Softening old wood putty/filler

I am working on a 1965 boat and need to remove screws that are covered with a wood filler from that period. I have tried my usual method of a razor tool to pick at the putty and then try my best to locate the screw slot and clean that. (I did scan rec.boats and found nothing close, seems most people are in fiberglass land).
This particular putty is above the water line and is much harder than I expected. Is there a method of softening this old putty that will allow me to get it out in large chunks and possible even get a clean shot at the screw head?
Or any other sugestions? I am considering using one of the spot weld removal tools I have for repairs panels on my cars, but I'm concerned it might be too agressive at tear out as well as making to big a hole that will weekend the wood.
The wood is in very good shape, I need to remove it to gain access of wood that isn't in very good shape! That will probably be another post.
Thanks in advance for any suggestions.
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I'd try a heat gun... funny and useful things sometimes happen with heat. ;~)
John
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jagman wrote:

Might try some acetone -- it was the solvent for stuff like Plastic Wood, etc.

...
One thing I have used in the past has been a hole punch (like a leather or gasket hole). It'll ruin one for it's intended purpose but can turn the filler into a plug that (at least sometimes) can then be popped loose from the underneath in at least chunks if not whole.
Clean slots is, in my experience only a small chisel or similar to start and go from there.
Sounds like pita work time, sorry... :) Good luck.
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You're probably concerned with not damaging the surrounding wood. I've successfully used an electric soldering iron in this kind of situation. Depending on how small the putty bungs are you may need to file the tip of the iron into a smaller profile. Let the iron heat up and stick it right in the center of the putty. Wiggle it around and use it to dig out the putty. It's slow but it gets the job done. Art
"jagman" wrote in message ...

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"Artemus" wrote:

Get a hand held handle with a 40Watt screw in tip.
Any electronics supply house will have a selection of Weller or similar.
Change tips to fit, don't file down, you will destroy it.
Lew
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This is a multi-part message in MIME format. --------------010305090308000906040203 Content-Type: text/plain; charset=ISO-8859-1; format=flowed Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit
Drive a fine-thread self-tapping sheet metal screw right into the middle of the plug .. .. in most cases, it should push the filler right out once the tip of the screw bottoms out against the head of the buried fastener. If it doesn't push out, it will at the very least break up the filler without having to use any kind of impact device to do the trick. I do this all the time to remove dowels and wooden plugs from furniture.
jagman wrote:

--------------010305090308000906040203 Content-Type: text/html; charset=ISO-8859-1 Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit
<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01 Transitional//EN"> <html> <head> <meta content="text/html;charset=ISO-8859-1" http-equiv="Content-Type"> <title></title> </head> <body bgcolor="#cccccc" text="#000000"> Drive a fine-thread self-tapping sheet metal screw right into the middle of the plug .. .. in most cases, it should push the filler right out once the tip of the screw bottoms out against the head of the buried fastener.&nbsp;&nbsp; If it doesn't push out, it will at the very least break up the filler without having to use any kind of impact device to do the trick.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; I do this all the time to remove dowels and wooden plugs from furniture.<br> <br> jagman wrote: <blockquote cite="mid: snipped-for-privacy@t54g2000hsg.googlegroups.com" type="cite"> <pre wrap="">I am working on a 1965 boat and need to remove screws that are covered with a wood filler from that period. I have tried my usual method of a razor tool to pick at the putty and then try my best to locate the screw slot and clean that. (I did scan rec.boats and found nothing close, seems most people are in fiberglass land).
This particular putty is above the water line and is much harder than I expected. Is there a method of softening this old putty that will allow me to get it out in large chunks and possible even get a clean shot at the screw head?
Or any other sugestions? I am considering using one of the spot weld removal tools I have for repairs panels on my cars, but I'm concerned it might be too agressive at tear out as well as making to big a hole that will weekend the wood.
The wood is in very good shape, I need to remove it to gain access of wood that isn't in very good shape! That will probably be another post.
Thanks in advance for any suggestions. </pre> </blockquote> </body> </html>
--------------010305090308000906040203--
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Wow, two new ideas I would have never thought of. I have plenty of irons to choose from including a variable heat one, but I may just try my good old standby woodburning iron that I got as a teenager and has become my doing anything soldering iron. I will try that sheet metal screw idea first but I suspect this stuff is so old it will mostly crumble, but then that might be a good thing. For a change I think I have the tools on hand to use, darn a lost opportunity to spend money on more tools. How did I ever live with just a bit brace and hand saw and hammer? I remember my Dad's first electric drill, we were the first in our neighborhood!
Thanks again to all for the ideas.
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jagman wrote:

Are you sure it is putty/filler? I can't imagine anyone using that. Certainly not on planking. The normal way to fill countersunk fastenings is with face grain wood plugs. For those, it is easy to split them with a small screwdriver blade and pop out the pieces. There may be residual glue in the slot of the fastening, just has to be dug out. The sheet metal screw thing will work on plugs too.
If it is actually putty best bet is linseed oil putty and heat would soften that. If you are taking off fittings, the putty is most likely bedding compound that squeezed out around the screws and wasn't cleaned off. It is linseed oil putty with a fungicide in it.
Be sure to use a properly sized screwdriver when you remove the screws. Wrong size = messed up screw slot and that = a real PITA. If the screws are any size a brace with screwdriver bit is the easiest thing to use to take them out. If they are stubborn, try tightening slightly then turn them out.
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dadiOH
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dadiOH wrote:

I had a pinkish coloured '60's rock hard stopping compound over many screw heads on my Albacore dinghy. Just crumble it and pick it out with a sharpened small screwdriver. I dont know anything that dissolves it.
Stubborn screw should be attacked with the most powerfull electric soldering iron you have. Scrape the head to expose clean metal, then with a little dab of solder for better thermal contact, hold the tip off centre (you dont want solder in the slot) on the head and 'cook' it for at least a minute. Then apply screwdriver, give it a light to medium tap to aid freeing the screw and make sure the bit is fully seated in the slot and procede as above.
I got a ~80% success rate extracting ancient salt water corroded brass screws from my keelband that way. If I didn't heat them I was getting about a 20% success rate. Only silicone bronze screws went back in! ;-)
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Ian Malcolm. London, ENGLAND. (NEWSGROUP REPLY PREFERRED)
ianm[at]the[dash]malcolms[dot]freeserve[dot]co[dot]uk
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Thanks again to all for their suggestions. Each method worked better than what I was doing. What I had started with were the flooring boards in the cabin, because I needed access to some nuts that came thru the hull planks (it's what they call double planked, one row of real planks over the top of plywood, and of course the plywood is what is giving me problems due to former owner not caulking the planks correctly).
Once I removed the thru bolts, it was clear there were many screws that were fastened to these cross members from the planks outside (I thought the planks were only fastened to the main cross members, these are just some braces.
Bottom line is the best solution on the underside of the hull was to use my gasket hole punches. One or two whacks would get the whole plug including most if not all of what was in the slot. However these were mostly silicon caulk plugs rather than the wood putty plugs above decks. (In regards to the point regarding wood plugs, I have found that those tend to only be used in visible areas such as the teak decking, and mahogeny deck surround).
Something that dawned on me towards the end was to try chucking the punch into my drill. Unfortunately the drills I had at the boatyard were all 3/8" and it would have taken a 1/2" chuck to accept the size punch I was using. If I find I need to continue this removal process I may try that out.
Bottom line for anyone who bumps into this thread in the future, I'd try the punch method first. Harbor Freight (or Horrible Fright depending on your outlook on cheap tools) sells these for $5 http://search.harborfreight.com/cpisearch/web/search.do?keyword=gasket+punch.
As somewhat of an aside, there were a couple of screws that were "stripped" due to dry rot, so although the head was intact, they would not back out, and it was difficult to get a pick behind the head to help it along. I finally decided to try my "Grabit" screw removal set. I was very amazed and please with the results. First you burnish the screw with one end which obliterates the screw slots. In one case the screw came out with just the burnishing tool which is pretty much a backward drill bit head. Then you reverse the bit and the thing really grabs onto the screw and pulls in out. One caveat, these were all brass screws, so your mileage may vary with other types of screws.
I've used this group many times in the past just by using search, so I've not had the opportunity to say thanks, so regulars, please accept this as a thanks for past information as well.
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jagman wrote: ...

...
Well, kewl... :)
I had success that way previously so glad it worked for you, too...
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