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Wood Fasteners

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When constructing a building, the individual pieces of wood (members) must be connected together. Early buildings were assembled with pegs.

Pegs were gradually replaced by square (hand cut) nails. With the invention of nail making machines, wire nails became available.

Modern wooden buildings are assembled using nails, threaded fasteners, and glues/adhesives.

A nail is a pin-shaped, sharp object of hard metal, typically steel, used to fasten things together (usually wood).

Nails are divided into 5 common types: 1. Common 2. Box 3. 4. 5. Duplex Roofing Deformed shank

1. 2. 3. 4.

Nails are sized according to Penny number, 2d to 40d. Penny originally referred to the number of that size of nail that could be bought for a penny. Today it is the reference to diameter and length. The larger the number the larger the nail.

Common Nails



Common Nails are one of the oldest forms of fasteners. Common nails of the same size will have a larger diameter shank than box nails. Common nails are used for most building framing.

Box Nails
Box nails were developed to reduce the splitting of the wood when nailing smaller pieces of wood to from boxes and crates.

Box nails are about the same length as common nails for the same size. Box nails are smaller in diameter for the same size as common nails, which reduces the potential for splitting. For the same diameter, box nails will have a smaller head.

Duplex Nails
Duplex Nails are heavy-duty framing nails. They are used in temporary applications. Their second head prevents them from being hammered flush with the surface.

When the job is done, simply remove the nail by prying it out by the upper head. One common use is concrete forms. Protruding head can be a safety hazard.

Roofing Nails
Roofing nails are designed to attach softer materials, such as tar paper and asphalt shingles to wood. They have wider head, for the diameter of the shank, spreads the force over a greater area.
Many different styles are available.

Deformed Shank Nails

Two primary types.

Spiral groove Annular groove

Common, box, roofing, flooring and many other types of nails are available with deformed shanks.

What is the advantage of deforming the shanks?

Common name for larger size angular shank is pole barn nail.


Brads are small wire type nails used for doing trim work and fastening other thin materials. They come in a variety of diameters, lengths and head shapes. Pre-drilling is recommended in hard woods because they bend quite easily.

Where would brads be used?





Screws are the second most popular means of fastening wood. They are available with many different types of heads, lengths and driver sockets.

Wood screws are sized according to diameter of the shank (wire gauge number) and length.



Different styles of screw heads are available to meet different job requirements.


Screw-Flat & Oval

The flat head and oval require three separate operations for installation.
1. Drill pilot hole to the depth of the threads. 2. Drill clearance hole through the first board. 3. Counter sink the surface.

Is there an easier way?

Yes. Pilot drill


Screw Drive Sockets

This is just a few of the many types of drivers used for screws.


Lag Screws

Lag screws are used to install wood or metal members to wood. Primarily used when the strength of a bolt is needed, but a nut can not be used. Lag Screws are installed by drilling a clearance hole through the first member and pilot hole into the second board the depth of the threads.

The lag screw is then threaded into the hole.


Lag Screw-cont.
Lag screws and wood screws must be installed correctly for maximum load holding. The shank must be equal to the thickness of the first member being fastened. The pilot hole for the first member must be large enough to install the screw with minimum effort. The pilot hole for the threaded portion must be sized to provide a good grip for the threads, but not so tight that the threads on the screw jam in the hole.

Usually requires some trial and error to get the right size. Size will depend on the size of the screw and the hardness of the wood.




Machine Bolt

A Machine bolt is a heavy-duty fastener. When used correctly, will support and/or sustain the largest sheer or tension load. Several small bolts will support a load better than one large bolt.

A bolt is generally inserted through a pre-drilled in the parts that are to be assembled. Tightening and loosening of the bolt is done with a nut. Washers should be used when attaching wood to prevent bolt from pulling through the wood. Thread pitch is standardized as NC or NF. Metric sizes are available


Carriage Bolts

Carriage Bolts are easily recognizable because of their round head and short section of square neck.

The round head is set flush with the surface of the wood.
The square neck prevents bolt from rotating when nut is tightened.

Usually difficult to remove because the wood shrinks away from the square neck and then there is no way to prevent the bolt from turning.


Lock washers are designed to prevent the nut from loosening itself by applying back pressure. Common types:
Split Internal tooth External tooth

Flat Washers are used to spread the clamping force of a bolt over a larger surface area.


Hex Nuts

Hex nuts are used with bolts to fasten structural members together.
The threads can be NF (national fine) or NC (national coarse)

Square nuts are still available and used with wood because of their larger contact area.