An Unusual Shape for Wooden Nails
The pegs that hold the joinery
of old furniture together are always interesting. I’ve seen pegs with
their heads shaped square and octagonal, which are obviously the product
of either splitting and whittling. A perfectly round headed peg says
“Home Depot dowel” to me, though many Arts & Crafts pieces use a
round-headed peg and look nice.
Until last week, however, I’d never seen a peg with a pinwheel shape.
Eschmann, a woodworker from Switzerland, recently met a furniture
restorer who showed him some wooden nails from the 19th century and
earlier. The heads of these pegs were roundish, but they also had two
sharp points. When the peg was driven in to the work, its points were
aligned to be parallel with the grain of the board.
this shape consistently, the restorer concluded that they could have
been made with a tool like a modern dowel plate. But instead of a round
opening, the plate had this vaguely pinwheel shape. Yet, he had never
come across a plate like this in a museum or in an antique market.
Urs had some questions that I couldn’t answer:
• Does this shape of nail ever occur in North American furniture?
• Has anyone come across a plate for making them?
Why this shape? It looks as if they are that shape so they won’t rotate
in their hole. But you could accomplish that same goal with a square or
octagonal wooden nail.
Take a look at the photos and leave a comment if you have any clues or leads.
— Christopher Schwarz
New: Popular Woodworking 2010 on CD
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• You can see Peter Follansbee make a wooden nail here on his blog.