Why Are Wood Screws Tapered? A Simple Answer

There are many types of screws for different projects. However, there is a reason wood screws are so popular in crafts and renovations. One of the main reasons they’re so widely used is their tapered ends. 

Wood screws are tapered because it’s easier to insert tapered screws into wood with minimal damage. In addition, with a tapered screw, you don’t need to pre-drill a hole for the screw to sit securely. Tapered screws are also great for outdoor projects because their tight fit makes them waterproof.

In the rest of this article, I’ll discuss the function of tapered wood screws, how they work, and some of the benefits of using them. I’ll also answer some frequently asked questions about them. If you want to learn more about tapered wood screws and how to use them, read on! 

Why Are Wood Screws Tapered

How a Wood Screw’s Tapered Design Helps Its Function

The purpose of tapered wood screws is for the metal shank to be able to dig through the object you’re screwing it into. Once screwed in, tapered wood screws are also far more likely to stay secure unless forcefully removed. 

Most people prefer tapered wood screws, especially for woodworking projects, since they are more secure. Additionally, they’re better for waterproofing since the head sits snugly on whichever surface it’s screwed into.

You can also purchase wood screws in several lengths for optimal security. Smaller ones are perfect for simple DIY projects, while larger ones are better for major renovations or construction projects.

Another essential step to understanding how a tapered wood screw’s design helps it function is learning about its physical makeup. Let’s take this topic one step further and discuss the anatomy of a wood screw.

The Anatomy of a Tapered Wood Screw 

The anatomy of a wood screw is quite simple. There are only three components to a screw. However, each part performs a vital function.

The Head of the Screw

The head of a screw is the flat or rounded part at the top. Its job is to provide a surface for your screwdriver or drill to hold on to while you screw it in. The screw’s head also indicates when it has gone far enough into the wood by sitting snugly against the surface.

There are many different designs for a screw head. They all have different functions and work best with specific screwdrivers or drill bits.

The most common wood screw heads you’ll encounter are:

  • Flat-head.
  • Round-head. 
  • Oval-head.
  • Truss-head.
  • Washer-head.

Ultimately, you will likely work exclusively with flathead wood screws since they’re the most versatile, especially for building projects. However, you could opt for an oval head screw if you want something more aesthetic, especially if you intend to have the screw exposed.

Flathead screws create their own recess, allowing them to sit snugly against the surface of the wood. They’re often used for home improvement projects like furnishings or decor.

Metal appliances generally have truss head screws, as these are capable of holding heavy metal parts together.

The Shank of the Screw

The shank of a screw is the smooth metal part below the head and before the threading. However, some wood screws do have a threaded shank.

The shanks’ purpose is to provide more structural integrity and secure two pieces of wood together. The shank also helps prevent the screw from overheating from friction during the drilling process.

A tapered shank allows the wood screw to sharpen to a pointed tip. This tip breaks through the wood’s surface and allows the screw to sit securely once fastened.

The Threads of the Screw

Lastly, metal threads run along the bottom of a wood screw. This threading is where the wood screw tapers, allowing it to slice through the wood and stay firmly in place. In addition, the threads themselves allow the screw to cut through wood with little resistance.

It’s also important to note that different screws have varying thread lengths. For example, some screws have threads beginning just below the screw head. However, lower-placed threads are more structurally sound, which is why most wood screws are only partially threaded. 

Benefits of Using Tapered Wood Screws 

Tapered wood screws have been around since 1846. Since its invention, it has become one of the most popular screws to work with, primarily due to its ease of use.

Here are some of the benefits of using a tapered wood screw.

  • They sit more flush against the surface of the wood.
  • They’re more waterproof and weatherproof. 
  • They’re easy to use. 
  • They don’t require pre-drilled holes. 
  • They reduce wood splitting. 
  • They’re more secure. 
  • They’re great for heavy-hanging projects. 
  • They have a better grip.
  • They’re ideal for fastening heavy items to wood, like a door to a frame. 

It’s important to consider the screw’s design for new construction or renovations. Some require specific screwdrivers. For example, in 1932, Philips patented a set of screws that would only work with their patented Phillips screwdrivers.

The Difference Between Tapered and Regular Screws

Each screw type serves a purpose, so it’s essential to understand its function and when to use a certain type. Some screws are better for light woodwork, some are more suitable for heavy renovations, and some are better for metalwork than woodwork.

A tapered screw becomes narrower the closer it gets to its pointed tip. In contrast, a regular straight screw will not taper toward the end of the screw and instead stay the same width throughout.

Another difference is in the threads: tapered screws have tapered threads, while threads in non-tapered screws remain parallel throughout their length.

Typically, a non-tapered screw will require a pre-drilled hole to sit securely in any material. In addition, to ensure the screw stays firmly in place, you need a nut or bolt. You will often see this type of screw used on machinery, metal, and other industrial equipment rather than wood. 

In contrast, tapered screws can drill straight into the wood and stay without the added help of a nut or bolt. These screws are more commonly used, especially for construction or DIY projects. They’re strong enough to hold heavy objects in place, and the tapered design prevents splitting.

Check out my article, where I’ve discussed using wood screws for mounting TVs. This should give you an overview of their strength and help you brainstorm new ideas for using them. [Are Wood Screws Strong Enough to Hold a TV?]

That said, both screw types are useful in different settings. However, you are far less likely to use a non-tapered screw when dealing with wood. Non-tapered screws are ideal for engines and other heavy equipment.

What Is a Tapered Wood Screw?

Now that you know a little more about how a wood screw works let’s properly define a tapered wood screw. 

A tapered wood screw is a screw that becomes narrower towards the bottom until it ends at a sharp point. This sharp point allows it to cut effortlessly through wood without pre-drilling. In addition, wood screws can hold a lot of weight and are ideal for construction projects.

Tapered wood screws are required in most construction projects, especially when hanging heavy items like doors or large decor. They help secure heavy objects and prevent water from seeping into the wood through the hole.

Why Are Wood Screws Not Threaded All the Way?

There are many different kinds of tapered wood screws. For example, some wood screws have threading beginning just below the head, and some only have partial threading below the shank. So why aren’t all wood screws threaded all the way?

Wood screws are not threaded all the way because partial threading provides truss head screws with more stability. Partially threaded wood screws reduce splitting when drilling and are generally more structurally sound. It’s also less likely to break the screw and fits better to the wood.

This design provides more stability to the screw and ensures that the screw can handle more weight, which is why most wood screws are only partially threaded.

Why Is There a Shank on a Wood Screw?

All screws have a shank, which is an especially important part of a wood screw. But why are shanks such an integral part of a screw?

A shank is there on a wood screw to improve the stability of the screw, adhere two pieces of wood together, and minimize heat produced by friction. A shank stabilizes the screw and makes it less likely to break under pressure. The shank also prevents wood from splitting.

A shank is vital for the stability of the wood screw and for preventing damage to the screw and wood.


Wood screws are tapered because the point makes them more suitable for building projects. The tapered point helps the wood screw cut through the wood without a pre-drilled hole and drill faster into wooden structures.

Additionally, the tapered design allows the head to sit more flush against the wood and prevents water or insects from entering through the hole. 

If you’re working on a DIY or construction project, wood screws are your best bet. These screws are solid and durable, and they’re easier to use. The lack of pre-drilling and faster drilling time make them less time-consuming as well.

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