Need some help removing nails from oak

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Forum topic by Jamie posted 03-21-2008 02:54 AM 3609 views 0 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Jamie's profile


161 posts in 3835 days

03-21-2008 02:54 AM

Topic tags/keywords: resource tip question trick oak

My father-in-law dropped off a load of oak that he was able to get for free from a local restaurant. They were remodeling and had removed all of the oak trim. There are various widths and lengths, from about 4” to 12” in width and anywhere from 3’ to 8’ in length. All of the pieces are approximately 15/16” or greater in thickness. None of the trim had been shaped, so most all of it is fairly square (about 5 of the pieces have rabbits along one edge). Most all of the planks had standard nails, which were easily removed. The problem I have, is that there are about 8 really good planks that have 18 guage 2” finishing nails in them. The heads have been filled in also. If I try to hit the nails from the backside with a hammer, they instantly bend. I don’t want to dig for them and ruin the wood.

What is the best way to get these suckers out?

-- Jamie, Kentucky

12 replies so far

View gizmodyne's profile


1780 posts in 4111 days

#1 posted 03-21-2008 03:25 AM

It is in general better to push the nail through if feasible. You can sometimes take a nail set and hit them from the front side enough to get them to protrude out the back. Then take nail pullers and have out them.
Good luck. (Sometimes you gotta dig).

-- -John "Do I have to keep typing a smiley? Just assume it's a joke."

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 4336 days

#2 posted 03-21-2008 03:28 AM

pull them out from the backside

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3843 days

#3 posted 03-21-2008 04:36 AM

Pulling them from the back is the way to go if they will pull out. I have had far more success with finishing nails than I have brads. A good portion of the time that I have tried to remove brads they simply break off about 1/16” proud of the surface and then I either end up digging (and digging some more) or getting frustrated with the entire thing and cutting off the material with the offending nails in it. I can always find a use for offcuts.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View Karson's profile


35125 posts in 4422 days

#4 posted 03-21-2008 06:03 AM

Pull them straight through Use pliers and a wood block to keep from marking up the wood.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

View John Ormsby's profile

John Ormsby

1288 posts in 3758 days

#5 posted 03-21-2008 08:24 AM

You might try drilling a 1/16 bit next to the brad and then pull it out. Some may come out, but you will most likely break most of the nails off before pulling them out. They very thin and weak. John

-- Oldworld, Fair Oaks, Ca

View Dadoo's profile


1789 posts in 4012 days

#6 posted 03-21-2008 08:36 AM

I’ve also found that with these easily bent nails, to cut them off leaving maybe 1/8” sticking out. Now when you tap it with a hammer, it’s less likely to bend and the nail head will pop out the other side. Take your time whatever you do. Carbide saw blades pretty much eat these things up, but planer blades don’t.

Pulling the nail thru like the other guys have suggested works great as well and won’t leave your top surface marred as much.

-- Bob Vila would be so proud of you!

View Jamie's profile


161 posts in 3835 days

#7 posted 03-21-2008 05:31 PM

Thanks guys.. I really appreciate all the input. I’ll try some of your suggestions today to see what I can come up with. I may be able to just pull them on through, but am kinda worried that it may just break off. I’ll try that though..

Thanks again!

-- Jamie, Kentucky

View Sam Yerardi's profile

Sam Yerardi

244 posts in 3917 days

#8 posted 03-21-2008 06:03 PM

If the heads of the nails are out far enough, you can try heating the nails with a torch. As they heat up they will expand, enlarging the hole a bit. When they cool, the nail shrinks back but the hole doesn’t. It works for screws, and it might work here.

-- Sam

View HokieMojo's profile


2104 posts in 3749 days

#9 posted 03-21-2008 07:49 PM

I don’t know what some of the terminology you are using means, but I’m assuming that these nails are very thin and protrude significatly through the back (hence the bending). I had some luck nailing them out from the back by doing the following. I got a small pair of vise grips and really clamped them on the protruding piece of the nail (leaving about a 2 mm gap between where I clamped and the board). Then I could tap on the vice grips instead of the point of the nail. this would let me be sure the nail would be forced stright out. Just an idea.

View Gofor's profile


470 posts in 3808 days

#10 posted 03-22-2008 02:39 AM

Ditto on the vise grips. Best method I have found and I use it frequently.


-- Go

View yippee's profile


9 posts in 3739 days

#11 posted 03-22-2008 03:14 AM

What a lucky deal! You’ll be glad you salvaged it! And I agree with Gofor (and the others) – vise grips is the way to go. We tore down an old building up the street, brought it home and began the chore of removing all the nails, screws, etc. Apparently the previous owner worked at the local lumber yard and over the years, if there was a “stray piece” of wood, he would bring it home and tack it onto his barn. The result: a very eclectic, multi-thickness, variety-of-wood barn, put together with whatever nails and screws he had lying around. He used sinkers ALL over it, and sometimes on very thin wood. Too comical. But our efforts paid off, as we now we have a huge pile of great lumber to use on …???? We tried a number of things as mentioned by the others in here (tho, not the torch!), but the best idea we found is to use a good pair of vise grips to pull and twist them from the back / worse side. And like Karson suggested, be sure to use the wood block on either side of the nail if you need to pound it out from the front. Good luck!

-- Currently-from-Grand-Rapids-but-looking-to-move-to-beautiful-Traverse-City ... :)

View Rich_S's profile


53 posts in 3887 days

#12 posted 03-22-2008 05:31 AM

Pull them through the backside using a nail nippers. You can buy a nail nipper at nearly any hardware store (not a toe nail nipper). Sometimes they are called hoof nippers or racetrack nippers. To prevent maring as you apply leverage to the nipper use a piece of 1/4” scrap hardboard under the nipper. They’ll come out fairly easily. It takes a little practice so you don’t clip them off, but one you get it you’ll move right along.

-- Rich, Madison WI

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