Old houses, old nails


Many of you may be familiar with “square” nails. Did you know that there are two types of square nails?


Originally, nails were “hand-forged” and were truly square, with all four sides tapered and of equal dimensions. These nails were made by blacksmiths, as well as by individual families in colonial America, since nails were very scarce and difficult to obtain. In addition to being used by those who made them, nails were often used to barter for other goods.  


The second generation of “square” nails appeared in the mid-1700’s. These nails were “cut” nails and their production was mechanized. Cut nails are sheared from a plate of steel and two of the sides are parallel, while the other two sides are tapered. This makes the nail actually rectangular rather than square.


Round “wire” nails came on the scene around 1850, but were not commonly used until after the Civil War. Throughout the 1800’s, many builders continued to use cut nails because of their greater holding power.