Using And Choosing Nails And Screws

The range of fixing devices for timber is immense. Here is a selection of some of the most popular nails and screws, together with their uses.

Purposes as the round-head wire-nails, but because of their oval heads they can be punched below the surface so that the small hole they make can be filled with putty or other material. They can then be painted over so that they do not show.

Panel-pins are simply small slim versions of lost-head nails and are used for fixing thin material such as panels or mouldings where, being thin, they are easily covered and hidden.

Hardboard nails are also made specially for panel fixing. They have a slightly pointed head which is supposed to allow you to drive them into hardboard without having to punch them below the surface. These nails often have square shanks and are copper finished.

Clout nails are usually short, galvanised and have large heads. They are used for fixing felt to roofs.

Nails come in all lengths from 12mm pins to 150mm constructional nails. They are made in a variety of thicknesses too, so be sure to get a type which is suitable for the job. Thick nails easily split thin wood.

Nails are also made from aluminium and copper, but there is not the same range of types and sizes. There is also a limited range of galvanised or sherardised nails


Screws are equally prolific, although they are most freely available in a more limited range of preferred sizes. You can still get the non-preferred sizes, but you may have difficulty finding them, and they may be more expensive.

The main types of head are countersunk for all general applications, raised countersunk which are usually plated and used for fixing metal fittings, and round head which are often used for fixing flat metal and may be used in conjunction with washers. There are also pan heads which are similar to round heads but have a flatter section. Other heads are made and are often used for heavyweight coach-screw fixings.

Screws are made in steel, brass, aluminium, stainless steel or silicon bronze. There are also a number of finishes including sherardised, nickel plate, chromium plate, brass plate, bronze metal antique, dark Florentine bronze and black japanned.

The plated finishes are only suitable for interior work. For external applications the solid brass, stainless steel and sherardised screws should be used. Aluminium screws are ideal for fixing cedar as they will not stain the surface. They are also, as are solid brass screws, suitable for fixings in kitchens, bathrooms and other damp areas.

There are two types of threads on screws. The first and most often used is the tapered thread which has a single spiral running down the shank. The other type is the chipboard screw. This has two spirals running round a parallel shank. The shorter lengths of these screws are threaded up to


Round-head wire-nails are suitable for general and outdoor work where appearance is of little importance.

Round or oval lost-head nails are often used for fixing floorboards in place of the old-fashioned cut-nail. Lost-heads do, in fact, have a slight head.

The parallel shank reduces the tendency to split the chipboard.

Using screws

Whichever screws are being used it is always best to drill pilot holes. If these holes are the same diameter as the shank of the screw below the thread, then a full grip will be obtained without danger of the wood splitting.

The size of wood screw required for a particular application depends upon the width and thickness of the timber. The diameter of the screw should not exceed one tenth the width of the wood into which it will be inserted. You should also ensure that at least four diameters of thread, and if

possible up to seven, are engaged in the wood. If the screw is fixing a piece of wood, its length should be not less than three times the thickness of the wood it passes through. If pilot holes are drilled the screws can be positioned up to ten times the diameter from the end of the wood or five times the diameter from the edge. If pilot holes are not drilled then the screws must be kept 20 times the diameter from the end of the wood.

Woodworking adhesives

For small woodworking projects you can use most household adhesives. The most universal is the PVA type of adhesive which will bond many materials to wood as well as fixing wood to wood. It has the advantage that surplus glue can be wiped off the surface with a wet rag before it sets.

When veneering in wood you can still use Scotch glue or PVA, but when fixing plastic laminates to timber you have to use one of the contact adhesives. The type which gives instant grip is suitable if there is scope for finishing operations which would hide any slight error in positioning the laminate. The alternative is to use one of the contact adhesives which allow a slight movement before the final pressure is applied.

Today’s wide range of power tools helps you make light work of jobs around the home that were once difficult, tedious or plain impossible. With practice in using them any handyman can now work faster and to a higher standard than ever before.

For extra strength there are the epoxy resins which are two-part adhesives requiring the application of a catalyst or hardener to create the required bond.