Saturday, August 2, 2014


Nails, screws and other things to build and repair.  Hardware.

There's a book that supposedly has everything in it that hardware stores sell; might be interesting to have a copy, but having inherited a lot of tools and odd bits of hardware, I kind of already know a lot of it.  Plus, it's more rewarding to find that interesting gimcrack or whimmydiddle that is the only thing that will do the trick for a job by looking at everything available with an eye to how it can be put to use rather than relying on someone else's stock explanation...

But that's something for when you have enough time to peruse your local hardware store without time constraints or significant other trailing after you.

But about hardware.  Specifically, nails.  Why are they delineated by pennies?  Well, it's a holdover from English measurement.  If you bought 2 penny nails back in the day you'd be buying by the hundred, so 100 2 penny nails would cost you...2 pennies.  Why the 'd'?  Comes from the Roman coin called the denarius.  2 penny nails are 1/4 inch shorter than 3 penny nails, and so on; each increment in 'pennies' is a 1/4" increment in length.

Here's a chart of nail sizes, handy to have if some nails have lost the box they came in and you need to identify them.  Covering a copy with clear Contact paper will keep it from getting grease and other stains in your shop or toolbox.

As for types of nails, there are quite a number, although typically the average person doesn't use more than, say, four to six kinds.   However, in those different kinds, you might have several lengths of finishing nails, for example; shorter ones for molding and trim, and longer ones for door frames and similar uses.  Bostich has a guide to fasteners that includes their Hurriquake type made to withstand the forces that extreme weather or earthquakes generate as well as some of the technical details related to types of wood and fasteners appropriate thereto, etc.

Typically, you use galvanized nails outside, and non-galvanized indoors. Some nails aren't galvanized, but are coated with concrete; these are called sinkers and are coated to go in easier.

When you are starting out pounding nails, it helps to hold them with pliers instead of your fingers because unless you've already done a lot of nailing, which you haven't, yet, you're bound to hit your fingers.  Use a pair of needlenose pliers to hold a nail perpendicular to the surface you're pounding it into, or one of the tools made to do that if you're a gadget geek.

Use the right nail for the job; indoor nails which aren't galvanized will rust outdoors.  Finishing nails can be set with a nail set to just below the surface and then hidden by using putty or spackle.  Box nails are good for nailing together...well, boxes and the like.  Common nails are good for constructing things or serious repairs.

A subset of nails not many people talk about is brads or wire nails.  These guys are small enough that they don't get a penny designation; instead, they are designated by length and gauge, such as 3/4" x 18, meaning 3/4" long, 18 gauge.  Brads and wire nails sometimes look like miniature nails, and there are some that come in handy for household chores, but I have a lot of them and have been working through the ones I have for years and they don't seem to diminish.

See my next post for more on hardware.  I'll talk about screwing.