Dating old nails

Wire nails will be found in a building put up in the period from then to date.For the restorer, it is vital that the correct raw materials are used in any attempt to preserve an old building. The restorer is looking to use similar nails to ensure the authenticity of the restored building.Eventually, in the USA, towards the late 1700's and early 1800's, a nail machine was devised which helped to automate the process. Flat metal strips of around two feet (600mm) in length and the width slightly larger than the nail length was presented to the machine.The first lever cut a triangular strip of metal giving the desired width of the nail, the second lever held the nail in place while the third lever formed the head.As explained earlier, the first cut nail machines replicated the handmade nail - the square tapered nail with a rosehead.Because the process still involves a man (or woman) presenting a strip of metal to a machine, the resulting nail is necessarily imprecise - that is each nail can look a little different to the next one.Thinner timbers were being used in construction and other forms of fastening were becoming available if a strong fixing was needed.In the 21st century, the nail making process through the ages is now being used by the restoration industry to help to establish when a building was built.

Cut nails suggest the building was built between 1800 and the early 1900's.The nails are normally made of mild steel and are often used without any further finish and can be clinched (i.e. A recent expensive project involved nails for studding on large outside doors which would be deliberately left to rust to provide greater authenticity. Glasgow Steel Nail Co has been involved in many interesting projects that have included providing nails for the Globe Theatre in London, restoration work on Stirling Castle and other castles.The nails are generally used for doors, floors, gates, indeed anywhere a period nail has to be displayed.The result is that these cut nails are often mistaken for handmade nails.In use, the rosehead is often the only part of the nail that is left visible and this shape of head is now considered vital when a period nail is demanded.

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