Property: Know your nails, or I'll insist on a tusked tenon
DOCTOR ON THE HOUSE; There's more to joining timber than hammering in a brad here, a spike there and pins everywhere, says Jeff Howell
Sunday 17 May 1998
These joints are nice to look at and are the best way of building with timber, because they provide tensile strength and allow the two joined pieces to move as one. Medieval timber walls and roofs didn't use nails, and the surviving examples are a testament to the skill of their carpenters.
Another reason why nails were rare was that they were expensive, each one being hand-made by a blacksmith.
Mechanisation has now made nails available in quantities and at prices that would have astonished builders in the early 1800s, and the quality of modern timber work is almost certainly poorer as a result.
Still, if you are going to use nails, then you might at least use the right ones for the job, and every builders' merchant sells a bewildering variety. The longest nails - over 130 mm - are called spikes; the smallest are called pins. In between come brads and tacks. Got all that? I'll be asking questions later.
Cut nails are square in cross-section and are made by being sheared from steel plate. Because they are wedge shaped, these cut nails provide a good firm fixing, which is why they are also called clasp nails in some parts of the country.
There is a specific version of cut nail for fixing floor boards, called a floor brad. The "brad" bit comes from their intermediate length - 60 mm - and the "floor" bit is because their heads only stick out on one side, causing less damage to the surface of the timber. The advantage of floor brads is that when you have to lift the floor - to get at the plumbing, say - the nail comes out clean with the board, and can be hammered back into the same hole afterwards; whereas wire nails will always stick in the joist and the head will rip through the board.
Wire nails come in two types, round and oval. Round wire nails are the cheapest; they have big heads and so are useful for holding things together in structural work, but they can split the wood unless it is pre-drilled. Ovals are more expensive but are better for avoiding splits, especially for fine finishing work like skirting boards and architraves; also, their smaller heads can be easily countersunk and filled over - vital for decorating.
Nailing is a means of fixing one thing to another, and the rule is that the nail should be at least twice as long as the first thing - if you get my drift. (If you don't, think about it this way: if you're nailing a floorboard to a joist, the nail should be twice as deep as the floorboard.)
Another rule is that nails should not be driven closer together than half their length; nor should they be closer to an edge than one-quarter of their length.
Got all that? Come to think of it, it may be easier to tell you how to make a tusked tenon.
q You can contact Jeff Howell at the `Independent on Sunday' or by e-mail at: Jeff@doctoronthehouse. demon.co.uk.
- 2 Oil tanker with $100 million cargo goes missing off Texas coast
- 4 Saudi Arabia executes 19 in one half of August in 'disturbing surge of beheadings'
YouTube video posted by Isis militants shows 'execution of 250 Syrian soldiers'
Keira Knightley topless: Usually conservative actress does own take on #Freethenipple campaign for Interview Magazine
Oil tanker with $100 million cargo goes missing off Texas coast
George Galloway left with severe bruising after attack in Notting Hill by man 'shouting about the Holocaust'
Lady al-Qa’ida: On the trail of Dr Aafia Siddiqui, the world’s most wanted prisoner
Robin Williams Emmys tribute led by Billy Crystal criticised for including 'racist' joke about Muslim woman
The Rotherham child abuse scandal is a tale of apologists, misogyny and double standards
What do immigrants really think of Britain? Polish immigrant's Reddit post goes viral
Scottish independence TV debate: Pumped-up Alex Salmond bounces back in bruising second round against Alistair Darling
Do you realise just how foolish the UK looks?
With Douglas Carswell joining Ukip, my party has taken another giant step forward
- < Previous
- Next >
iJobs Money & Business
£35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF,...
£50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: DevOps Engineer (Systems Administration, L...
£60000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A prestigious leading professiona...
£50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Financial Technical Consultant (C++, C#, F...