Some of the best workholding ideas rely on simple wedging action. This weekend I stumbled onto one more great wedging trick using cut nails.
This might be old hat for you. If so, forgive my waste of bandwidth (which should be the motto of my blog).
I’m creating some wide panels from narrow boards using an early woodworking technique of nailing cross-stretchers across the joints of the panel. There’s no glue involved in this panel. And no Bessey K-bodies, either.
The technique calls for placing your boards on your bench and securing them edge-to-edge by nailing into your bench around the perimeter of the panel. Then you nail the cross-stretchers down to the panel and clench them.
As you probably know, cut nails taper along two of their edges. The other two edges are parallel. When you build furniture you orient the taper so the tapered edges of the nail bite into the end grain of your top board. This reduces the chance of your work splitting.
So when I nailed into my bench using this principle, two things happened. First, Managing Editor Megan Fitzpatrick exclaimed: “Oh my! What are you doing?” I just cracked a wicked grin.
And second, the edges of the panel came together OK.
I thought about this for a minute, then I pulled two of the nails out of my benchtop and oriented them so the tapers bit into the edge grain , both of my panel and the workbench.
Then my joints closed up so tightly I could plane the entire panel and the pieces didn’t slip. Dang. The slight wedging action of the nails was surprisingly effective (and no, it didn’t split the top of my 4″-thick benchtop).
If you are interested in learning more about the history and use of cut nails, I wrote a lengthy story about building furniture with hammer and nails in issue five (Spring 2006) of Woodworking Magazine.
– Christopher Schwarz
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