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Nails 101 - Nail Sizes and Types Around the Home

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Nails 101 - An Introduction
Nails 101 - Nail Sizes and Types Around the Home

Pick the right nail for the job at hand

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Introduction to Nail Types and Sizing
The hammer and nail. Like peanut butter and chocolate, it's a timeless combination that has been around forever.

Although a hammer and nail may seem like a fool proof and simple set of tools, they both require an understanding of technique and application. Just as hammers require an understanding for proper use, nails are similar in that they have specific applications for proper use. Using the wrong nail for the job can cause damage to the wood and lack holding power. In this tutorial we'll look at each of the major nail types you may run into with your home repair projects including:

  • cut
  • common
  • box
  • duplex
  • annular ring / drywall
  • masonry
  • brad
  • finish
  • casing
  • roofing

How are nails sized?
You've seen how nail sizes are referred often to 10d or 16d and so on. The number and "d" suffix is called the "Penny" system. The English penny (or pence) used to be designated with a "d" representing the first letter of the Roman coin denarius.

One school of thought says that since nails used to be sold by the hundred, the small nails cost less since they weighed less and a hundred two-penny nails cost twopence, a hundred eight-penny nails cost eightpence and so on.

The other school of thought says that the "d" also represented the English unit of weight being a pound. One thousand nails of the same size would be weighed and if they weighed say, 6 pounds, then they were classified as six-penny nails, likewise one thousand nails weighing 16 pounds were sixteen-penny nails.

Today the penny system only refers to nail length; a 2d nail is 1" long. Each higher number in the penny system represents a 1/4" length increase up to a 12d nail (l3-1/4"). After the 12d nail, the penny system does not have a clearly defined relationship to length.

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