You can do fancy things with a hammer and the right nails. And lately, I’ve been doing a lot of practicing with cut nails for a series of projects I’m working on that feature nails (including the dry sink in the next issue of Woodworking Magazine).
The more I learn about nails, the more I find out there are lots of interesting things you do with them. You probably have heard about “clinching” (sometimes spelled “clenching”) nails. This is when the tip of the nail passes entirely through both of your workpieces. Then you use your hammer to bend the nail’s tip over and back into the work.
You see lots of this in boat building and in old work, especially where battens have been attached to doors.
Some people can’t quite visualize this, and so I was happy to find the illustration above in “Exercises in Woodworking,” a late 19th-century book that I need to do a full blog entry on. It’s quite cool. You can download the whole book at Google Books.
I’ve found the trick to clinching nails is to have the nail’s head resting on a piece of steel plate or some small anvil. It makes it much easier to turn over the tip.
While I was browsing this book, I also found a description of how to swing a hammer to encourage floorboards or backboards to mate together tightly along their edges. I’ve done this before (by accident), but I didn’t know exactly what was going on inside. The illustration (figure 5 above) shows it brilliantly.
“Fig. 5 illustrates a peculiar drawn blow of the hammer. Starting at d, it follows the direction of the broken line in its course; the effect of which is to bend the nail in such a manner that it forces the board a close up to c, as shown at f. This blow is practiced in nailing floors and in clinching wrought nails.”
Or you can try finding this device…
– Christopher Schwarz