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How to nail anything

Which nails to use; basic techniques

Common nails are best for most carpentry because their broad heads won’t pull through the wood. For extra holding power, use coated nails or nails with spiral shanks or annular rings. For cabinetry and other fine work, use finishing nails; hammer them almost home; then use a nail set to sink the heads below the surface of the wood. Fill the holes with putty or wood filler. Buy nails specific to such jobs as roofing, flooring, and installing wallboard.

When joining two pieces of different thicknesses, drive nails through the thin one into the thick one. Use nails three times as long as the thickness of the upper piece so that two-thirds of their lengths will be securely anchored. For more security, drive the nails at angles, slanting toward or away from one another. For maximum strength, drive a long nail through both pieces, and hammer the point over.

To prevent the wood from splitting, stagger nails rather than placing them along the same grain line. In hardwood, drill pilot holes slightly smaller than the nails. Before driving a nail near the end of a piece, blunt the nails point with a hammer so that the point will shear through the wood instead of wedging it apart.

Use an ordinary 13-or 16-ounce claw hammer for most nailing jobs. Hold a nail between your thumb and forefinger and tap the nail until it stands alone; then strike the head of the nail squarely with increasingly heavy blows. To remove a nail, cushion the hammer’s head with scrap wood and use the claw as a lever.