Here’s a tip from Tim Henricksen, a fellow woodworker who has been building some six-board chests with me as I research this important early form of furniture.
One of the trickiest things to do when building a chest with nails is to clinch the nails’ tips so they bend back into the work and hold two pieces of wood together. Typically you clinch the nails that join the chest’s lid to two battens that hold the lid flat. You drive the nails through the battens and then through the top of the lid. Then you clinch (some say “clench”) the proud tips back into the lid. (See the photo for what the clinched nails look like.)
With commercial cut nails, the tips are usually quite thick – especially in the long lengths you need for clinching. And the nails can be too hard. They can crack when you clinch them. Or just refuse to bend.
So Tim ground the tips of the nails, which made them thinner, pointier and softer. The heat from the grinder annealed the nails, making them very easy to bend over. In fact, they were so soft that you have to be careful. Without a pilot hole, the tips will easily follow the grain of your wood and bend in crazy directions.
I tried this several times tonight and was quite pleased with the trick. It took less than a minute to grind each nail to shape and they bent quite nicely.
— Christopher Schwarz
P.S. I’ve written a ton about cut nails here on the blog. Check out all my entries on this important fastener (free) by clicking here.