Hammering nails is an ancient and tricky skill. It involves a floating arm that’s moving at high velocity, leaving a lot of room for error– not to mention that the target is quite small.
There are also concerns about the material you’re driving through. Its hardness, grain, and knottiness are all things to take into consideration.
Some might think that bolts and screws are the way to go all the time, but this just isn’t true. When framing a building or making something that requires a large amount of fasteners, nails are often the way to go. Also, the use of finish nails on a piece makes for a very clean, polished look.
Here are some tips to help you out when hammering them home.
Get a Cat's Paw
The claw on a hammer can do a fair job for removing most nails, but sometimes stubborn ones can get the best of it. Invest in a cat's paw, which is specifically designed to pull nails.
Choose your Hammer Wisely
If you're buying a hammer, try them out for size. Is it too heavy for you? Is the handle uncomfortable? Consider that you'll be using it for a long time and you'll want the one that suits you.
Hammering Tangential to the Force
Think of your arm and hammer as a lever. It travels in an arc that terminates at the nail. Make sure your hammer is pointed straight and the nail will drive in true.
Grasp the Bottom
Once you have the nail set, keep your hand around the bottom of the handle. Not only is it more stable, but gives you the most leverage when hammering.
Smooth vs. Textured
Textured hammer heads are great because they "bite" the nail better, but will also mar your material once you drive it home. Pick the one that suits the job.
Straighten it Out
As soon as a nail gets bent, tap it back into place with your hammer. The sooner you do this, the more likely it is that you'll save it.
Not only are knots denser than the surrounding wood, but they're also more prone to splitting. Avoid them if you can.
Blunt the Tip to Avoid Splitting
Set that nail on its head and bang it a few times to blunt it. This makes the nail push through rather than split the grain apart.
Stagger Lines of Nails
When setting a row along the grain, going in a straight line can introduce a long split. Stagger positions to avoid this.
Use the Force
To use a basketball metaphor: Don't aim your shot. Once you have a nail set, try to hammer through it using muscle memory.