Friday, May 8, 2009

Tough as Nails

Nail making was a common part of life in an early 19th century shop. Factory produced “cut nails” were made in Massachusetts and New York. They could be made very efficiently, but the cost of shipping the nails to rural villages kept hand-forged nails competitive for some uses. Hand-forged nails were more easily clinched and were preferred for shoeing horses and for items like doors.

When making nails, the smith starts by heating a rod of “nail-stock.”
This bar is then forged at the anvil to a smooth taper. That forms the body of the nail. A thick area is squared up and scored with a hardy (chisel). The nail is then snapped off the bar into a header, and the smith hammers down on it to make the head. It can take between 30 seconds and several minutes to make a nail. Smaller nails are faster to forge, while large nails may need to be heated in the forge several times before they are done.The importance of the nail and nail making is still reflected in our speech. We try to work efficiently, without “too many irons in the fire.” You may be, “as tough as nails," and still fail at a task, “for want of a nail.” You can even be so mad you “chew nails and spit tacks”! Now that we have the making of this humble item “nailed down,” perhaps we will all give it a little more respect!


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  2. I am having so much fun reading through your blog posts. They are so interesting and useful as I work away at my historical novel, my 13th published book! Thank you for this very helpful resource! Love your blog!


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