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Nail chronology aid dating old buildings

Then the nail maker would insert the hot nail into a hole in a nail header or anvil and with four glancing blows of the hammer would form the rosehead (a shallow pyramid shape).This shape of nail had the benefit of four sharp edges on the shank which cut deep into timber and the tapered shank provided friction down its full length.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.Thinner timbers were being used in construction and other forms of fastening were becoming available if a strong fixing was needed.

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However, almost a century after their predicted demise, there are still two cut nail manufacturers worldwide in existence employing the process that is almost 200 years old and using machines that have barely changed in design in that time.(this page contains the substance of an article entitled 'Traditional Cut Nails - worth preserving?' written in May 2002 at the request of, and for inclusion in, the RICS Building Conservation Journal)For nail making, iron ore was heated with carbon to form a dense spongy mass of metal which was then fashioned into the shape of square rods and left to cool. After re-heating the rod in a forge, the blacksmith would cut off a nail length and hammer all four sides of the softened end to form a point.It was not until around 1600 that the first machine for making nails appeared, but that tended really to automate much of the blacksmith's job.The 'Oliver' - a kind of work-bench, equipped with a pair of treadle operated hammers - provided a mechanism for beating the metal into various shapes but the nails were still made one at a time.Cut nails for the restoration industry can amount to just a few pence each and it only takes a moment to assess their long term value say in comparison with the can of Coca Cola or Mars Bar you might buy for lunch.A recognition of the value cut nails offer is needed to ensure that the process is not lost for ever and encourage the handing on of the skills involved.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 cut nail was produced in large numbers and various other shapes were devised to suit different purposes.By the start of the 1900's, the first coils of steel round wire were produced and quickly machines were designed to use this new raw material.


  1. As an aid to dating old buildings. the general field of nail chronology as an aid to dating old buiUlings. This paper was prepared for a National Park

  2. Get this from a library! Nail chronology as an aid to dating old buildings. Lee H Nelson

  3. Description; PDF Download. Nails are helpful clues for dating historic buildings. Lee H. Nelson of the National Park Service provides a chronology of nails and methods for discerning the

  4. Nails are a fantastic way to determine the age of a site you plan to metal detect. This guide can give you some ideas of your site's history.

  5. Nail Chronology As an Aid To Dating Old Buildings. Authors Lee H. Nelson Year 1968 » Downloads & Basic Metadata. Summary. This resource is a citation record only, the Center for Digital

  6. The history of NAIL MAKING. Lee H. Nelson Nail Chronology As An Aid to Dating Old Buildings, Technical Leaflet 48. Nashville.

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