Friday, October 23, 2009

When your Allen key won't turn a stripped bolt

This is the scene that confronted a colleague of mine recently in his newly purchased and renovated home. A brand new toilet paper holder, hastily installed in such a way that (whoever did it) was able to leave the fitting loose so it wobbles yet also strip the inside of the bolt so it can't be removed with the appropriate allen key.

As I was working elsewhere the best I could do was to share some ideas via gmail chat. A few of these included:

1) Yanking the entire assembly off the wall in the hope it was held on by nothing more than a plastic wall plug. Not my idea, and likely to break the fitting which I was told was a big no-no.

2) Using a hacksaw to cut through the tubular assembly then unbolting it from the "inside". This WAS my idea, and was quickly shot down for the same reason as idea 1. It would have brought a sense of finality to it and whilst sawing my friend could have thought about buying decent fittings in future.

3) Running down to the hardware store to buy a screw extractor. It was too late. When is Sydney going to get a 24 hour hardware megastore?

4) Trying to work it loose by jamming a sharp implement such as a flat screw-driver into the now non-hexagonal hole. Might work, but scratch the fitting, or cut the user. Maybe worth a go.

5) Maybe try the next allen key size up, possibly trying both imperial and metric sets to see if there is a size that just fits.

The moral of the story - invest in a couple of screw extractors before you get stuck.