Chris Schwarz's Blog

Nails: Your Unexpected Friend in the Forest

A lot of hand skills develop hand-in-hand with other hand skills. Learning to sharpen a handplane gives you the skills to sharpen a carving gouge or turning tool. These are pretty obvious. But some hand skills help you in unexpected way.

For example: Working with a lot of nails makes splitting green wood for chair parts much easier.

Both skills benefit from dead-on accuracy with a striking tool – a hammer, sledge, maul and hatchet. And both benefit from learning to hold the tool loosely at the moment of impact to reduce damage to your arms.

One of my few skills is with a hammer. Driving nails so they are flush with the work comes pretty easy after decades of work. Those skills made learning to split and rive lumber a cinch. Hitting a wedge with a sledge every time without missing makes short work of a log (and prevents your neighbors from laughing at you).

So the next time you look down your nose at nails (or any other traditional skill), know that you might be making your life more difficult in some other area of the craft. The more diverse skills you try and embrace, the easier everything gets.

— Christopher Schwarz

bunch of hammers

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