In Shop Blog, Techniques

We may receive a commission when you use our affiliate links. However, this does not impact our recommendations.

One of the themes coursing through the next issue of Woodworking Magazine is rethinking the role of nails in woodworking. And so I’ve been whacking a lot of cut nails lately and setting them below the surface of my work with a nice nail set. Perhaps the most frustrating part of using cut nails was setting them exactly where I wanted them. But I chalked that frustration up to a lack of skill on my part. After a couple months I became pretty good at setting the nail head right where it should be.

But then last week I was reading Paul N. Hasluck’s “The Handyman’s Book” and alighted on a drawing on page 133 that had escaped my attention earlier. It was a drawing of a nail set designed for cut nails. The face of this particular nail set was squarish , like the head of the nail itself. All my nail sets have a round tip.


So this morning I dug around in my toolbox and pulled out the set of Companion punches that were left over from making drawbore pins in Issue 4. A quick trip to the belt sander produced the profile shown in the photo above. The tip is slightly smaller than the head of the cut fine finish nail from Tremont. (It’s about 1/16″ x 3/32″.) Then I went to work. It only took a few nails to convince me that a square tip is superior for a square-head nail. The tip is much easier to control when you strike the nail set , probably because there is more contact between the nail and the set.

Now I’ll also have to grind another punch down for the smaller headless brads I use. I guess this goes to show that sometimes it is the tool that’s at fault, and not the operator.

Christopher Schwarz

Product Recommendations

Here are some supplies and tools we find essential in our everyday work around the shop. We may receive a commission from sales referred by our links; however, we have carefully selected these products for their usefulness and quality.

Recommended Posts
  • Will

    I’ve used hardened cut nails since my apprenticeship days, 36 years ago. The most common application was to nail boards to concrete and there was always a keg of them on every formworking job. I kept a couple small coffee cans full of them up until a few years ago – 8 penny and 16 penny. The smaller were for one bye, and the larger for two bye boards. They were popular up until the time when powder actuated devices became the tool of choice.

    I had no idea there were so many uses for them. Thanks for the info.


Start typing and press Enter to search