I was an outlier in an arcane art- hammering. Mostly nails, but I busted a lot of things with a hammer and have driven many stakes and fence posts.I can tap down the concave in Japanese chisels and plane blades.I can peen bolts to hold forever and set saddle rivets. I’ve driven a few nails in hooves and hammer forged tools and implements in iron and steel.
I own dozens of hammers; from 10 pound mauls with 30″ fiberglass handles to 200-year-old upholsterer’s tack hammers. 28 oz waffle faced framing hammers and rig axes. Shake axes and dry wall hatchets. Ball peen hammers of all weights. Shot filled, rubber and wooden mallets. Steel handled Estwings and a nifty Tim Allen with a wooden doe foot handle. Curved claw and ripping claw. Shop sledges with jury rigged pipe handles and a 22 oz trim hammer on which I fit an 18″ hatchet handle.
I have hammers with friction grooves, magnets and spring-loaded ball bearing gizmos designed to allow the mechanic to start the nail with an awkward reach. While I eschew novelty hammers- I’ve driven more than a few staples with the hammer on a fence tool.
My grandfather taught me to drive nails in workbench top projects in a front moving circular method that I’ve never seen anyone else use and only use as a trick.
I taught myself to swing a sledge and a maul when my mother decided to stop paying for split firewood. (I also became adept at putting new handles on these instruments of destruction).
I installed kitchens with nails before there were cheap electric screw guns and cheaper phillips head screws.
I’ve driven Jesus Spikes on log cabins and pushed wire brads into picture frames.
I set a million roofing nails w/ one tap in a million 3-tab shingles and the same goes for 8dHG’s on cedar shake roofs, masonite siding and T111.
I know how to shake roof barbs in a stripper and I can bundle and align a handful of commons while lighting a cigarette.
I know 6d on cedar shingle siding and 4d on asbestos siding.
I’ve hammered the driver on flooring machines to cover an acre.
I still feed nails with an odd under hand hold that has my fingernails towards the work which exposes less chance of busting a fingernail. (Another aside I believe in and use the practice of melting through a fingernail with a red hot nail to relieve a blood blister.)
When I started framing houses, California style, it was all about driving 3 1/4″ 16d (penny) Cement Coated Box nails– box nails have a smaller shank than common nails. Like the big boys I could soon knock them home with one swipe. I pioneered, or invented, the technique of simultaneously driving two framing nails to pull crowned boards into alignment. There are dozens of guys who would still think of me when they use this trick I taught – if anyone still used nails.
I drove thousands of pounds of finish nails into trim. Turning the point to cut and not split was second nature to me. I could drive a nail flush without leaving pecker tracks and bring a nail set into play without fumbling the nails in my hand. Someone taught me the trick of setting the head of a common nail on exterior work with the head of another nail held sideways and extended that technique to breaking the skin on hardboard siding. I figured out it is more effective to clip the points off nails, rather than try to blunt them for a board end where splitting is a concern. I’d like to think there are dozens of carpenters who still carry Klines after seeing that trick.
I dumped a handful of clothes washing powder into 50# boxes of framing and drywall nails to make them easier to set. I greased trim nails with soap, wax and in a pinch by rubbing a 4d along the side of my nose, or an 8d through my hair. I now know this lubing significantly effects the nails holding power.
When I first hung drywall blue ring shank nails were the only way to go. The first nails I drove into concrete were cut nails.
I was partial to Plumb brand wooden handled hammers- steel gave me tennis elbow.
Now 90% of nailing on a job of any size is done with tools using pneumatics, gas combustion, electric battery or powder.
Better yet half the assemblies are now screwed together.
My pride in this skill is the same some old boy felt in 1911 because he was adept with a buggy whip.
It ain’t just me
- Nailed It! Hammer Solves An Age-Old Handyman Problem (fastcodesign.com)
- Hammers and Quality (jamesladams.typepad.com)
- What Happens When You Hammer A Nail Into A Nokia Lumia? (NOK) (businessinsider.com)
- If I Had a Hammer WP Daily Prompt