When we build that wooden storage shed in the backyard we use nails and screws. The projects we build in the shed will probably incorporate nails and screws somewhere and we most likely could not build without them.
One of the first metal objects forged by man is nails. They were generally a square shape and forged individually from iron. The head of the earliest nails was just a bent over “L” shape or moulded into a four sided pyramid shape. Nails made in this fashion were extremely expensive to produce and were used very sparingly.
In the 16th century the invention of the first water powered slitting mill introduced the first cut nails. Hot iron was hammered into sheets and each sheet was slit into bars by rollers that cut like shears. Each bar was then made into nails and spikes by “nailers”. The head and the point were still forged and this type of nail was used from the 16th to the 19th century.
In the year 1811 the first machine cut nails were produced. These nails were flat and had no head. Sections of rolled plate iron were cut into strips the same width as the length of the nail. Each strip was then place under a contraption that cut each nail at an angle. The sheet was then turned over and the next nail was cut. The result of this process produced a nail that tapered to a point on only two sided.
In the 1840’s a machine capable of making a headed nail was introduced. Stamping machines were being used by the late 1860’s and several types of nails could be stamped at the same time.
Wire nails are now common and are the dominate type of nails used today but cut nails can still be found and are not uncommon.
Early wood screws were developed in the mid 16th century. The wood screw which is really nothing more than a round nail with a threaded shaft and a slot in the head for removal was first used in locks and clocks. They were very expensive to produce and were not used for everyday woodworking.
The first machine made screws were introduced in the 18th century. They had blunt ends. The first pointed end screws were produced in the 1840’s by an English inventor George Nettlefield. They became widely used with this new type of production.