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InspectAPedia tolerates no conflicts of interest. We have no relationship with advertisers, products, or services discussed at this website. This article series describes antique and modern cut nails focusing on tree nails, wrought nails, and cut nails used in wood frame construction or interior finishing or carpentry work. It includes useful dates for the manufacture of different nail types. Page top photo: sprites. A physical examination of old or antique nails and fasteners and other building hardware combined with questions about the country, city, and building or other location where the nails were found can offer clues to the probable age and original purpose of the old nail or spike.
Dating iron nails
Any sizeable Roman fortress would have its ' fabrica ' or workshop where the blacksmiths would fashion the metal items needed by the army. They left behind 7 tons of nails at the fortress of Inchtuthil in Perthshire. For nail making, iron ore was heated with carbon to form a dense spongy mass of metal which was then fashioned into the shape of square rods and left to cool. The metal produced was wrought iron.
After re-heating the rod in a forge, the blacksmith would cut off a nail length and hammer all four sides of the softened end to form a point. Then the nail maker would insert the hot nail into a hole in a nail header or anvil and with four glancing blows of the hammer would form the rosehead a shallow pyramid shape.
This shape of nail had the benefit of four sharp edges on the shank which cut deep into timber and the tapered shank provided friction down its full length. The wood fibres would often swell if damp and bind round the nail making an extremely strong fixing.
NAIL CHRONOLOGY: THE USE OF TECHNOLOGICALLY DERIVED FEATURES 81 with wrought iron's longitudinal striations (Figure Though small quantities of steel have been made for millennia, large scale mass production of steel began in the late s with the adop tion of a modified Bessemer process. Until theFile Size: 2MB. The history of NAIL MAKING (this page contains the substance of an article entitled 'Traditional Cut Nails - worth preserving?' written in May at the request of, and for inclusion in, the RICS Building Conservation Journal). Imagine the limited aspirations of the first pre-bronze age constructor to join two pieces of wood with a sharp implement. The earliest-date of different styles of nails, hand-wrought nails, cut nails, machine cut nails, and machine made round or wire nails depends on the country where the nails were manufactured and for large countries like Australia, the U.S. or Canada, also on the spread of nail making equipment across the country.
In Tudor times, we have evidence that the nail shape had not changed at all as can be seen by the nails found preserved in a barrel of tar on board the 'Mary Rose' - the Tudor flag ship of Henry VIII built in and recovered from the mud of the Solent in It was not until around that the first machine for making nails appeared, but that tended really to automate much of the blacksmith's job. The 'Oliver' - a kind of work-bench, equipped with a pair of treadle operated hammers - provided a mechanism for beating the metal into various shapes but the nails were still made one at a time.
Eventually, in the USA, towards the late 's and early 's, a nail machine was devised which helped to automate the process. This machine had essentially three parts. Flat metal strips of around two feet mm in length and the width slightly larger than the nail length was presented to the machine.
The first lever cut a triangular strip of metal giving the desired width of the nail, the second lever held the nail in place while the third lever formed the head. These nails are known as cut nails. Because the nail up until then was handmade, the first machines were naturally designed to re-produce the same shape of product - a square tapered nail with a rosehead, but only tapered down two sides of the shank.
The cut nail was produced in large numbers and various other shapes were devised to suit different purposes. In the heartlands of the industrial revolution, many nail factories had row upon row of these nail machines and the incessant clatter from them created a deafening sound.
This old photograph from the early 's shows a typical nail shop - notice the machines are pulley driven. But still, the process was labour intensive with a man or woman attending each machine.
By the start of the 's, the first coils of steel round wire were produced and quickly machines were designed to use this new raw material.
The first automatically produced wire nails with no human intervention other than to set up the machine immediately showed that this was the way to produce a cheaper nail.
The fact that the nail had a round parallel shank that had up to four times less holding power didn't matter so much. Thinner timbers were being used in construction and other forms of fastening were becoming available if a strong fixing was needed.
The wire nail quickly became the nail of choice as it is today because of its price and the cut nail's day was numbered. In the 21st century, the nail making process through the ages is now being used by the restoration industry to help to establish when a building was built.
A Tacky Little History of Iron Nails
Hand made nails suggest the building was built before Cut nails suggest the building was built between and the early 's. Wire nails will be found in a building put up in the period from then to date.
There is currently an enormous interest in preserving our heritage and much of that heritage is in the shape of the buildings that remain as evidence of a bygone age. Knowing how iron corrodes and what colors of rust are formed, helps us tell what types of nails were used even if the original nail is missing.
The 30 second nail - How to forge rose head clinch nails - Full tool making tutorial
When an early wrought iron nail corrodes, or rusts, it leaves a black stain in the wood around the nail hole. The extent and penetration of discoloration caused by either type of rust depends on the type of wood and where a piece has been used or stored. Some woods, like oak, have very strong natural acids and tend to produce deeply saturated stains.
Be sure that the condition of the nail matches the surrounding wood. It is a common practice for forgers to combine old wood and old hardware-including nails-from several genuinely old derelict pieces to make one "good" piece. If the wood around the nail head is blackened, then the nail should be blackened too. Removing a rusty nail from rust-free wood is a danger signal that should cause immediate suspicion. You should never base your evaluation of a piece on one piece of evidence alone.
The presence of hand forged nails is not a guarantee of age by itself.
Analyzing nails, nail holes and the type of nails used in various locations is just one step in gathering information upon which to base your decision of age and condition.
Early forged nails salvaged from old pieces and modern reproductions shaped like early nails are easily obtained. A healthy skepticism is your best defense against a fake. Sold as "collector's items". Look for hand hammered surfaces, irregular heads and shanks. As the tip of the nail passes, cells spring back putting pressure on the nail B.
This pressure holds the nail in place and makes it difficult to withdraw. Heads were formed by hammering to complete the finished nail D. Flat head common nails top and bottom are for general use; modern finishing nail, center. They are the round hea a general purpose nail and the flat T- head used as a finishing nail in cabinetry and other detailed pieces.
Such a seam would never appear in a hand forged nail or a machine cut nail with forged head. Notice rough gritty surface texture instead of hammered surface on forged nails. Shown about 3X actual size. This example shown about 3X actual size. In general, virtually all cast nails are of recent manufacture.
Nails as clues to age. Newer nails made of iron with higher carbon leave red/brown rust stains in the wood. The extent and penetration of discoloration caused by either type of rust depends on the type of wood and where a piece has been used or stored. Some woods, like oak, have very strong natural acids and tend to produce deeply saturated.
Large arrow shows black stain where original nail was for many years. Large arrow points to blackened area left by early original nail. These new nails are cast in molds.
Look for mold seams and grinding marks which never appear on authentic early nails. These were at first made entirely by hand. Later, a machine cut the flat shanks and the heads were formed by hand.
Page top photo: sprites. A physical examination of old or antique nails and fasteners and other building hardware combined with questions about the country, city, and building or other location where the nails were found can offer clues to the probable age and original purpose of the old nail or spike. The earliest-date of different styles of nails, hand-wrought nails, cut nails, machine cut nails, and machine made round or wire nails depends on the country where the nails were manufactured and for large countries like Australia, the U.
Nelson NPS and other nail chronologists point out, however that a wealth other details can describe the date of production and use of each of those three general nail types. In turn, nail details can establish the time of original construction of a building and the time of modifications to the structure. In addition to nails, building material, wood saw cut marks, and other hardware details can further assist in determining building age. Where was the nail, spike, tack found: Country, city, building, lake, river or stream For example the the first mass produced nails appeared in Europe in the s; The First Nail Making Machines appeared in Europe around as Slitting Mills.
Keep in mind that nails were often imported from one area to another. For example in North America nails were imported to the Colonies from Europe. So you may find a machine made nail in an area where there was no nail making machinery at all.
How to Identify the Age of Furniture by the Nails
If the nail was found in a building, what is the age of the building and when were renovations or additions made to the building? Also what type of building was it: home, barn, commercial structure, deck, wharf, ship, boat, or even an antique aircraft? Take a look at this little antique cut-nail - it's twisted so you may be fooled but this is a machine made but small cut nail.
Now if this lath scrap is, for example, from an old house I restored at 28 West St. Civil War, perhaps to about Incidentally if you look closely you'll see the saw cut kerf marks faintly visible on this wood lath.
After making what use you can of surrounding mud, dirt, debris to understand the nail's context and history, get the crud off to get a better look at the nail.
Earliest hand-wrought spikes and nails appeared principally in wood frame construction; later nails were also used for decorative purposes, nailed in patterns, for example. A look at saw cuts on wood, for example can date when the lumber was manufactured. Earlier nails were often larger spikes used to replace treenails in post and beam or other wood construction; later smaller hand made nails appear even for use in securing wood lath for plaster walls.
Example: ask when plaster was first used in the area where your hand wrought or cut wood-lath nails were used. Early small nails: - Blanchard Tack Making Machine - Is the head round and flat modernround and hammered antique to modernor obviously irregular and hand-wrought? Is the shank obviously hand wrought with hammer marks? Is the nail shank obviously cut with straight or straight-tapered sides?
If the nail or spike was cut, are the cut marks on diagonally opposite sides of the nail?
Dating a building with Nails. Before Hand-Wrought Nails; Early Machine Cut Nails (Crude) Early Machine Headed Cut Nails; Modern Machine Cut Nails (source of the illustration above: Thomas D Visser - "Nails: Clues to a Building's History" - See also his book "Field Guide to New England Barns and Farm Buildings"). How to Identify the Age of Furniture by the Nails. Iron ore and carbon heated together and then cooled created wrought iron, from which a nail length piece . >Antique Nails: History & Photo Examples of Old Nails Help Determine Age of a Structure Building hardware age: door & window hardware, knobs, latches, hinges, & screws & nails. This article describes and illustrates antique & modern hardware: door knobs, latches, hinges, window latches, hardware, nails & screws can help determine a building's age by noting how those .
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