still used to denote a condition of intense and feverish industry.

Hand-forged nails were made from soft, fine iron of a very good quality. They were strong and tough: they bent easily but did not break. The density of texture produced by intense heat and hand-forging made them extremely resistant to rust and dampness. They were the honest productions of an honest age. Where modern cut-iron nails disintegrate in twenty-five years of exposure, some of these hand-forged nails are intact after a century and a half of similar conditions. From the oak timbers of old houses, I have often pulled nails which still had upon them the blue scale which all hand-forged iron possesses. As no two handmade articles are ever exactly alike, so each hand-forged nail is slightly different from any other. They were made in a wide variety, from the large spikes used in ship-building to the tiny brads for fastening the escutcheons on furniture. They were made with a number of different kinds of head, and either sharp or flattened points—depending on their intended purpose. Dozens of names identified the different sorts: rose, clasp, deck, clout, counter-clout, clench, cooper, dog, and horseshoe. The two sorts of large hand-forged nails which were most commonly used on our furniture were both made with long, sharp points, and square shanks. One variety had a round head, showing irregular marks of the hammer; the other a flattened or folded head. The smaller hand-forged nails, or brads, used for fastening moldings and brasses often had a very small head, while the small nails used for the application of H, HL, and butterfly hinges had large circular heads. The points, when the nails were thus used were clinched and turned back into the wood. All of these hand-forged nails were of tough metal, bent easily, and did not break when clinched. (Plate 30).

Hand-forged tacks had every appearance of tiny hand-forged nails. They were, of course, made in a variety of sizes, with both large and small heads, on which marks of the hammer often appeared. Their points were very sharp, and the iron used in their making was of fine quality.

Toward the end of the eighteenth century and early in the nineteenth, our native inventive genius devoted much attention to the production of nails by machinery, and dozens of patents, mostly by New England inventors, were recorded for machines to produce cut-iron nails. The first patent was granted to Ezekiel Reed of Bridgewater, Massachusetts, in 1786, for a "cut-nail machine"; and within twenty years the old hand-forging methods had been pretty thoroughly displaced by the automatic machines. The new cut nails, or, as they were sometimes then called, "cold nails," were made of the same fine iron that had been used in the hand-forged nails and they were strong and durable, although they lacked the toughness and consolidation of material which come with intense heat and hand-forging.

The cut-nail machines worked rapidly, and their product could be sold at one-third of the price of the hand-forged nails; hence, as has often occurred, a very superior but costly handmade device was displaced by the less worthy but cheaper product of a machine.

Cut-iron nails, like hand-forged nails, were made in many varieties, large and small, but the major part of the larger sizes were made square on the point. These nails were driven with the widest part of the shank set parallel with the grain of the wood, so that the square end punched out a cross-section of the fibre, and splitting was thus obviated. Cut-iron nails were somewhat used until within the last generation, but at the present time wire nails have apparently quite supplanted them.

When we attempt to date furniture by the type of nails employed in its construction, we cannot reasonably date any piece made with machine-made cut nails very much back of 1790. However, if a piece is constructed with real hand-


Was this article helpful?

0 0
How To Have A Perfect Boating Experience

How To Have A Perfect Boating Experience

Lets start by identifying what exactly certain boats are. Sometimes the terminology can get lost on beginners, so well look at some of the most common boats and what theyre called. These boats are exactly what the name implies. They are meant to be used for fishing. Most fishing boats are powered by outboard motors, and many also have a trolling motor mounted on the bow. Bass boats can be made of aluminium or fibreglass.

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment