Fixings and fittings for woodworking

To assemble woodwork constructions, joints, glues, mechanical fixings and numerous fittings are needed. The most common fixing is the nail.

Wire nails are usually made from mild steel, but other metals are used for special purposes such as brass, gun metal or copper for boatbuilding. Diameter of the nail is referred to as the gauge, and nails are sold by weight. Panel pins

These are used in light woodworking and cabinet making. Thin nails, with small heads that are easily punched below the surface, they are obtainable from 13 mm Ok in to 51 mm long.


These are oval in section, with small heads easily punched below the surface. The oval section helps to prevent splitting of thin wood, especially near edges. They are made in many sizes and have many applications in general woodworking.


This is a round nail with a large head. Invariably galvanised to prevent rusting, they are used mainly for fixing roofing felt and similar fabrics to sheds and outbuildings, or underfelts and other membranes before tiling or slating roofs.

Round heads

These are sometimes known as wire nails or French nails. Heads are not usually punched in as they are designed to take much of the load and in many constructions the nail heads are not objectional. The chance of splitting wood being fixed is greatly reduced if the point is nipped off a wire nail or pin, or if the head is placed on an iron mass while the point is given a direct tap with a hammer. The nails then tend to punch a hole through the wood rather than force the fibres apart.


Usually available from 13 mm long and with a blued finish to prevent rusting, they have round heads for gripping fabrics such as upholstery materials or carpets. To make ‘starting’ easier, tacks have fine, needle-like points. A very thin type of tack, also used for upholstering, is called a gimp pin.

Upholstery nails

About 19 mm long, they have a large, domed head, are usually made of steel and electro-brassed to provide a decorative effect and are used to fix finishing edges or strips in upholstery

Hardboard pins

These are thin, square section copper or cadmium coated pins ig with diamond shaped ‘lost head’, easily punched in for stopping.

Escutcheon pin

This is a small, domed head nail, usually brass, for pinning small metal plates to a surface.


Generally, screws provide a stronger fixing than do nails, but are more expensive and more preparation is required. Screws are the usual means of securing brassware, ironmongery and other fittings. They are made in various metals, of which by far the most common is mild steel, followed by brass. They are also available in stainless steel and other hard, non-ferrous metals for marine and outside work, and aluminium alloy. Steel screws are sometimes finished with chrome and other deposited metals, or black enamel.

They are made in many diameter sizes and lengths, and with different kinds of head. Gauge is the diameter of shank and length is measured from the widest diameter of the head to the tip of the point. Four common types of screw are: countersunk, round head, raised head and csk chipboard screw. The extra thread on a chipboard screw provides more grip when fixing thin fittings.

Three screwdriver patterns are used but the most common are slotted and Pozidriv. The Phillips is practically obsolete but a Pozidriv screwdriver can be used to drive Phillips pattern screws. A Phillips driver, however, should not be used for Pozidriv screws.

Where possible, screw fixing is done through the thinner material into the thicker. Preparation of two pieces of wood for joining with a screw is shown: is the countersink for csk screws, is the clearance or shank hole and is the pilot hole, which should be drilled first through both pieces if possible.

Special bits for drills, which bore the three sizes in one pass, are available for many screw sizes. The tip of such a drill is illustrated: cuts the pilot hole, cuts the shank hole and the countersink.

Brass screws are soft and can easily shear off when being driven in, especially in a piece of close-grained hardwood. An old dodge is to initially insert a steel screw, then remove it and replace with a brass one. A scrape of candle wax or soap on the threads of large screws makes them go in much easier.

Pozidriv screws have a star-shaped recess in the head, instead of a slot. Main advantages are neatness, and far less chance of the screwdriver slipping and possibly damaging the surface. As with slotted screws, the correct size of screwdriver must be used in relation to the screw size.


Many varieties of hinges are now available, including speciality hinges for step ladders and decorator’s pasteboards, chipboard hinges, lay-on hinges and skeleton hinges which do not have to be housed in the hinged members. The more traditional types are still used every day. They include the following types.

Butt hinges, or butts The best are of solid, cast brass and are used as door hinges on high quality cabinet and joinery work. Lighter patterns are available in pressed or folded brass. Cast iron butts are often used on heavy entrance doors and lighter, pressed steel butts are used for internal, domestic doors and other joinery. In all cases the pins are of steel or harder alloys. These hinges are usually sunk or ‘housed’ in the members, flush with the surface.

Back flaps These are used where the wood is wide enough to take the leaves. This type of hinge, in brass or steel, enables the screws to be well spaced out, thus spreading the load and reducing chances of the wood splitting. They are also housed.

Tee hinges These are usually in pressed steel, bright, or japanned. They are used mainly for exterior doors of ledged construction to sheds and outbuildings. Simple and strong, they are easy to fix and do not need to be housed in.

Strap hinges This type can also be used for doors, but are much used on boxes and chests for storing tools, and so on.

Piano hinge This is a thin, light hinge in the form of a continuous strip with leaves of about 13 mm or so. This is also a surface fixed hinge used for boxes, light cupboard and wardrobe doors, in addition to piano lids.


There are literally thousands of fittings made for woodworking, in addition to the usual knobs, bolts, catches and locks. Connecting bolts These are used to join two cabinets or box constructions, especially if they are likely to be dismantled at some future date.

Corner blocks These provide a simple means of making right-angled joints and are especially useful with chipboard constructions. Each half of the fitting is screwed to one of the pieces being joined. The two parts are then held together by a moulded-in nut and set screw.

Shelf fittings Three popular types are shown. The ring stem fits in the sleeve, which is inserted in a drilled hole, two or more to each side. The shelf is supported by the flat rings. The stud is simply screwed to the upright sides to provide support and at the insert fits in a pre-bored hole and the lug is pressed into it. Inserts can be fitted in ‘ladder’ formation; the inserts can then be varied to suit the shelf space required.