I bought a box of 1,600 pneumatic nails about two presidential administrations ago that cost about a half penny each (yes, I know I overpaid). So why in the world would I buy a box of 40 nails for – cough – $1.50 each?
Easy. Hardware is as important to me as every other aspect of my projects, from the wood to the design to the finish. And once you see and use a handmade nail, you are ruined.
Good nails are a slippery slope. I started years ago by buying masonry nails, which are hardened cut nails. These cost about a couple pennies each and look like an old-fashioned fastener. But they are too hard to clench, and recently the Chinese copies of the masonry nails have pushed out the domestic suppliers at my hardware store.
The Chinese masonry nails don’t look or perform like the U.S.-made ones.
So I turned to Tremont Nail Co. several years ago and have been using their nails with great success. Tremont has been in business since before the Civil War and manufacture some quality nails.
I use the “clinch rosehead standards” for installing backs and bottoms. The “fine finish standards” are good for case construction. And the “cut headless brads” are good for installing moulding, when I can manage to donate some plasma.
But earlier this year, Peter Follansbee encouraged me to use blacksmith-made nails in my projects. He works at Plimoth Plantation, and the village has a blacksmith that makes his nails. When I visited Peter at Plimoth this summer, I took a long look at his hardware, from the nails to the drawer pulls that they cast in the sand on the beach.
I was impressed and inspired to try some of these nails.
So this fall I asked blacksmith Peter Ross to make me some 6d nails for some upcoming projects – a six-board chest and a Dutch tool chest. They arrived this week, and I am even more nail-crazy than before. I can’t wait to put these to use. Their heads have a beautiful pyramid shape. The shanks are long, thin and tapering.
They are finer than the Tremont nails to be sure. They should be – handmade nails cost about $1.50 each. (I think you can immediately see why apprentices were told to straighten all the bent nails in a pre-Industrial shop.)
I also finished reading the short book “Nailmaking” (Shire Library) by Hugh Bodey, which convinced me that I never wanted to make nails –it’s fairly miserable and montonous. So purchased nails are fine by me.
I have several projects in the coming year where I will be using these handmade nails. I’ll be sure to take some photos of them and post them on the blog.
— Christopher Schwarz