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Old brass screws, what should I do?

Discussion in 'Wood and Canvas' started by Just1moredave, Jul 10, 2019.

  1. Just1moredave

    Just1moredave Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    Though my OT HW was built in 1944, some fasteners were brass, including 60ish #8 x 1 1/2 gunwale screws. I assumed that I would either strip or snap a few of these if I tried to use them, so I ordered some nice new silicon bronze screws from Jamestown Distributors. New slots and threads made installing them very easy.

    Now I have a bag of old screws in pretty good shape, except with scratches where I chiseled the fiberglass resin out of the slot. Are these super valuable or rare in some way, or just old screws? Should I reject my historically incorrect new screws and use the old ones? Is someone out there looking for screws like this? The only thing I know is that since it was a wartime canoe, the screws were scrounged from somewhere and may be quite a bit older than the canoe.

    When I say valuable, I'm thinking in historical or functional terms, not money. I might give them away if there is a compelling reason to do so.
  2. mccloud

    mccloud Wooden Canoe Maniac

    I salvage, polish and re-use all the brass whenever possible, and avoid mixing old with new brass. So I would save all your old brass screws until a sufficient number had been accumulated to do an entire canoe - like maybe you come across a 12 footer which does not require as many gunwale screws. If the brass has de-zincified, it is weak and not worth saving. But if you are really worried about snapping off screws, drill the hole, go in the first time with a steel screw, back it out, wax your brass screw and drive it home. It's rare that I've had a problem. Tom McCloud..
    MGC likes this.
  3. MGC

    MGC Paddlephile

    I do not mix sil bronze and brass. I either replace it all or I go to my vault and haul out my saved brass.
    If I am unable to come up with adequate old brass to finish a job I will replace the old with new and save the old in my stash. I will use old an new in that case...say all new for the gunwales but the old in the seats, keel where ever. I would not have a mix old old and new to attach the rails...all old or all new. I do replace the steel that was used to secure the decks...and since they are buried I do sometimes use bronze silicon for these.
    But...for a truly nice old boat I will make every effort to try and use all vintage and correct hardware, not "improving it" with the modern stuff except as a last resort. The challenge is that not all old brass sizes are currently available and that modern screws are not an exact replacement for old ones. I've spent quite a bit of time sorting and measuring with my verniers to get close to old hardware sizes.
    Tom hit's the nail on the head for how you successfully re-use old brass. If it is going into new holes (like in a keel or rail) then pre-drill and use steel to start the hole and once the fit is made, replace the screws with brass.
    I've had pretty good luck buying some brass screws here:

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