Buy Nails, My Pretties! Buy!

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Good nails are hard to find.

While I would love to use blacksmith-nails all day and every day, my customers aren’t willing to pay $1.35 per nail. So I use Tremont cut nails, which are about one-fifth the cost of a homemade nail – a 6d “wrought” nail with a head is about 22 cents. That’s still expensive, but cheaper than handmade.

But the Tremont wrought head nails are covered in black oxide, a fact that I’ve blogged about before and have offered dangerous solutions to fix (hydrogen chloride). (Edit: Not all the Tremonts are covered in black oxide; but the one with the “wrought head” are.) Why can’t I have a plain steel nail with a nice head?

Turns out that I can.

Dictum in Germany has been carrying a variety of excellent blued-steel nails that are forged (using dies) and have square-tapered shanks. I received my first shipment from Dictum today (it took only three days to get the order) and I am more than impressed.

These nails, which I recently encountered in England, are awesome. They are plain blued steel. They look way better than the Tremonts (sorry Tremont, but it is true), and they hold like crazy. Oh, and they are less expensive.

A 6d (50mm) nail from Dictum is about 6 cents a nail (plus shipping). Order a bunch to save on shipping. You will not regret it.

Most woodworkers will need only two or three sizes of nails to do most work. The 50mm nail is used for nailing together carcases – chests and the like. Dictum sells these for €6.30 for 100 nails (plus shipping).

For nailing 1/2”-thick backs and bottoms in place, you should get the 30mm or 40mm nails (30mm for hardwoods; 40mm for softwoods). Dictum sells the 40mm nails for €6.40 for 100. The 30mm nails are €4.80 per 100.

These are great nails at a great price, even if you include the shipping. And buying them rewards a nail-making company that has been doing it the hard way for a long time.

OK, back to editing stuff.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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19 Responses to Buy Nails, My Pretties! Buy!

  1. wesleytanner says:

    Anyone in the Louisville area interested in going in a joint order should let me know.
    Wesley Tanner

  2. ptross says:

    Great find!! properly made handmade nails are especially useful when clinching is anticipated but these should be fine otherwise. They are clearly identifiable as machine made but an excellent choice when historical accuracy is not critical. Its also great to have a better option than Tremonts. I’ll probably find a use for them as well.
    Peter Ross

  3. beshriver says:

    these remind me of the tacks that fly out of the back of the car on the spy hunter video game…doot doot doot da doo doo, doot doot doot da doo doo, daaah da…repeat until its burned in your soul. 🙂

    • ausworkshop says:

      Spy Hunter! Awesome! I’d forgotten all about that game. Man that brings back memories. Also played Radar Rat Race till my mind was scattered with those beeping tunes. Now you’ve put them all back in my head. Thanks!

  4. wb8nbs says:

    “A hard nail is good to find.” — Mae West

  5. gilgaron says:

    For the difference in finish: isn’t bluing steel a manner of applying black oxide?

    • Yes. But the finish is completely utterly different. I don’t have information on the factory processes each maker uses, but they look nothing alike.

    • steveschafer says:

      It’s a matter of degree. Bluing is a subset of black oxide, and when people speak of black oxide vs. bluing, they’re usually talking about a thicker vs. thinner coating. The chemical processes used to produce the coating tend to be different as well. The differences in processing are probably what have the most impact on the differences in appearance.

  6. ptross says:

    I suspect the blued finish you are thinking of is not applied but rather a simple heating of the parts to correct temperature. Clean steel will oxidize blue at approx 600 degrees F. This is the same blue you see when you accidentally heat a blade edge while grinding, and is fairly thin and fragile. I have a number of old stock boxes containing blued screws and they are heat blued, not chemical blued. The chemical bluing is a much darker and thicker finish and is nothing like heat bluing, as Chris has said.

    • gilgaron says:

      Thanks for the additional information, Peter. I use cold gun blue sometimes to make steel hardware parts match or to patina copper rosehead nails. It sounds like this is akin to what Tremont is likely doing, then?

      I bought a small forge for tool making but haven’t had too much time to play, so the only colors produced have been black from the oil quenching. For the blue color do you have to avoid quenching or merely use water after reaching the right temperature?

      • steveschafer says:

        They’re most likely not doing cold bluing, as that is done with a selenium solution, resulting in a relatively weak coating that scratches and wears very easily. That sort of coating is mostly for show, and isn’t likely to survive very long in a box of nails rattling against each other. There are a number of recipes for hot bluing, some involving added chemicals and others just steel and air.

  7. Rick Banister says:

    Reblogged this on Rick's Test Site.

  8. Jon Quinn says:

    HCl (muriatic) isn’t that bad of an acid. a good rinse of the nails and then neutralize the diluted pickle liquor (acid) with some lime or baking soda.
    Or maybe stainless steel tumbling media might work to clean the nails? its the newest thing for cleaning brass for reloading ammo. You need a good rock tumbler like a thumlers tumbler. it is short pieces of SS rod.

  9. stradlad68 says:

    I ordered a bunch today. Note that they are temporarily out of the 50 mm nails. Expedited shipping was less costly than regular…hmmm? These should look great on the Colonial settle that is in the works. I still have a supply of various sizes that I purchased from vandykes.com several years ago. I think they no longer carry these nails.

  10. Well, guess what? The product has been schwartzed…

    • gblogswild says:

      Yup. Schwarzed. Out of stock in every size. Wife might actually let me buy these. I wish I could get them locally.

      • colsdave says:

        All of the nails were back in stock but I kept failing out of the required registration with no error message. Sigh… Ymmv

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