Glossary Intro and Glossary Annexes

Glossary N

Nail:  Penny. (Abbreviation: d.) A term originally used to designate the price of nails per 100, but now used to specify size. Common sizes are: fourpenny, 1y4"; sixpenny, 2"; eight-penny, 2/"; ten-penny, 3"; twenty-penny, 4"; sixty-penny, 6".

Source: Home Craftsman 4 May-June 1935 page 220.


Walt Durbahn on the origin of nail classification

(Folks, I could have done the original research for this posting, yes, but it would have taken considerable time; instead, for the time being, at least, I am posting this 1954 account by Durbahn, sans documentation. I have seen more complete versions of this story, but Durbahn has a way of describing things like nails in clear, concise, and entertaining terms. I will be on the lookout for an account more grounded in the true history of the evolution of nails, however.  While not a "nail collector", I have a stash of  "square" nails, rescued from my uncles' farm many years ago.)

image of nail typesNail sizes are still called by the ancient Penny System which originated in England centuries ago. There are several stories about how the Penny System came to be named. One version has it that 6 penny, 8 penny, 10 penny, and so on derived their names from the fact that 100 nails of a certain size cost 6 pence, another size 8 pence, and so on through the different sizes. The original abbreviation, in use today, is d. A 2d nail (2 penny) is 1 inch long; 10d, 3 inches. You add 1/4" for each penny up to 3 inches.
The common wire nail, with its large head, is used mostly for rough work in the framing of a building, nailing studs and joists, rough flooring, roof boards.

It is a bear for holding power because of its thickness, but it also is likely to split less rugged wood.

The box nail is made of a lighter-gauge wire. It is not nearly as guilty of splitting as its bigger brother. In fact, it was intended in the beginning for making boxes where the wood was thin and split easily. When the box nail is coated with resin, cement, or some other adhesive material it has just about as much holding power as the common nail. Incidentally, most carpenters prefer to use coated nails.

The casing nail has a smaller head than the common nail, is cone-shaped, and also is made of a light-gauge wire. As its name implies, this member of the nail family is for fastening the outside casings around windows and doors, the cornice and trim of a house. Frequently, it is used in the laying of finish flooring and in situations where the nailheads must be set below the surface of the wood.

The finish nail is identified by its still smaller head and lighter-gauge wire. It is used for the interior finish work of a building and for cabinet- and furniture-making, where nails must be concealed by being set below the surface.

By rule of thumb, the length of the nail to use for a particular job should be at least 2˝ times the thickness of the material to be fastened.

THEN you shop for small nails, ask your hardware dealer for brads, These are really small finish nails of a still lighter-gauge wire. Hardware stores generally stock brads in the commonly used sizes from 3/8" to 1", although actually they are made in a 3/16" to 3" range.

Additionally, there are roofing nails, whose extra-large heads are necessary for fastening asphalt shingles and roof¬ing paper as well as the rigid insulation sheathing boards. Plasterboard, or dry wall, is fastened with the large thin-head, blued, plasterboard nail.

Nails are usually made of steel, which will rust when exposed to moisture. For that reason it is advisable to employ the zinc-coated (galvanized) or aluminum nails for fastening work that is exposed to the weather.

Source: Walt Durbahn, "How to Put it Together", American Magazine 157 March 1954 pages 66-67

Sources: Home Craftsman 4 May-June 1935;Walt Durbahn, "How to Put it Together", American Magazine 157 March 1954.

Natural Edge:



Spalted Tiger Maple Box with a sliding box inside. The large box is tinted with shellac and finished with handrubbed varnish and is lined on the bottom with brown felt, and the front of the lid retains the natural edge.



Nest of Saws: A set of saws purchased as a group usually composed of 2 or 3 blades—including compass and key hole blades—with an interchangeable handle. (Home Craftsman 4 1935 July-August page 260)