I used to work for a company that made brass hardware; maybe the stuff you
are now complaining about. Part of my duties were dealing with complaints.
The written ones were easy; I would just explain that brass is soft
material. That is why we instructed the user to drill pilot holes and wax
the screws before installation. The telephone calls were more difficult.
They demanded we pay them for all of their work and labor. They demanded to
speak to our president. They demanded we supply steel screws rather than
brass. They demanded that we stop using defective screws. They demanded we
use domestic screws rather than imported screws.
After a year of that I decided maybe I ought to look into it, rather that
take purchasing's word for it that there was nothing wrong with the screws.
I took hundreds of screws, from #0 to #4, and from as many different
shipments as I could find, and put them into oak and pine. With and without
pilot screws. With and without pilot holes, with and without wax, with a
power driver and by hand. The results were that the 0s and 1s would break
if I didn't do everything just right. However, I couldn't get a single
screw to break if I did it properly. The larger screws rarely broke in pine
even if simply screwed in, but oak required pilot holes.
I did this every few years, again with hundreds of screws, just to make sure
nothing changed. I never got a screw to break unless I tried to cut
I have no axe to grind here; I am completely and permanently out of the
business; I don't even own their stock. Thems the facts.
Brass screws are used because it is simply inappropriate to use steel screws
with brass hardware. You might think it is better, but I am certain the
complaints would go up by a factor of 10 if anyone did that. If you think
I am wrong about that, then organize a letter writing campaign to inundate
the hinge companies. Certainly they will do what the public wants, but I
will be surprised if you get 100 people to demand steel.
BTW, brass screws cost about 3X what brass plated steel screws do; both
because of the material cost, and because the screw companies probably run
1000x as many steel as brass and scale is important. I expect the companies
would be delighted to change if it cut down on complaints and saved money!
The idea of using a steel screw to tap the hole first is a good one. I
actually included a steel screw with our kickplates with instructions to use
it for that purpose. (We tested brass plated stainless steel screws, but
the galvanic reaction was really nasty. Oh, don't get me started on galvanic
reactions between brass kickplates and steel doors...)