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About Nails 101

Nails are something that we take for granted in this age of plenty that we live in, I remember my grandad sitting in the shop spending a rainy afternoon straightening used rusty nails some sixty years ago. He said we were lucky to have pails full of nails and would recount how at one time, when nails were made by hand, buildings would be purchased and demolished just to acquire the nails.

Now with modern manufacturing methods nails are a very minor factor in the cost of building a project, the only carry over from the old days is the "penny nail" size definition, which was the price per one hundred nails. This is abbreviated to "d", from the Roman coin Denarius, hence plans call for 3d nails ( pronounced 3 penny). Below is a chart giving the length in inches, and aproximate number per pound of the most common sizes.

nail conversion chart

To convert sizes up to 10 d, take the length you want, subtract 1/2", then multipy by 4. For example a 2 1/2" long nail would work out to 2 1/2" - 1/2" is 2 X 4 equals 8 d, conversely divide size by four and add 1/2, so 6d diveded by 4 is 1 1/2 plus 1/2 = 2"

Types of Nails



Similar to a finishing nail but with a tapered head, used to fasten trim and moldings.


common nail

This nail is used in the framing of houses and other buildings, they are available in bright for interior use and galvanized for exterior use.


concrete nail

These are very hard nails, used to fasten wood to concrete.


drywall nail

Slowly being replaced by screws for attaching drywall.


duplex nail

Double-headed nail for easy removal, use for temporary braces, scaffolding etc. where a good solid nail is required.


finishing nail

These nails have a small head which can be sunk, then the hole is filled so the nails are no longer visable.


ring nail

The rings on the nails prevent them from loosening, used for nailing plywood on floors and decks.


roofing nail

Used for asphalt shingles or rolled roofing.


shingle nail

Used for tapered wooden shingles.


spiral nail

These nails are used where extra holding strength is required, the nail turns as it is driven in similar to a screw.
Did You Know

Blunting the end of a nail will often prevent it from splitting the wood, a sharp point tends to separate the fibers of the wood causing it to split, the blunt end shears the fibres as the nail is driven.

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