The Mighty Wedge Wins


I’m working on a “Woodworking Essentials” article on nails for Popular Woodworking Magazine, and along with forged nails and wire nails, I’m writing about cut nails – you know, the wedge-shaped variety we often recommend in the magazine, because they hold better in wood than the round ones (and you can clinch/clench them).

But I’m distracted by masonry nails (same shape, hardened material) and my experiential knowledge that they, too, exert a death grip.

Though I removed the last of my old cabinets weeks ago, three of the masonry nails that affixed them to the wall stayed behind. I simply cannot budge them, no matter how many different tools I try. (And neither can my several strong neighbors who’ve been properly humbled after making fun of me then also failing.)

So – unless I remove a fair amount of plaster around each nail, which I don’t want to do – I’m afraid I’m going to have to cut them off flush with the wall, try to knock them just below the surface then do my best to patch over the damage.

Wedges are great…until they’re not.




About fitz

Woodworker, writer, editor, teacher, ailurophile, Shakespearean. Will write for air-dried walnut.
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17 Responses to The Mighty Wedge Wins

  1. bpdean says:

    Have you tried an adjustable wrench and twisting back and forth? At worst you break the nail off and have to pound it in. At best you break up enough material in the wall so that you can pull the nail or it breaks off below the surface and you have an easy patch job

  2. Did you try some WD-40? Or maybe duct tape?

    If you can’t fix it with either of those things, maybe just hang some oven mitts from it and call it done.

  3. I agree with cutting it flush, but be sure to cover the remainder with something as the rust is sure to bleed through any paint or wall covering. As to the cut nails, I v’e enjoyed several of Christopher Schwarz’s articles on their use and clinching.clenching with great interest. But, I don’t recall ever reading anything with regard to horseshoe nails which will clinch for use in woodworking or for furniture construction. Can they be properly used and does you future article plan to include such?.

  4. Ben Lowery says:

    Soft jazz. Only the softest you can find.

  5. Nick Webb says:

    Heat, as in blowtorch?

  6. John Wolf says:

    Try driving the nail a little deeper, then tugging, twisting, wiggling, etc. And what was that about cut nails clinching? Any I have had just break.

  7. jonathanszczepanski says:

    Can’t you just bang them in all the way?

  8. Mark says:

    Cut nails are relatively hard and aren’t that hard to break. Bend the nail back and forth with a hammer (not all the way), until it snaps off. Two or three back and forth motions should do it.

  9. Ken S says:

    I agree with Mark. These nails are hardened and will break off just below the surface if tapped back and forth a time or two. I had hundreds of these in a basement block wall, and used this technique after trying unsuccessfully to remove them.

  10. Rev. Josh says:

    I had a ton of these in my home before my remodel. You are right, they are very nearly impossible to remove. What I found best wast to take a flat wrecking bar and slip the nail in the tear drop shaped hole (used for pulling nails) then twist the bar around like the hands of a clock and the nail snaps right off. If you are lucky, they break below the surface, other wise is it a simple affair with a grinder or file.

  11. Eric says:

    Plan A: Try a blow torch. First you heat it up. The expanding nail will force the hole to grow, and then hit it with some liquid nitrogen. The nail will cool faster than the wall and pop right out. You do have a blow torch and liquid nitrogen don’t you? I know what you’re thinking but even if you burn the house down you won’t have to worry about the nail. (Thinking about the old nail recovery technique of arson.)

    Plan B: Hyrochloric acid. ‘Nuf said.

    Good luck.

  12. fitz says:

    Thanks all. I got ’em out by glaring at them really hard. (OK, and hitting them side to side w/a hammer until I broke up the plaster around ’em a bit and was able to pull them out. More patching, but oh well – had to patch anyway.)

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