A set screw is a type of screw generally used to secure an object within or against another object. The most common examples are securing a pulley or gear to a shaft. Set screws are usually headless (also called blind), meaning that the screw is fully threaded and has no head projecting past the major diameter of the screw thread.
A blind set screw (known in the UK as a grub screw, quite possibly from its figurative resemblance to a soil-dwelling grub) is almost always driven with an internal-wrenching drive, such as a hex socket (Allen), star (Torx), square socket (Robertson), or slot. The set screw passes through a threaded hole in the outer object and is tightened against the inner object to prevent it from moving relative to the outer object. It exerts compressional or clamping force through the bottom tip that projects through the hole.
A potentiometer knob with a set screw for locking it in place. An example application is when a set screw is screwed into a pulley hub so that its end-point bears firmly against the shaft. The fastening action is by friction between the screw and the shaft, often (but not always) with some amount of elastic or plastic deformation of one or both.
The concept of set screws is many centuries old. Headless set screws have been around for a long time, with the straight slot being the oldest drive type (due to its ease of machining), but the demand for headless set screws experienced a marked increase in the first and second decades of the 20th century, when a penchant for better industrial safety, a campaign with the slogan “safety first”, swept the industrialized nations of North America and Europe as a part of the larger Progressive Movement.
This surge in safety consciousness was a backlash against the often-atrocious industrial safety standards (or, mostly, lack thereof) during the era of robber baron captains of industry in the Gilded Age. H.T. Hallowell, Sr., a U.S. industrialist whose corporation was one of several that pioneered the commercialization of the hex socket drive, noted in his memoir that line shafting, which was ubiquitous in the industrial practice of the time, often had headed set screws (with external-wrenching square drive) holding the many pulleys to the line shafts, and collars holding the shafts from axial movement.
Gear trains of exposed gears were also common at the time, and those, too, often used headed set screws, holding the gears to the shafts. His company’s chief products at the time were shaft hangers and shaft collars of pressed-steel construction.
The “safety craze” created a burgeoning demand for headless set screws on pulleys, gears, and collars to replace the headed ones, so that workers’ clothing and fingers were less likely to catch on the exposed rotating screw head. It was this heightened demand that prompted Hallowell’s firm to get into the screw-making business and to explore socket-head drive designs. With P.L. Robertson holding fresh patent rights on a practical-to-make square-socket drive, the firm soon pursued the hex socket drive.
A set screw is a type of fastener that is commonly used to secure an object to a shaft or rod. It is designed to be tightened against the shaft using a hex key or Allen wrench, which compresses a small flat point against the shaft, creating a secure and permanent connection. Set screws come in a wide range of sizes and materials, including steel, stainless steel, brass, and nylon.
When selecting a set screw, it’s important to choose the correct size and thread pitch for the shaft or rod it will be used on. It’s also important to consider the material the set screw is made from, as this can affect its durability and ability to withstand corrosion or other environmental factors.
It’s important to properly install set screws to ensure they are secure and effective. This includes cleaning the shaft or rod before installation to remove any dirt or debris that may prevent a secure connection, and tightening the set screw to the appropriate torque specification.