sizes with long handles and lever mechanisms. This provides heavy-duty cutting ability with minimal user effort, and bolt cutter blades are usually hardened to improve their 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 when the electricity goes out. The only challenge bolt cutters face when cutting screws is that they’re a bulky tool, so it can be difficult to get the blades onto small screws or in tight spaces.

Our Recommendation: H.K. Porter PowerPivot Bolt Cutters at The 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.

2. Hacksaw

how to cut screws

A hacksaw is a general-purpose metal-cutting saw usually defined by its blade length. They can vary from 6-inch mini hacksaws up to heavy-duty 24-inch tools. On small hacksaws, the sprung steel of the frame provides all of the tension necessary to hold the blade, whereas a lever or tensioning knob is used in larger models.

When cutting screws, nails, or bolts, the slender blade makes it easy to reach into narrow gaps. Smaller hacksaws can cost just a few dollars and are a valuable addition to any DIY toolbox. The downside is that they can require a fair amount of physical effort depending on the size of a screw being 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 of a manageable size, and it offers reliable cutting ability at a competitive price.

3. Reciprocating Saw

how to cut screws

A reciprocating saw mimics the action of a handsaw, but its powerful motor makes cutting screws and other metal fasteners almost effortless. This is another versatile tool, and with the right blade, it is capable of cutting wood, plastic, and composites.

To effectively cut through a metal screw, you’ll need a specifically designed blade, such as this option available at Amazon—a favorite in our researched guide to the best reciprocating saw blades. Reciprocating saws are very manageable tools offering good control and balance. However, their heavy-duty capabilities can make it challenging to reach screws in confined spaces, or to work on small fixings.

Our Recommendation: Milwaukee Cordless Sawzall Reciprocating Saw at Walmart for $222.17.
Milwaukee invented the reciprocating saw, and its latest cordless model uses brushless technology for better battery management while delivering excellent performance.

4. Oscillating Tool

how to cut screws

Oscillating tools are easy to handle and provide a rapid cutting or sanding motion with variable speeds that reach more than 20,000 oscillations per minute. They usually come with a range of quick-change attachments that suit a wide variety of DIY tasks. Their versatility makes them popular with DIYers and with trade users such as plumbers and electricians.

Multipurpose oscillating tool blades will cut wood, plastic, and metal, and they are angled to allow protruding screws and other fixings to be cut off flush with the surface. Although the blade attachment system varies from one manufacturer to the next, spare and specialty blades like these available from Amazon are designed to suit 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, grout removal, and sanding, and all of these fit in its handy case.

5. Angle Grinder

how to cut screws

Angle grinders are often seen as heavy-duty tools, capable of chopping through concrete, thick bolts, and rebar. However, angle grinders can also be used with finesse for polishing, sharpening, and cutting or shortening screws, nails, and other metal fasteners.

Angle grinders come in a variety of sizes, and 4½-inch models (the outer diameter of the disc) are far and away the most popular. The type of disc used is a critical but straightforward choice. Spares are clearly labeled either stone-cutting or metal-cutting; these cutting wheels from Amazon are typical. Although they’re 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 a great value and comes with a powerful 6.2-amp motor, a side handle for improved control, and five spare grinding discs.

Final Thoughts

Every tool above provides a proven way to remove damaged screws in various situations. Most of these methods also solve the problem of how to cut screws shorter. These tools get the job and require minimal effort, but it’s important to be careful when cutting screws or other metal objects. Eye protection is always recommended. Also bear in mind that the cut piece can be very hot right after it’s cut, so don’t try to pick it up straight away.

Related: How to Remove a Broken Bolt

The prices listed here are accurate as of publication on 4/8/2022.