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Tip #128
All About Nails

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Here's everything you need to know about nails - and then some

Nails are the most basic of all wood fasteners. Just drive them through one piece of wood and into another and...depending upon how much stress the joint will be under and in what relation to the direction of the nail...your two pieces just became one -- perhaps, for a century or more.

First, you need to know that there are really four basic types of nails available today. These four types are called "Common", "Box", "Casing" and "Finishing"....and that their sizes are designed in "pennys" (represented by the symbol "d") which signifies their lengths, from 1-1/2" to 4".

Let's take a look at each.

Common Nails are the multi-purpose nail of woodworking. Used primarily in general purpose construction and framing applications, they have fairly thick, round heads.

Box Nails are lighter weight nails with thinner round heads. They're used for lighter construction framing & cabinet work.

Casing Nails are stout nails with small diameter, angular heads that can be easily driven below the wood's surface, yet still hold firmly. Finish carpenters prefer them for attaching window and door casings and trim work of all types.

Finishing Nails are very similar in design to Casing Nails, except they're usually lighter in weight and have smaller diameter heads with straighter sides. They're used primarily for joining lighter weight materials such as thin trim pieces, etc.

Paneling Nails are nothing more than light weight Finishing Nails with ribbed shanks to prevent pull-out.

Wire Brads are small diameter Finishing Nails that range in size between 3/4" and 1-1/4" long. Their diameters are measured in "gauges" rather than "pennys"...the larger the "gauge" number, the smaller the diameter of the Brad.

SPECIALIZED NAILS Of course, there are numerous types of specialized nails for special jobs. A few of these include:

Carpet Tacks which are usually very short with over-sized heads to help hold the carpet in position without tearing.

Lath Nails are short, lightweight nails with large, thin heads. They are typically smaller in diameter than a 4d nail.

Ring nails are similar in size and shape to a Box Nail with the addition of a series of protruding "rings" running along their length. Used primarily for nailing down sheathing and sub-flooring, once driven in, their "rings" make removal practically impossible.

Approximate number of nails per pound
Nail length
"Penny"
Common
Box
Finishing
Casing
1"
2
850
1000
1350
1000
1-1/4"
3
550
630
805
630
1-1/2"
4
300
470
585
470
1-3/4"
5
255
405
500
405
2"
6
170
235
305
235
2-1/4"
7
150
210
235
210
2-1/2"
8
100
135
190
135
2-3/4"
9
90
125
170
125
3"
10
70
95
120
95
3-1/4"
12
60
85
110
85
3-1/2"
16
50
70
90
70
4"
20
30
50
60
50

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