Nails vs. No Nails

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Forum topic by WayneC posted 04-28-2007 05:02 PM 3851 views 0 times favorited 20 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View WayneC's profile


13753 posts in 4061 days

04-28-2007 05:02 PM

Topic tags/keywords: tool nail fastener tools

Reading Dick’s post where he made a save using nails and hearing one of our esteemed podcasters put down the use of nails triggered a few questions. How do people feel about using mechanical fasteners?

Christopher Schwarz argues in his video Forgotten Hand Tools that if your building furnature to last for hundreds of years then the glue will fail at some point and that nails will prevent that. He goes on to show toe-nailing techniques.

I think Norm uses mechanical fasteners mainly for convienience. Tack in place until the glue drys 90% of the time.

I’m in the camp of use them where it makes sense and would never look down on someone for using them.

What do you all think?

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

20 replies so far

View Bill's profile


2579 posts in 4125 days

#1 posted 04-28-2007 05:10 PM

I use screws for added strength at certain times, usually with butt joints and when a joint may be stressed. Of course, having a Domino may remove some of that need, but you can not use it on plywood edges.

I do sometimes nail a joint when it is glued up to help it keep attached and aligned. That is mainly with a nail gun or brad nailer, depending on the size of the wood. This can be a big help instead of relying on clamps and time to cure the glue.

I admit that I do like to use wood as much as possible in what I do, including the joints. But, there are times nothing beats a few well placed metal fasteners.

-- Bill, Turlock California,

View scottb's profile


3648 posts in 4291 days

#2 posted 04-28-2007 05:19 PM

You’ll read in one place to use nails, basically as a clamp to hold the piece together until the glue dries, and therefore the glue will be holding the project together for the long run. You’ll read somewhere else that a glue joint will eventually fail (perhaps this is only with certain types of projects, like chairs) – so then a nail or screw would be doing the holding from then on.

Norm uses brads, Sam uses screws in his chairs, others pride themselves on using only glue.

perhaps having to hide or plug the holes is one of the main reasons behing thier being frowned upon.

Nothing is good for everything, nor good for nothing. Everything has it’s place, somewhere.

-- I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it. - Van Gogh -- --

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4124 days

#3 posted 04-28-2007 06:48 PM

I guess it depends on the style that you are trying to achieve.
Me? I just want to make some boxes and with my limited skills I’d be at a loss without screws.
Someday I’ll be able to move forward into other joinery techniques.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View oscorner's profile


4563 posts in 4274 days

#4 posted 04-28-2007 07:08 PM

I find that brads are helpfull when clamps aren’t possible or when I need to line up a joint with my hand and have something hold it until the glue could set. I like using dowels or mortise and tenon whenever possible, but agree that there are applications that require some type of metal fastener, like certain jigs, picnic tables, etc.

My favorite quick metal faster is sheetrock screws. They work good on plywood and solid wood alike. I’ve used them on most of my jigs and find that they along with glue won’t let go.

-- Jesus is Lord!

View Dick, & Barb Cain's profile

Dick, & Barb Cain

8693 posts in 4263 days

#5 posted 04-28-2007 07:30 PM

There’s not to many ways you can secure a table top without screws.

-- -** You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream ****************** Dick, & Barb Cain, Hibbing, MN.

View Wooder's profile


163 posts in 4150 days

#6 posted 04-29-2007 01:03 AM

Brads, when I need a little “help”, screws when I want a little extra…I do try to be careful and pay attention to metal type. Not many times do I use plain steel fasteners. Usually SS, galz or brass.

Good topic.

-- Jimmy

View WayneC's profile


13753 posts in 4061 days

#7 posted 04-29-2007 01:10 AM

Christopher Schwarz uses cut nails in his video. Anyone know a good source?

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View Ethan Sincox's profile

Ethan Sincox

767 posts in 4137 days

#8 posted 04-29-2007 03:49 AM

Wayne, I believe Rockler has cut nails that you can pick up pretty inexpensively.

Also, one of the first issues of Woodworking Magazine has a great article with tips and techniques (and probably a purchase list) on using cut nails. You can only get it on the CD now, unless you happen to have purchased it when it was out two years ago…

-- Ethan,

View WayneC's profile


13753 posts in 4061 days

#9 posted 04-29-2007 04:09 AM

Thanks Ethan. I will check Rockler next time I am close by. I may have the magazine. I’ll have to check.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View Obi's profile


2213 posts in 4201 days

#10 posted 04-29-2007 04:20 AM

Having been a carpenter for over 30 years, I’ve learned that nails are the worst form of joinery. Maybe fine for framing, siding and general rough carpentry, they have (my opinion) NO PLACE IN FINE FURNITURE. If you need another form of joinery other than glue there are pieces that have lasted Hundreds of years without a single nail. When I need a little extra, I do, however, use pocket hole joinery and screws for things such as face frames in cabinets. For the cabinet backing I have used brad nails just to hold the back on til the glue dries but there is no way that the brads do anything other than hold the plywood in place.

I also use wooden dowels with the holes filled with glue. (Not totally full, but enough to hold the dowels firmly) And having made about 15 tables, I’ve yet to see the glue not hold.

View Phil Brown's profile

Phil Brown

219 posts in 4022 days

#11 posted 04-29-2007 05:21 AM

The advent of the brad nailer has changed the face of fine furniture making.

Having handled thousands of pieces of fine furniture in the moving industry, including national collections of heritage pieces, I’ve had the opportunity to see really fine craftsmanship firsthand.

When I first saw Norm in action, and I love him, he’s a carpenter first I thought, watching all the nails go into his work. I can handle it now because I do it too, but I still think that a craftsman should make fine furniture without nails at some point in time because it can be done. And it should be done to keep craftsmanship alive.

-- Phil Brown, Ontario

View Ethan Sincox's profile

Ethan Sincox

767 posts in 4137 days

#12 posted 04-29-2007 06:34 AM

I don’t know… if cut nails are good enough for Chris Schwarz, I’d say they’re probably good enough for me.

(By the way, Wayne, there’s a great source or two for cut nails for ya!)

-- Ethan,

View WayneC's profile


13753 posts in 4061 days

#13 posted 04-29-2007 06:56 AM

Great article. Thanks Ethan.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View Greg3G's profile


815 posts in 4049 days

#14 posted 04-29-2007 06:59 AM

I occationaly use loose, hand driven nails, cut nails only. Modern nails are made from wire and are round. they have no holding strenth. Cut nails on the other hand by the nature of their shape, actually will hold by wedging in the grain of the wood. A round nail splits the grain and has no real long term holding strenth. Many early peices were made used cut nails in the building process and a good many of them are just as hard to pull today as they were 100 yrs ago.

I have recently made purchased the Krieg pocket hole system I haven’t tried it yet and have decided not to use it on my Thoreson table. I will probably find a project for them late this summer.

I do own a couple of brad/finish nailers. I use the Norm approach when it comes to trim work. I have made an number of book cases with built up crowns and its faster and easier to brad them in place and move on to the next peice than to clamp them up and wait.

Everything has it place, I just haven’t quite figured out what to do wtih the box of wire nails my wife bought me other than to hang pictures.

Just my 2 cents worth.

-- Greg - Charles Town, WV

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4124 days

#15 posted 04-29-2007 11:57 AM

I’m with you, Phil. I have this vision in my head that the masters (of) the wood don’t use nails/screws etc in their masterpieces. But that’s just my vision I guess – kinda like my idea of a master photographer who is able to capture amazing photos without altering the environment, the photo or the subject…

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

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