View Enlarged Image Nails can be made of a variety of metals, but some are intended to be used with specific materials.

The easiest way to fasten two pieces of wood together is with nails. They are manufactured in a variety of shapes, sizes, and metals to complete almost any fastening job. Most commonly, nails are made of steel, but other types -- aluminum, brass, nickel, bronze, copper, and stainless steel -- are available for use where corrosion could occur. In addition, nails are manufactured with coatings -- galvanized, blued, or cemented -- to prevent rusting and to increase their holding power.Nail size is designated by penny size, originally the price per hundred nails. Penny size, almost always referred to as "d," ranges from 2 penny, or 2d (1 inch long), to 60 penny, or 60d (6 inches long). Nails shorter than 1 inch are called brads; nails longer than 6 inches are called spikes. The length of the nail is important, because at least two-thirds of the nail should be driven into the base, or thicker, material. For example, a 1 X 3 nailed to a 4 X 4 beam should be fastened with an 8 penny, or 8d, nail. An 8d nail is 21/2 inches long; 3/4 inch of its length will go through the 1 X 3, and the remaining 13/4 inches will go into the beam.

Nails are usually sold by the pound; the smaller the nail, the more nails to the pound. You can buy bulk nails out of a nail keg; the nails are weighed and then priced by the retailer. Or you can buy packaged nails, sold in boxes ranging from 1 pound to 50 pounds. For most repairs, a few 1-pound boxes of popular nail sizes will last a long time. What follows are some of the most common nail types.

  • Common Nails: Used for most medium to heavy construction work, this type of nail has a thick head and can be driven into tough materials. Common nails are made from wire and cut to the proper length and are available in sizes 2d through 60d.
  • Box Nails: Lighter and smaller in diameter than common nails, box nails are designed for light construction and household use.
  • Finishing Nails: Finishing nails are lighter than common nails and have a small head. They are often used for installing paneling and trim where you do not want the nail head to show.
  • Roofing Nails: Usually galvanized, roofing nails have a much larger head than common nails. This helps to prevent damage to asphalt shingles.
  • Drywall Nails: Nails made for drywall installation are often ringed and have an indented head. Annular-ring nails have sharp ridges all along the nail shaft, providing greater holding power.
  • Masonry Nails: There are three types of masonry nails designed for use with concrete and concrete block: round, square, and fluted. Masonry nails should not be used where high strength is required. Fastening to brick, stone, or reinforced concrete should be made with screws or lag bolts.
  • Tacks: Available in both round and cut forms, tacks are used to hold carpet or fabric to wood. Upholstery tacks have decorative heads.
  • Corrugated Fasteners: Corrugated fasteners, also called wiggly nails, are used for light-duty joints where strength is not important. The fasteners are set at right angles to the joint.

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