Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Hit the Nail on the Head!

The blacksmith shop at The Farmers' Museum follows tradition and makes its own tools. When Mr. Field built our shop in 1827, tool making was a normal part of a blacksmiths’ craft. We continue that today. One tool not often seen, but needed in our shop, is the nail header. A nail header is an iron bar with a tapered square or rectangular hole in it. It is used to hold the tapered square nail while the blacksmith flattens a head on the top. This finishes the nail. Since nails are made in many different thicknesses we make a variety of nail headers to hold them.
Nail headers of many sizes and style are used in the shop. We are making one in a late Colonial/early American style. It is made with a body of wrought iron and a smaller cap of hard steel welded to the face. The face is then punched with the hole needed for finishing the nail. We have about a dozen nail headers and many more used to make bolts and other hardware.


  1. Do you ever make nail header for sale? I'm looking for 3/16 or smaller

  2. Frontier Carpenter,
    We might be able to do that. Why don't you call my voice mail and I will call you back.



  3. Hi. I worked briefly with an English smith a few years ago and I was sure we used a header with a round hole. Is there a reason not to use a round hole, like the material getting stuck? By the way I like the hard face welded on, nice touch.
    Ciarán, Ireland

  4. Ciaran,

    Ours are square or rectangular, as we are usually making "clinch" nails or doornails! I'd love to see pictures of nail making tools used by other smiths! Square holed headers can be sticky for the first 50 nails, but after a couple of hundred nails they are as smooth as silk!


  5. I second Ciarán post....

    Please consider making some in a few different sizes. Im a professional armourer and budding period woodwright and I dabble in blacksmithing but there are times when I leave some things to folks who've done those things enough to have it down to natural science.


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