Village Science - Teacher Edition


Nails, Pegs & Lashings

Teacher Edition Contents

Skill, Tools, & Craftsmanship

Cutting & Drying Fish
Nails, Pegs, & Lashings
Falling Trees &
     Small-Scale Logging
Chainsaw Clutch & Chain
Ice Pick


Wood Stoves
Wall Tents
Insulation & Vapor Barriers
Gas Lamps & Gas Stoves


Piloting A Boat
Boat Design
Magnetos & Spark Plugs
Outboard Motor Lower Unit

Outboard Motor Cooling System
Snowmachine Tracks
Snowmachine Clutch
Winter Trails


  1. Make a nail collection. How many different kinds can you find?

  2. Try to identify the different purposes of each of the above nails.

    Try filing each nail. Are they harder or softer than the file?

    Some are harder than others.

    File or grind a galvanized nail in one place, exposing the metal underneath. Leave the nail in a warm, damp place with a galvanized nail that hasn’t been filed. Does rust appear where the galvanize was removed?

    It should. The galvanize is just a coating.

  3. Find a building in town where the siding was nailed on with nails that weren’t galvanized. Can you see the rust “bleeding” through the paint or down the side of the building?

    There should be many examples of nail heads rusting and “bleeding” down the side of a building.

  4. Experiment with different nails: long, short, smooth and rough. Can you determine why they are different? Drive each one into a board with the head slightly above the surface of the board. Pull them one by one. Do the ring nails or galvanized pull out easier or harder? Can you tell the difference?

    Ring nails should be a little harder than the galvanized, but the both of them are harder than smooth or sinker nails.

  5. Draw a nail that would hold two inches of foam to a wood surface? Imagine in your mind what would happen when the head of the nail pressed against the surface of the foam. How would you design a nail for this purpose?

    It would need a very large head, perhaps two inches in diameter.

  6. Drive nails into the end grain of a board. Do they hold as well, better or worse than cross grain?

    They don’t hold as well in the end grain as they do cross grain.

  7. Look at the point of a spike (end view). Can you see how one side is tapered more than the other? Draw what you see.

  8. Try the tricks mentioned in this chapter to prevent splitting at the end of a board. Do they help to keep the wood from splitting? Use green frozen lumber.

    They should.

  9. Listen to a good carpenter drive nails on a surface like a floor or roof. How is his nailing different from that of an inexperienced person (apart from speed)?

    A good carpenter nails with rhythm. An inexperienced carpenter bangs away irratically.

  10. Research how nails are now made. Find a case of nails. Where were they made? How were nails made before modern machinery?

  11. How much does a pound of nails cost in the village? How much does this come out to for each 6d, 8d, and 16d nail?

  12. Pull some old nails from a board. Does driving them first to loosen them seem to help?

    It defies reason to drive a nail in so you can pull it out, but the techinque works. Breaking the nail loose from the place it has been for a long time allows it to come out much easier.

  13. If there is a nailgun in the village, have an experienced person demonstrate. Can ten students drive ten nails as fast as one person with a nail gun? What are the safety features of a nailgun so someone can’t be shot with a nail? What are some of the hazards of nailguns? What can you learn about the pressure of the compressor, specifically the difference between a framing gun and a finish gun?

    A nail gun can easily out-nail ten students. A framing gun operates over 90 lbs./squarre inch of pressure. A finishing gun operates around 60. Finish nails are smaller, and require less force.

  14. Ask a good carpenter about hammers. What weight hammers are used for different applications? Waffle and smooth faces? What are the differences between steel, wood, and fiberglass handles? Why do people prefer one over another? Which hammers are better in different situations? Why do you think there is such a variety of hammers?

    Most framers use a 20-24 oz hammer with a rough waffle face to grip the nails and drive them quickly. A finish hammer is usually 16 oz, and has a smooth face. A sheet-rock hammer is waffle-faced to create a rough surface for the sheet-rock mud to adhere to.

  15. Ask an oldtimer in the village to demonstrate lashing a fishtrap. What lashing material was commonly used? Videotape if possible.

    Spruce roots were used.

  16. Ask a local sled builder to demonstrate how to lash a sled—crosspieces and stanchion—to the runner. Videotape to show others.

  17. If there is a log cabin in the village, inspect the corners and inspect the pins used. Are they spikes or wooden pins? What kind of wood was used for pins? Ask a local person where the pins were placed in the wall and why. If spikes were used, ask them how the holes were drilled to allow for settling of the logs.

Student Response

  1. What will happen if a nail is too short? Too thick? Too smooth? Too thin?

    Too short: it will pull out. Too thick: it will split the wood. Too smooth: it will also pull out. Too thin: it will bend going in or break under stress

  2. Draw the type of nail that is used on tar paper and roofing shingles.

    Big head.

  3. What kind of nail would you use on a boat?

    Ring nails. They have such high friction they hold well when the boat is working in rough water

  4. Draw the end view of a nail. Show how it should be driven if it is close to the end of a board.

  5. Draw a nail that would have high friction in wood. Draw one that would have low friction.

  6. Draw a scaffold nail.

  7. Why are galvanized nails used?

    They don’t rust. An ungalvanized nail will rust and bleed through paint and stain. Galvanized nails also hold well because they have rough surfaces.

  8. What is the name given to describe the sizes of nails?

    Penny symbol “d”

  9. Why were pegs used in log cabins?

    To keep the logs in line above one another, particularly around the windows and doors.

  10. Why are spruce roots superior to all other materials for a fishtrap?

    They don’t stretch, are easily cleaned, don’t rot easily and are available to anyone with ambition in country that has spruce trees.

  11. What is the best lashing for a sled and why?

    Braided halibut twine. It doesn’t stretch and it wears well. Rawhide stretches when it is wet and dogs like to eat it.


  1. If a 50 lb case of 8d galvanized nails cost $57, what is the cost of 27 lbs at the same rate? 150 lbs?

    $30.78. $171

  2. Matt wants to use spikes on his cabin rather than wooden pegs. Spikes are $.50 each. He figures that each log will average 3 spikes. There are 56 logs in the house. How much would wooden pegs save him?


  3. If Matt’s time is worth $10 an hour and he can make 12 pegs an hour, which is cheaper?

    14 hours = $140. Spikes are cheaper, but he might want to use wooden pegs for other reasons

  4. Which is stronger: 4 larger nails with a shear strength of 65 lbs each, or 9 smaller nails with a shear strength of 52 lbs each?

    9 smaller nails.

  5. Two carpenters frame a whole house. The total time of both workers is 80 hours using a nail gun (40 hours each.) They both make $18 per hour. Without a nail gun, they will take 98 hours. The special nails for the nailguns cost $100 more than regular nails. Nailgun rental is $20 per day for 5 days. Are they saving money?

    $1440 wages, plus $200 for nails and gun rental totals $3080.

    $1764 if they don’t use the nailgun.

  6. A 50 lb case of 16d galvanized nails costs $57 delivered to the jobsite. A case of 16d sinker nails cost $42 delivered, but Al figures that he has to use 20% more nails if he uses sinkers because they don’t hold as well. Which is cheaper: sinkers or galvanized?

    The sinkers will cost $50.40 which is cheaper. What we didn’t consider however is the added time to drive them.

  7. Sinker nails are $1 a pound delivered to the jobsite. Scaffold nails are $1.50 delivered. Building scaffolding takes 30 lbs of nails. Scaffold nails save 3 man-hours working at $12 per hour. Are scaffold nails worth purchasing and using?

    Sinker nails are $30. Scaffold nails are $45, but they save $36 in man hours, so they are cheaper.

Questions or comments?
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