Building customized storage solutions is one of the joys of being a woodworker. I never seem to have enough storage at home or in the shop. On days when I don’t have a lot of time in the shop, when I have some nice scraps I want to use or when I want a quick warm-up, I often find myself making boxes and other storage solutions for items I want to take care of. Below are three posts I recently made for Popular Woodworking on their ‘Woodworking Daily’ blog to explore some of my thoughts on this topic. I hope that they will inspire you to get out into the shop and make something today.
Aging 100 Years in a Day
You can check out this post on making a sliding top timber framing chisel box from eastern white pine, simple rabbet joints and cut nails. It features a weathered finish made from milk paint and wax that will only look better with age and use. You can read the post here.
Working in the Round
This turned cherry box is a great way to start turning round boxes. The hollowing is done via a large Forstner bit. You can learn more about how to do this here.
A Great Box to Have Dinner With
This walnut candle box was one of the first projects I built as a student at NBSS and we still use it today. I’ve seen similar boxes for sale at Colonial Williamsburg (Prentis Store) and various Shaker Villages, so even in our modern times there is apparently still some demand for candle boxes. Learn about some of the details you can apply to your own shop built version. You can read more about it here.
As a preservation carpenter and joiner my work regularly requires me to work work with a wide variety of cut nails. A lot of recent woodworking publications focus on cut nails appropriate for cabinetmaking and smaller projects, but that barely scratches the surface of what was still available if you know what you want and where to look.
From small projects requiring a few nails…
To larger jobs needing them in bulk…
You can still get cut nails, even galvanized steel cut nails from Tremont, the oldest remaining and most prolific cut nail maker that is still around.
Why do I want to use cut nails?
Cut nails offer several advantages over modern wire nails:
The chisel shape of the end of a cut nail helps to severe fibers as it is driven into the wood as opposed to wire nails that compress the wood around it
The wedge shaped profile and sharp edges that result from how the nail is made help the nail hold better when compared to wire nails
The distinctive square head, or decorative wrought head can be quite pleasing to the eye on new and old projects
Cut nails with the wrought head can be a cost effective alternative to blacksmith wrought nails for larger or less historic projects
Cut clinch nails can be clinched (bent over onto itself) which makes them a very effective fastener much like a large staple
For preservation or reproduction work it is important to get the small details right — including use of the correct period appropriate fasteners
All that sounds well and good, but is it worth the extra time and expense to track down these sometimes hard to find nails?
I’d say it’s hard to argue with good results, so let’s take a look at some common uses for cut nails. From simple traditional boxes and drawers…
To high style door pediments and architectural details..
To clinched nails in a reproduction door on an historic home…
To siding and trim details…
The cut nails add to the visual authenticity and given their superior holding abilities will also increase the longevity of the work.
Tips on working with cut nails:
Make sure the chisel end of the cut nail is set in across the grain thus severing it and not acting like a wedge
Start off slow with a couple of light taps before driving the nail home with harder hammer blows
If working near the end of a floor board or using a large spike consider pre-drilling a whole that is slightly smaller than the nail to prevent splitting
If using the nails on an exterior application consider buying galvanized cut nails. If your local supplier does not offer that, you can send the nails out to have them hot dipped for a reasonable price. This will help the nails survive the elements and require less maintenance.
Gallery of the 20+ Cut Nail Types still available (If you are viewing this in email, you’ll need to click over to the blog to see this gallery properly displayed):
Spike (Largest cut nails)
Headless Foundry Cut Nail
Sheathing Cut Nail
Firedoor Clinch Cut Nail
Floor Cut Nail
Headless Brad Cut Nail
Clinch (Rosehead) Cut Nail
Decorative Wrought Head Cut Nail
Masonry Cut Nail
Brad Cut Nail
Shingle Cut Nail
Box Cut Nail
Clout Cut Nail
Common Cut Nail
Slating Cut Nail
Boat Cut Nail
Common Rosehead Cut Nail
Hinge Cut Nail
Where can I find these cut nails?
If I need a small number of cut nails I usually order from Tools For Working Wood as they sell 1/8lb bags which are secured shut with another cut nail (Labeled as Brooklyn Tool and Craft I believe they are repackaged Tremont nails)
If I need a large number of cut nails I usually order direct from Tremont Nail (A company in MA with over 190 years of cut nail making experience)They offer, 1lb, 5lb, 50lb and custom larger size (think nail casks) orders
The Tremont Nail wood board with sample nails is available for purchase from Tremont — it’s a great addition to any shop and allow folks to examine each of the above described nail types in person. I have one in my shop and have found it to be a nice visual aid in my teaching.
I hope to see more folks using cut nails on their projects.
A Joiner's Guide To Traditional Woodworking and Preservation