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What Is A Bolt?
Dec 30, 2016

A bolt is a form of threaded fastener with an external male thread. Bolts are thus closely related to, and often confused with, screws.


Bolts are often used to make a bolted joint. This is a combination of the nut applying an axial clamping force and also the shank of the bolt acting as a dowel, pinning the joint against sideways shear forces. For this reason, many bolts have a plain unthreaded shank as this makes for a better, stronger dowel. The presence of the unthreaded shank has often been given as characteristic of bolts vs. screws, but this is incidental to its use, rather than defining.


Bolts use a wide variety of head designs. These are designed to engage with the tool used to tighten them. Some bolt heads instead lock the bolt in place, so that it does not move and a tool is only needed for the nut end.


The first bolts had square heads, formed by forging. These are still found, although much more common today is the hexagonal head. These are held and turned by a spanner or wrench, of which there are many forms. Most are held from the side, some from in-line with the bolt.