Fixing wood to wood

Claw hammer and the cross-pein, or ‘Warrington’. The first is useful for levering out old nails and lifting floorboards while the second is more suited to finer nailing work.

If you are starting a tool kit, opt for a 450g claw hammer and a 280g Warrington. Later, you can add a 100g ‘pin’ Warrington for light, accurate nailing and pinning.

Nails and screws are the two most important fastening devices used in carpentry, but how well they do their job depends almost entirely on how correctly they are used.

For burying nails below the surface of the wood, you need a set of nail punches. These come in various sizes – to suit different sizes of nail – and help to avoid bruising the wood with the hammer head.

Some kind of drill is essential for screwing work. A power drill is the obvious choice because of its versatility but where there are no power points or access is limited, a wheel brace may prove invaluable.

Together with a set of woodworking twist drills, these two tools should take care of most small and medium sized screwing jobs. To drill larger holes by hand, you need a swing brace and a set of special bits – not a priority for the beginner’s basic tool kit.

For screw holes into softwood below No. 6 gauge (3.5mm) and for rough work, a bradawl can be used instead of the drill and bit.

Good quality screwdrivers are essential to any tool kit and cabinet screwdrivers, with blades of about 300mm, are the most useful. Two of them – one with an 8mm tip and one with a 6.5mm tip – should cover you for most jobs. To deal with crosshead, Philips or Posidriv screws, you need screwdrivers with the appropriate tips.

Ratchet and pump-action screwdrivers are also available. Hut although they often save time and effort, they are by no means essential.

Using a hammer

Using a hammer properly requires a little bit of practice. Take a firm grip at the end of the handle and form your arm into a right-angle, looking straight down on the work as you do so. Start the nail by tapping it lightly, keeping your wrist controlled but flexible and letting the hammer head do the work. Increase the power of your stroke slightly as the nail goes in but at no time let your arm waver – if you do, you will either miss, or bend, the nail.

On well-finished work, remember not to drive nails right in – leave a bit protruding for the hammer and nail punch to finish off.

Start light nails or tacks with the cross-pein by tapping gently with the wedge end of the hammer head. Drive them home with the hammer face using a number of fairly gentle taps rather than trying to knock them in with one blow, which will probably bend the nail. Very short nails can be held with a pair of thin-nosed pliers until they stand on their own.

Hammer faces should be kept clean, smooth and free from grease: a slippery or damaged hammer causes accidents. If possible, polish your hammer heads on a piece of medium emery cloth before use.

Nailing techniques

For accurate, well-finished work, nails alone do not normally make a strong joint. However, if the nails are angled in opposition to each other, a reasonable joint can be made. When used in conjunction with one of the modern, woodworking adhesives, a very strong joint can be achieved. Seldom are nails driven straight – a stronger joint can be made if they go in at an angle or skew.

When nailing two pieces of wood together, nail the smaller to the larger. Avoid nailing into hardwoods altogether: if you must, drill a pilot hole first, slightly smaller than the shank of the nail.

Removing nails

The claw hammer is used to remove partially driven nails. To avoid damaging the surface of the wood, place a small offcut under the hammer head before you start levering. Extract nails with a number of pulls rather than trying to do the job in one.

Use pincers to remove small nails and pins which are difficult to grip with the claw hammer – a nail without a head, for example.

If a nail is impossible to remove, punch it below the surface of the wood and use filler to cover the hole, or carefully chip away some of the wood around the head until you can get a grip on the nail head with a pair of pincers.

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