Nails have been around forever, but it is only over the last century or so that the mass-produced nail has come to be an inexpensive and common means to combine materials. It’s a simple concept: wedge a sharp piece of metal into wood. As the wood fibers expand back the nail holds tight. Here’s how to size up a nail and also the ideal method to set it to the job you want done.

Hugh Lofting Timber Framing, Inc..

A Concise History of Nails

Wrought iron nails. How a building is put together often gives you hints about its era. From ancient Egypt until a couple hundred years ago, nails were made by hand by blacksmiths; these wrought iron nails were expensive, so it turned out to some builder’s advantage to prevent using them. Timber-framed buildings such as the one envisioned (a modern timber frame), could be built without any nails. The pieces fit together and keep in place with wedges or wood dowels. I keep an old Engineered timber peg I pulled from a job in my tool bag to remind me how much time and care went into building in the past. At the time of nail guns, it is too common to shoot first and ask questions afterwards.

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Cut nails. The first mechanized production of nails came with all the cut nail. If you pull one of them from wood, it was probably set before the 1890s. A cut nail is recognized by its flat profile. These nails are still utilized to fasten wood to masonry, and if you are face nailing old salvaged wood flooring, cut nails can create a genuine vintage look. Cut nails were inexpensive enough to promote the rise of balloon framing, but not so inexpensive that they might just be thrown off if they got bent. One of my dad’s jobs as a boy was to straighten bent cut nails for my grandfather to reuse.

Wire nails. Most nails today are wire nails — basically a length of cable with a point at one end and a head at the other. There’s some history in cable nails’ designations. If you find a nail with the designation 8d, that is an eight-penny nail, then the price which you would have paid for 100 nails from the 15th century. You won’t be so lucky today! Though as soon as you’ve driven 100 eight-penny nails by hand, the price is going to be the last thing you are complaining about.

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3 Basic Types of Nails and How to Read Them

Rather than try to explain each one the other types of nails accessible, I’d like to help you learn to read nails. If you can read a nail, then you can determine the right use for it. Listed below are three distinct nails and how their distinct characteristics suit their applications.

Pipes nail.
The large head is the first point to notice about the roof nail. A shingle is not quite as thick or dense as wood, therefore a little head may tear a shingle. Roofing nails are not generally very long, since you are minding something thin (roof) to plywood, which is also relatively thin. You need two-thirds of this nail to be driven into the thicker of the two materials you are fastening, therefore 3/4-inch shingles and plywood imply a 3/4- to 1-inch nail should do the trick.

When nailing wood to wood, it is rare that a nail that little would be useful. In reality, as soon as a nail other than a roof nail is smaller than one inch, it is referred to as a brad in lieu of a nail. The other point to notice is the dull grey finish. This is really a galvanized coating that protects the nail when it is subjected to the elements. This is very important to outdoor applications such as roof.

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Common nail. A common nail is typically used for framing or linking timber when the hold — maybe not the appearance — is critical. The mind does not need to be too large, since it’s hard to pull a mind through wood. The cable is thick enough not to bend easily when driven through dense wood.

A common nail is more than a roof nail, since you’ll usually be using 11/2-inch wood to more wood. The typical nails shown here are just 3 inches long.

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Finish nail. A finish nail has a smaller head, which allows the nail to pull into the wood and leave a little hole behind. The nail will still hold some thing such as baseboard to the walls, but the pit could be filled and painted so the nail disappears. To find the nail to sit down below the surface of the wood, you can’t just smash with the large head of the hammer, or your finish work will resemble a mess. Utilize a nailset (a small metal tool that looks like an ice pick) sized to fit from the little dimple in the mind of this finish nail.

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Ways to Set Nails

Hammer. Employing a hammer is the traditional way to set a nail. My hammer, pictured here, is a framing hammer designed to place less strain on your wrist. Claw hammers allow you to pull and set nails, and they come in different sizes. Receive a hammer that feels good to you and watch where you swing it. A little concentration will save your thumb.

Powder-actuated tool. Powder-actuated tools have a little gunpowder cartridge that is activated by pulling a cause or hitting a button with a hammer. The gunpowder shoots a nail from the device. These tools are most frequently used for fastening metal or wood studs to cement. Use caution; like a gun, kickback is an issue, so brace your body and keep your face away from this tool. If you are using the kind you hit with a hammer, the hammer can also reunite. I learned this the hard way with a claw to the brow.

Nail gun. A nail gun is actually significantly less gun-like compared to the usual powder-actuated tool, in that it uses air to fire the nails instead of gunpowder — but it is still quite dangerous. You need to use your foot (in a steel-toe boot), not your hand, to brace the wood at the same time you fire. Nail guns are available to shoot roofing nails, finish nails, brads etc.. Each nail requires a different weapon, however, so in the event that you’ll be setting a limited amount or are not experienced, stick to setting nails with a hammer.

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Glue. Why wind an ideabook about nails speaking about glue? Because a nail can be a means to hold things together until glue dries. It’s true that you can use ring shank nails or drive two nails close together to keep the wood from pulling aside, but a nail is no twist, so the ideal way to keep wood together after several seasons of expansion and contraction is to apply adhesive to the wood and nail it.

Building adhesive is good for framing, and good old wood adhesive works well for trim work and furniture.

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