Whenever I teach at a woodworking school, I’m always fascinated by what happens when I open my tackle box full of cut nails. Usually, the students react as if I’d opened a case of ticked-off scorpions.
At The Center for Furniture Craftsmanship, one of the students asked: “Are those allowed here?”
That was on Monday. By Friday, the 11 students were stuffing the extra nails into their pockets and banging merrily away on their projects – driving the 4d clinch rosehead nails and cut headless brads into their small dovetailed chests.
Many of them now see cut nails like I see nails: as an important piece of hardware on a traditional project. Cut nails hold like crazy and look quite nice in traditional work. And we are not the first people to think this.
In 1810, nails were 0.4 percent of our nation’s gross national product, according to a July 2011 report on the prices of nails and screws since 1700 that was prepared by Daniel Sichel of the Federal Reserve Board.
“In today’s terms, this share is similar to that of household purchases of personal computers and peripherals or of airfares,” Sichel writes.
All the cut nails I buy come from Tremont Nail, which manufactures them on antique equipment at Mansfield, Mass. I had hoped to get to Tremont for a tour during this trip to New England, but my dance card was full. Perhaps next time. As far as I know, Tremont is the last maker of these nails. If you see cut nails for sale in a catalog (that aren’t masonry nails), they probably came from Tremont originally.
Today I closed up my box of nails as one of the school’s assistants was picking through the wrought nails with an appreciative eye.
— Christopher Schwarz
P.S. The music in the video is by Rose’s Pawn Shop.
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