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Thread: Blacksmith made nails - fair price

  1. #1

    Blacksmith made nails - fair price

    I ran across some really well-made blacksmith nails. They are 2 1/2 inches long, so I guess that's about eight penny.

    Any idea about a fair price for something like that?

  2. #2
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  3. #3
    Tom thanks! I currently use the Tremonts as they are the best U.S. made cut nails that I know of.

    The nails that I'm looking at are individually hand made by a blacksmith. There's quite a difference between the mass produced Tremonts and the individually hand made ones, and the price may be a reflection of that.

    I was wondering if anyone uses the handmade nails and if so, what kind of price is fair? I have a photo of an 8 penny one but I can't get it to load from my phone.

  4. #4
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    If you search of hand forged nails you should fine an article by CS in Popular Wood Working. There in he states that he was buying hand forged nails for $1.50 each. This is in 2012.

  5. #5
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    The Tremont nails are really boat nails. They have very thick shanks that are nearly impossible to gracefully clench,without destroying and cracking the wood around them clear through the wood. Their heads are really all the same since they are struck with the same die.

    The nails made in the Anderson Blacksmith shop are drawn out into a long,sharp tip. Tremon nails have thick,squared off ends. They are only good for heavy timber work.

    I used to make good,easily clenched nails out of horse shoe nails. They have large heads with plenty of metal in them to form into a good size nail head. They are thin in one dimension,making them easy to neatly clench. I made a nail header,and easily hammered their heads cold into good,hand ,made looking nails. Hand made nails should have 4 facets forged onto their heads. Equal size looking(as forging goes). Then,I heated the nails with a Mapp gas torch to give them a blackish,forged finish.

    The tool box I made has butterfly hinges with PROPERLY CLENCHED nails. First you bend the tips at 90 degrees. Then hammer the shank down flat into the wood so the nail forms a staple. And,you do not have any sharp ended nails to catch on your clothing or cut yourself on by accident. This is the proper way to clench a nail. Not proper is making the nail look like a mis shapen puddle of spaghetti as seen on a well known TV show.

    I could have avoided hammering the nails clear flush into the wood,which did cause some cracking around the edges of the nails BUT NOT CLEAR THROUGH THE WOOD!). But,this is the front flap of my pattern maker's style tool chest,and the lid must close FLUSH with the mahogany drawers at the front of the chest. The pattern of clenching does not have to be perfect(after all,this was supposed to look hand made),but should be neat and WORKMAN LIKE. The butterfly hinges are hand made,too,and left with the forged finish,as were the originals in the 18th. C..
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    Last edited by george wilson; 06-02-2016 at 8:32 AM.

  6. #6
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    George, thanks for the interesting, detailed post.....except one thing....."I made a nail header". I can imagine what one looks like but could you post a picture of what you made? I suspect your approach is way simpler that what I am thinking!

  7. #7
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    I left my nail header at work,unfortunately. But,it is easy to make one. Take a 1" long piece of 1" diameter drill rod,either W1 or 01 will do. Drill a hole in the center clear through the drill rod. Make the hole just large enough to let the shank of the nail stick through it. You will need to put a dome into the top of the header. A lathe is the easy way,but you can grind a dome into it or,failing everything,spend an afternoon filing a dome into it. The dome is important. It will keep the edges of the nail head from not going down flat against the wood when you drive them all the way in. Make no mistake. Dome your header! Heat the domed header up orange hot and quench in water or just vegetable oil if it is 01. Then,polish the dome and carefully and slowly heat the header up to a DARK BROWN color. Then,it will still be pretty hard,but not so brittle that it will crack when you are hammering a nail in it. THIS HEAT TREATMENT IS VERY IMPORTANT. Your header won't last long unless it is hardened and tempered like I said.

    Now,I mean that the hole needs to be drilled through the center of one of the ROUND ends of your drill rod. Nail headers are best welded onto a length of flat stock to hold onto while you beat the nail head into shape. But if you cannot weld a handle on(which is made of SOFT steel),you can file some flat spots on the sides of the round drill rod so that you can clamp the header in a machinist's vise. The vise needs to be a decent size one or it may break while you are hammering on the header. You can make out without a vise if you have the long handle in the header.

    Horse shoe nails come in several sizes(which I can't remember what the numbers are) They range on down to "pony" nails,which are about 1 1/2" long. You'll have to order them through the internet unless you know a farrier(a horse shoer) near you. The nails are made for clenching over where they emerge from the horse's foot(which is really the highly evolved BIG TOENAIL) of the horse. They get up on their toes to run faster,and nature has thus made them so. Anyway,the heads of the nails are also very soft,and easily hammered out into a rose head nail. If you Google horseshoe nail size chart, a size chart of these nails can easily be found. I just got what they had in the museum's warehouse,and never looked at the size nail. We only have large carriage horses in Williamsburg.
    Last edited by george wilson; 06-04-2016 at 1:05 PM.

  8. #8
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    You can buy shoeing nails in Tractor Supply, if you don't want to order them.

    I have a couple of hundred pounds of old hand forged nails saved from old houses I've worked on. I've found great variation in them, from one house to the other. Some, from one place, will part into many layers if bent, and you can't reuse them. Others from somewhere else can be straightened back from being bent, and easily driven into hard wood. I don't know anything about what makes one "better" than the other.

  9. #9
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    You can also buy blacksmith made nail headers. I just Googled "Nail header for sale" and found several sources. One I checked out was $35.00. no biggie.

    Thanks,Tom,I should have thought of that!

    Nails used to be pretty valuable. In Jamestown 1607,the Governor had to pass a law forbidding people from burning houses down "For the nails". Fire was the most feared thing in small,closely packed communities like Jamestown. They had no good way of putting fires out. Even fire engines of the time(which Jamestown didn't have) required bucket brigades to keep them filled with water. And,people would not help fight your fire unless they were paid. Benjamin Franklin started the first fire insurance business. If you paid,you'd get a brass plate to put on your door to identify you as having fire insurance. Then,the fire "department"(organization is a better term) would help put out the fire.

    Tom,as you may know,wrought iron is full of layers of silica,and looks much like wood when it gets well rusted. It can fall apart if bent. Some brands of wrought iron were better that others. Swedish "hoop iron" was considered the best. It was made from iron smelted with charcoal. The English used coal,and did not know that the sulfur in it made their iron inferior. But,the English did not have the vast forests that Sweden had. Swedish iron was often made from nodules of iron at the bottom of a lake collected by men in boats using nets with long handles. The lake was fairly shallow. I have forgotten the name.

    At least in cities,nailmakers were usually women. It was a trade light enough to be considered suitable for them.. They developed big muscles like their male counterparts,and from some contemporary reports were a pretty surly bunch.
    Last edited by george wilson; 06-04-2016 at 2:05 PM.

  10. #10
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    I was offered an "1830 barn" if I would come take it down, and clean the site up. Of course, I didn't waste much time going to look. At first look, there was nothing there that indicated 1830. The Yellow Pine looked more like buildings I'd seen that were built in the 1930s. The owner said, "Yeah, but look at the nails. They're all old." Around some of the nails high in the corners, there were still traces of black soot close around the nails. I figured the old barn had probably burnt down, and the only parts left of it were the nails, which were reused in hard times.

    edited to add: The barn was on a farm where it was known that the house was built in 1830-actually by the Brother of my Second Great Grandfather. There was a barn shown in crude drawings for property tax in the mid 19th Century, so that's why the owners thought the barn was that old.
    Last edited by Tom M King; 06-04-2016 at 4:12 PM.

  11. #11
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    An alternative are the French die forged nails, now also available through Lie Nielsen. Overhere in Europe they are available for a long time allready and I used them on several occasions. Maybe not quite as nice as a real forged nail, but a good compromise.

  12. #12
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    I tried googling them,but had no luck actually getting prices for them. One source listed prices,but did not say how many nails you'd get for the price mentioned.

    As far as I can see,I'd certainly like the French nails better than those clunky Tremont nails that have been the standby for many years.

  13. #13
    I really like those nails. Nice to know that LN will have them. I bought some from Dictum, DHL shipping was the cheapest, but still very steep, it was worth it though. These nails are easier to clench than Tremont and in Pine they even do not need much of a pilot hole, I just use awl.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kees Heiden View Post
    An alternative are the French die forged nails, now also available through Lie Nielsen. Overhere in Europe they are available for a long time allready and I used them on several occasions. Maybe not quite as nice as a real forged nail, but a good compromise.

  14. #14
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    Here is the link from LN: https://www.lie-nielsen.com/nodes/4258/home

    I read about it on Chris Schwarz blog and stored the info in some obscure corner of my brain.

  15. #15
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    I visited that site,Kees,but HOW MANY nails do you get for the price listed???????

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