Nails and Screws for Furniture
I have received quite a few requests to publish the list of fasteners that I discussed in episode numbers HTT018 and HTT019 of the podcast. So I’m listing everything out here for easy future reference.
I keep a pretty simple selection of cut nails on hand. For the type of work that I do, I don’t use drawn wire nails, ever. They’re pretty useless for anything buy applying the moldings in your house, and even then their holding ability is questionable. At any given time, I will typically have about 9 different types of nails in my nail box.
Fine Cut Finish Nails
I use these most often for joining parts when I want the nails to blend in and kind of disappear. For example, if I’m building a six board chest, and I don’t want the nails to stand out and scream “I’m a nail!”, I’ll use fine cut finish nails. I keep a selection on hand in 3d, 4d, and 6d. This covers me in stock from 3/8″ to 3/4″ thick.
Headless Cut Brads
These tiny little nails all but disappear when nailed flush with the surface of the wood. I use them most often for attaching small moldings to my pieces, but I will also occasionally use them for attaching the backs/bottoms on small boxes, drawers and trays. Think stock thinner than 3/8″ thick where a larger finish nail would be overkill and might split the stock. I keep a selection of these on hand in 2d, 3d, and 4d.
Wrought Head Nails
These nails are used as a decorative element when I do want the nail to stand out and scream “I’m a nail!” I use them most often in boarded furniture like six boards chests and five board benches, and also for case backs when the back of the case might occasionally be seen. They just add a nice bit of visual interest to the piece. I keep these on hand in 4d and 6d.
These nails are more malleable than the wrought head nails so I keep them on hand for clinching. While I prefer the look of the wrought head nail to these non traditional “rose head” clinch nails, I have been experimenting with reforging the heads of these nails with some success using a propane torch and small piece of steel as an anvil. I haven’t quite perfected the technique yet, but when I do I’ll be sure to share it with you. Clinching requires that the nail be bent back on itself and hammered into the back side of the wood, creating what is in effect a locking staple. It’s a very strong connection, but requires nails that are quite a bit longer than usual. For this reason, I only keep these in stock in 8d. Also, because I have these nails in 8d, I don’t feel a need to keep the wrought head nails in 8d as I will just use the clinch nails when I need a longer nail.
I tend to keep a much better supply of cut nails on hand for the work that I do than I do screws. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, I much prefer the look of nails when a fastener has to show, such as when attaching a case back or when building boarded furniture like six board chests and five board benches. Second, even when I do try to keep some screws on hand, I find that when I need them for a particular application, I almost never have the exact size that I want/need. Because screw selection varies by multiple factors (diameter, length, and head type) there are just too many variations for me to keep a good selection on hand. Plus, I most often use screws when attaching hardware like hinges and pulls, and in these cases, the correct screws are usually provided with the hardware. If they’re not, I just order the screws I need when I order the hardware.
So all of this is a long winded way to say that I don’t have a good list of screws that I recommend you keep on hand. Instead, I’d recommend that you buy your screws as you need them so you can choose the correct screw for the application.
Thanks for posting this list. For those of us who are still new to all of this, can you please recommend places to get them?
I have historically bought the from Horton Brasses, but they no longer carry them. Now I’ll probably order them directly from Tremont Nail. They have everything right on their website and you can order directly from them for the best price. However, if you’re not buying a bunch, the shipping can be a bit cost prohibitive if all you need is a single pound of nails.
The other option is Tools for Working Wood. They repackage Tremont nails into their own brand, Brooklyn Tool & Craft. A bit more expensive than buying directly from Tremont, but more convenient and cost effective with the shipping if you can add them to some other items you were already ordering anyway.
One more option is Rivierre Nails. They are made in France and sold by Lie Nielsen. They are machine made, like Tremont cut nails, but are supposed to look more like blacksmith made nails. I haven’t personally tried them yet, but I’ve heard nothing but good things about them.
Thanks Bob. I was so anxious and excited to order by the time I refreshed this screen (via my post below) I saw you replied. I didn’t think it would happen so quickly so I had done some digging on my own. What I did was order two boxes of each nail size. That way, when I use one box and start the next, I can then place a refill order and in theory never be without.
Ok, google is my friend. Lee Valley Tools had all of the sizes except for the 8d nails which I just purchased from Tremont nails. Of course, the list the nail sizes in inches rather the “d” sizes but that wasn’t too hard to convert:
2d (1” long), 3d (1-1/4” long), 4d (1-1/2” long), 6d (2” long), 8d (2-1/2” long)
Hi Bob. Love your podcast.
I’m building a medicine cabinet out of Butternut. This is the first project where I’m not using plywood for the cabinet back. Instead I re-sawed and glued up a 1/4 inch thick Butternut panel that’s 18 by 24. I’m planning to inset it into a rabbet allowing a small amount of room for wood movement. I think I’ve heard that wire nails will allow for seasonal contraction and expansion, but I see that you aren’t a fan of wire nails. What do you suggest.
(By the way, I don’t need the 1/4 inch back to support the weight of the cabinet. I’ll utilize the cabinet frame to attach it to the wall.)
Wire nails will work if that’s what you have or want to use. But they provide very little resistance to pulling out. When I install cabinet backs, I use a variety of cut nails depending upon the look I’m going for. In a piece where I want the nails more “invisible” I’ll use fine cut finish nails. When I want to highlight the nails as a feature I’ll use wrought head nails or clout nails as both of these styles have a very distinct head. Regardless of the type of cut nail that I use, all cut nails require a pilot hole before being driven to prevent splitting.
Thanks Bob. Your point about “resistance to pulling out” is important. Currently the panel is flat, but being in a moist environment (bathroom), if it wants to bow, it could easily pull a wire nail out.