Understanding Nail Sizes and Basic Types

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The parts of the nail are the head, shank or shaft, point, and the gripper marks — slight grooves incised into the shank near the head of most but not all varieties of nails. The nail functions by displacing wood fibers when it is pounded into the workpiece, and the pressure exerted against the shaft by the displaced wood provides the holding power. Nails are sometimes referred to by their length in inches, but more often the traditional terminology of the penny is used.

Dating from the days when nails cost a lot more than they do today, the term penny identifies the size of a nail. The pricing structure has long since been abandoned today, nails are sold by the pound , but the nomenclature of the penny survives. Wire nails are indeed the rule today, but not all wire nails are the same. They vary in size and in other ways as well. Various nails are manufactured for specific purposes, with differently proportioned and shaped heads and shafts.

Nails are made of brass, aluminum, and copper, though most often of steel. The steel may be plain or galvanized, the latter being the right choice for damp applications where a rust-resistant nail is required. As the name suggests, these are your everyday nails. Used for rough construction work, the common nail can be purchased in lengths varying from one to six inches 2d to 60d. The largest common nails are colloquially known as spikes.

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Wood screws are one of the least understood clues in establishing the date and authenticity of antique furniture. They are especially valuable for dating country and primitive furniture. The stylistic techniques used to date formal furniture such as Chippendale and Hepplewhite simply do not work for American country and primitive furniture; screws can tell a story about the history of a piece. Wooden screws — screws made from wood — date from antiquity.

Metal wood screws — for fastening into wood — appear to have originated in the 15th century.

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Common place in the late th century through the mid th century, Date Nails were driven into railroad ties, utility poles, bridge timbers, and other wooden structures for record keeping purposes. Today, Date Nails are highly sought after artifacts by Railroadiana collectors. Following the Civil War , the railroad race was in full swing. In one such race, the Union Pacific and Central Pacific would compete for government favor; with the line that built the most miles being rewarded with cash and land.

In order to keep pace with this expansion, the timber needed to produce crossties was in high demand. Left untreated, wooden crossties had a life expectancy of only five to seven years. Based on the frenetic pace of laying new track and the subsequent demand of timber supplies, rail companies hatched the idea of treating the ties to increase their life expectancy.

Not knowing which type of wood and treatment methods would be the most effective and economical, railroads began to experiment with varying treatments in the mid to lates. To monitor the results of differing test sections of crossties, railroads settled on the idea of using Date Nails for record keeping purposes. The oldest known Date Nail used in the U. Most Date Nails were made of steel, though copper, aluminum, iron, and even brass were also used.

Nails were driven into ties at either the treatment facility or at the time they were installed into the track.

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It revealed nearly English-language terms in European-tradition wooden boat and shipbuilding alone. These and other encountered later appear in the list taken form my latest work on the subject. An overview spanning millenia and many boats, it remains but a pointer to a myriad of deeper studies by expert others past and present who, though far to numerous to list here, appear in the references to the work.

Some types e.g. the large square-sectioned nail (or spike) have been in use for thousands of years. Large circular sectioned nails that do not project though the.

When dating a piece of antique furniture, one of the most important clues to its history is often overlooked. A nail may not be a noticeable style feature, but looking at them carefully can help you authenticate the age of a primitive or antique furniture piece before you buy. Like restorers of historical buildings, you can identify the period by the technology used to create the nails and unlock the past of furniture.

Until the 18th century, nail production methods had not changed for hundreds of years. Iron ore and carbon heated together and then cooled created wrought iron, from which a nail length piece was cut and hammered on four sides to create a point. Hand-wrought nails have tapered but irregular and crooked square shafts. These nails have heads known as rose heads, a faceted and shallow pyramid-shaped design created from four blows of an ironsmith’s hammer.

Between the end of the 18th and the end of the 19th centuries, nails were cut into shape. In the early part of the period, nail-makers cut them by hand from a sheet of iron.

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