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Nail Header Size

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I’d like to make 16d (3-1/2” length) nails for a workbench project of mine.  I like the aesthetics and the idea of better holding power that forged nails can offer.  Plus, let’s face it, my tapers and hammer control could use the practice.

The question:  what size nail header should I use for these length of nails?

I’ve looked up an ordinary nail size chart for wire nails, and the shank size for 16d is around 3/16”.  I drew out a 3-1/2” long nail with that shank size and it seems too thin.

 

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I reckon about 6mm square. (About 1/4 inch)  Most of the nails I've done are about 3" (75mm) and they seem robust enough. I guess a lot depends on what your workbench is made from. Soft pine like Oregon or something wouldn't offer much resistance, but my nails would have no chance in any eucalypt timber.

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The workbench is soft pine.  

I haven’t ran across any nail sizing in all of the old blacksmithing books I’ve downloaded.

While we’re on this topic, is a smaller shank / thinner nail preferred for harder woods?  My guess would be that the nails in softer woods would pull through easier, so a larger shank / thicker nail is used.  Vice versa for hardwoods.

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Measure a 16d nail and tweak it to your liking? 

Uh. . . wire or even cut nails hold better than forged nails, the tapered shanks tend to work back out if subjected to movement. The old saying, "Deader than a door nail." Refers to having to clinch door nails dead tight or the door would work loose. 

I'm not saying not to make forged nails, just don't expect them to hold better than modern wire nails unless you do something tricky to them. Oh say, twist the shank and make the head square and turned in so it can't turn and let the nail twist to back out. Hmmmm? Another is chisel barbs in the shanks, little barbs like you see in a hammer wedge but smaller. 

Regardless forging nails is excellent practice on a couple processes: uniform log tapers and upsetting, heading. Another very useful skill they teach is estimating the amount of stock you need for a given project. 

The reason your 3.5" x 3/16" shank seems to thin is because wire nails are significantly work hardened. The stock comes off a roll, is roll forged to finish Dia. with the barbs (little ridges) then headed, this really stiffens up the wire. When you forge a nail you're heating them past critical and the forging may refine grain growth but won't work harden the stock so your finished nail is close to normalized and soft. You need to make them thicker and or wider. If you're nailing hardwood you'll probably need to pre-drill.

Make sense?

Frosty The Lucky.

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Forged nails with a few chisel barbs should hold in place. The barbs will dig onto the wood and keep it from backing out.

To keep the nail from turning, you can forge the head like so.

image.png

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Thanks for the explanation Frosty. 

I agree Glenn, it would be a good idea to add the barbs.

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If I were to consider cut nails, how would you go about forging those?  Would I draw the taper and then flatten one side a bit more as the last step, rendering a rectangular shape?

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Thanks Glenn, makes sense.

For a heading tool, is there any type of standard for the length of nail vs shank size?  I thought I had remembered reading somewhere how wrought nail sizes were standardized.

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Make a double-added nail header with a couple of different sizes of hole. See what works best. 

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Make a nail (square taper) to the shaft size you want and then use it to make the header.  The header has an hourglass hole so the top part grips the nail stock in order to let you form the nail head. The lower part is larger than the nail stock so it does not hold the nail stock. The length is up to you when you draw out the taper on the mail.

Cross_section.jpg

 

If you make several nail sizes you end up with several headers.

image.png

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Glenn,

For what it's worth  those barbs are called  "rags".

I learnt that on   i.f.i.

SLAG.

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I recently read, and never previously thought about, that blacksmithed nails need a straight portion to their shanks. Elsewise, they are indeed a straight taper and easily loosened up in use. Was it on a JLP video?

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On 4/7/2019 at 5:05 PM, Frosty said:

Measure a 16d nail and tweak it to your liking? 

Uh. . . wire or even cut nails hold better than forged nails, the tapered shanks tend to work back out if subjected to movement. The old saying, "Deader than a door nail." Refers to having to clinch door nails dead tight or the door would work loose. 

I'm not saying not to make forged nails, just don't expect them to hold better than modern wire nails unless you do something tricky to them. Oh say, twist the shank and make the head square and turned in so it can't turn and let the nail twist to back out. Hmmmm? Another is chisel barbs in the shanks, little barbs like you see in a hammer wedge but smaller. 

Regardless forging nails is excellent practice on a couple processes: uniform log tapers and upsetting, heading. Another very useful skill they teach is estimating the amount of stock you need for a given project. 

The reason your 3.5" x 3/16" shank seems to thin is because wire nails are significantly work hardened. The stock comes off a roll, is roll forged to finish Dia. with the barbs (little ridges) then headed, this really stiffens up the wire. When you forge a nail you're heating them past critical and the forging may refine grain growth but won't work harden the stock so your finished nail is close to normalized and soft. You need to make them thicker and or wider. If you're nailing hardwood you'll probably need to pre-drill.

Make sense?

Frosty The Lucky.

Frosty I have to completely disagree with your premise here!  No disrespect intended but I am a highly skilled woodworker and worked in the building industry for most of my life.  MY hand forged nails hold VASTLY stronger than wire nails from the hardware stores!  They hold stronger than glue coated sinkers!  They hold stronger than most screws!  That’s if I don’t do anything special to them!  I was originally quite SHOCKED by the incredible differences in holding power!  Now I’m sorta used to it.  The only machine made nails that rival the holding power of my standard hand forged nails are the glue coated ring shanked nails shot through my nail guns!  I do make my nails with a bit longer tapers than most smiths... but not dramatically different.  I theorize that the square edges cut and grip the fibers much better than a round nail will.  The taper seems to be an advantage rather than a disadvantage... keeping the nail TIGHT all the length of the shank.  I think the scale that naturally roughens the nails increases the friction that contributes to the great holding power.  I believe that the slight waviness in the surfaces and edges that result from my forging process also helps.  Whatever the reasons, incredible GRIP and hold are my observed results!  

For hardwoods... even VERY hardwoods... I will tend to forge my nails a bit slimmer with less taper and I will pre-drill for them.  I’ve successfully nailed into 200 year old oak logs that would burn up a good chainsaw this way... you’d have to break those nails to pull them... it would NOT BE EASY!  I’ve used my nails to make pine and fir furniture... a lightweight desk for instance... that get a lot of use and are moved around plenty.  Years later nails are STILL TIGHT!  I made some with larger heads for decorative fastenings of tapered thresholds on floors... despite daily traffic they never loosen!

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I have acualy seen articles concerning cut nails, the fact is that when driven strait with the grain the fibers of the wood are cut and then bend down as the nail is driven, thus acting like a cam lock or fetherboard resisting the withdrawn of the nail. Hand forged nailes also being square have the same effect. Infact hand forged nailes were specked for door making up into the 60’s. This was because of not only their holding power but also the ease of clenching. 

I think Jerry just had a “beech moment”

 

As to screws, may dad’s neighbors Dad (when he was growing up) was a carpenter. Dad told be that the old man told him “screw drivers are only for taking crews out”. Implying you drive them in with a hammer... I have infact done so a few times.

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