Nails and Screws*
I was stubborn
and had to learn by experience but I never broke a hammer handle because
I started out with an unbreakable all-steel model. By the time I graduated
to a nicely balanced wooden-handled model, I'd learned how to pull nails
quickly and efficiently enough to hardly break my nailing rhythm.
Here are my favorite methods
Maximize Your Hammer Power
hammer isn't the best nail-pulling tool, but since it's already in your
hand, use it. Ram the claw into the nail shank as close as possible to
the wood and rock it sideways. Then repeat the process, pulling the nail
about 1/2 in. each time. You develop terrific pulling power, enough to
extract even those tough cement-coated or galvanized nails, without straining
your hammer handle or arm.
Because the hammer claw grabs the nail's shank, this method usually works
even when the nailhead has broken off. But it has a couple of drawbacks.
The edge of the head will bite into and dent the wood.
you don't want to mar the surface, slide a 1/4-in. thick piece of wood
under the edge before pulling. Also, a worn claw might slip on the shank
and not deliver any pull. And finally, the pulling power can be so great
that the nail shank might break before the nail lets go. At that point,
either clip it flush to the wood with a side-cutting pliers and leave
it, or saw through it .
Save Those Finished Surfaces
a block of scrap wood under the hammer head to protect delicate surfaces,
like the cedar decking in Photo 2. The block also gives the hammer claw
better leverage, so you can often rock the hammer directly back on its
head rather than sideways. But not always. Use this straight pull only
on nails that come out fairly easily or aren't driven deeply. Otherwise
you could break a wooden-handled hammer. Although you can yank a lot harder
on hammers with a fiberglass or steel handle, you'll find it's a lot easier
to use a sideways pull.
Dig For Buried Nails
nails are no match for a cat's paw ($6), an essential tool to carry for
all rough framing work. Emphasize "rough," because you drive
the claw under the buried nailhead and rock the handle back firmly. The
short claw develops tremendous leverage and will pull almost any nail.
A strong, steady pull works best. If you jerk the handle, you could pop
the head off the nail, especially with 16d galvanized nails. You can use
it for bent nails too. But you have to put a block under the cat's paw
to develop good leverage, as in Photo 2, or slide your hammer head under
it to shim it up.
with a deft touch, the cat's paw digs up a divot of wood around the nailhead
and leaves a distinct "paw print" behind when you rock it back.
It's not a finish tool.
Drive It Through
carpentry sometimes calls for more refined tactics to avoid ruining a
valuable piece of woodwork. You can pull most bent finish nails with the
hammer-and-block technique shown earlier or with pliers. But if you can't
pry trim off without damaging it, drive the finish nails completely through
the trim and pop it off. You can use either a 1/32-in. nail set or a 1/16-in.
pin punch (about $3 each at home centers and hardware stores). They are
especially handy for releasing window and door casings that have been
cross-nailed to hold the miters together.
Drawbacks: Use the nail set for thin woodwork. Otherwise, you'll leave
a fairly large round hole on the front side to fill later. And work carefully
near ends, because the nail set can split the wood.
Cut The Tough Ones
reciprocating saw can cut through nails in a fraction of the time it takes
to pull them. Plus it'll reach nails you can't get at any other way. Many
all-purpose blades cut both wood and nails, but buy the 10-teeth-per-inch
type because it cuts through hardened drywall screws as well. With a deft
touch, you can also do delicate work, like reaching behind trim to cut
nails, as well as screws and bolts, without marring the wood.
Drawback: Chances are that the blade will pinch while cutting tight spots,
so push the saw guard tightly against the wood and hold the saw firmly.
Pull Them From The Back
trim is expensive and worth salvaging whenever possible. If you can pry
it off, pull the finish nails from the backside (Photo 6). They'll splinter
the front if you drive them back. A nippers ($16) works well, but so do
slip-joint pliers and locking pliers.
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