When driving nails into hard dense recycled wood there are a number of techniques to help you avoid splitting the wood or bending the nails.
The single most important part of driving any nail is to use a suitable hammer. The hammer must be properly beveled since those that are flat ground will bend nails more frequently. Use a hammer that is comfortable for you and concentrate on your aim. Sometimes the head of the hammer becomes quite slippery particularly if you're using galvanized nails. Rubbing the hammer briskly on rough concrete produces many tiny scratches which reduces this slipperiness. A hammer treated in this way will bend fewer nails. I like to hammer straight down onto rough concrete so that my hammer picks up a million little pock marks.
Drilling pilot holes is one obvious answer but not something I do on every old 2x4 since it's time-consuming.
Dulling the end of the nail works well in some situations. A nail which has been hammered slightly on the point will tend to punch its own pilot hole. This isn't as effective as drilling but it's much faster and for softer woods it's quite effective. Sometimes when using this method I will also use dip galvanized nails. These nails often have a chunky and somewhat abrasive surface which tends to open up a path for the nail.
Keep your nails as far as possible from the end of the board since splitting is more likely the closer you get to the end.
Use skinny nails. Quite often nails of a given length are available with a smaller cross-sectional area. Provided you can drive these nails without bending you will produce less splits with a skinny nail.
Use ardox nails. These nails have a twisty spiral profile like a barber pole. As the nail is driven it rotates which presents a different section of nail head pointing at your hammer for each strike. Generally these nails will not bend quite as often as common smooth nails.
Nail into existing holes. If I am reapplying ship lap boards or plywood I'll often nail through the old hole but with a slightly larger nail so that everything fits tightly.
Does anyone have other little tricks to aid in reusing lumber?
Dale your posts are always so timely and imformative . Thanks The only thing that I can add is that repairing the 70 year old bois'darc/Osage barn this week, Ive been pounding pilot holes for spikes with an old hardened punch that has grooved rings at the top to help pry back out. Worked sofar, but only for the big nails.
I dont know if this works or not but ive been told when driving into something like oak or something dip the tips of your nails into oil to help move things along, not sure at to the validity of this method, anyone.??
I've used spit to lubricate many nails and screws. I've proved to myself that it works on screws since often those which are left to dry will break off before they are fully driven. The lubricated ones go all the way in. And that's as scientific as I care to be
I keep a old punch that is about 3/16's diameter around, ground a chisel in it to tap in the wood cross grain. I have as good of luck with that then drilling pilot holes. If it is 3/4" (1x material) I will drive it close to 3/8" deep. I have had good luck on boards with using the head of the nail tapping it in side ways, leaving a cresent shape in the wood, again cross grain, then driving nail in the cresent shape from the head of the nail. Main object is to tear the fiber across so splitting can not happen.
I use Ivory soap to lube nails and screws. Alternatively, a wax toilet bowl ring helps lube up nails and screws.
To keep nails from splitting wood, blunt the ends of your nails or spikes. Just flip them upside down on something hard like concrete, and whack the tip with a single blow, the ail will then pound its way into the wood instead of wedging it apart thus splitting the wood.
Use plywood...it does not split. This is especially useful when making framing lumber connections.
Use a nail gun. They have a smaller diamter head, are driven in by a blast of air in a single shot, and can be adjusted for driving depth. They also provide addional strength because teh nails have glue on them. As they are driven, that glue melts, then adheres making them super solid. Combined with ring shanks and full heads to conform to new hurricane building codes, they have made buildings stronger without anyone really noticing.
Some woods split easily, like Eastern Hemlock, use other woods that do not when you can.
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