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When a nail head breaks, simply drill a small hole on either side of the nail (or for very stubborn nails - all four sides), to relieve some of the pressure on the broken nail. I use a tiny dedicated drill bit for this purpose because it will eventually dull when bumping into the side of the nail as you drill. Any old bits you might find at a flea market or garage sale would be perfect.
I’d like to share two tips for removing nails in reclaimed wood. The first is a technique that I use quite often. This one didn’t make it into the article, but I thought I’d post a few photos (see above) and pass it along.
The second tip was sent in by reader Chris Layne (see text below) regarding the article on working with reclaimed wood in the current issue. It’s one I’ve never tryed myself, but will in the future. Thanks Chris!
“I read with interest the article on working with reclaimed wood. I have reused old wood over the years for many projects. I find it indeed has more character and sensual appeal than the same species of freshly seasoned wood.
I noticed the picture and caption of removing nails with a pair of side cutters to avoid marking the wood. I have removed many nails from old lumber and picture frames over the years, and there are some types of nails, such as fence wire staples and large rusted common nails, that are quite firmly seated in the grain of the wood.
No amount of prying with a tool will remove the shaft of metal without breaking the nail usually flush with the surface of the wood. I found that if one heats the nail with a large soldering iron or othe source of heat, the nail will expand the metal and break the bonds of the years that develop between the wood and the metal allowing the nail to be easily removed with only minor damage to the surface of the wood. Of course the source of heat should be focused only on the nail and the wood should be protected. Usually only the small hole remains and there is no other blemish left behind by this procedure.
Then use side cutters or needle nose plyers to pull out the nail. After the nail is removed, I'll fill the (slightly larger) hole with an irregularly shaped peg.
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I also have worked with reclaimed lumber usually from old barns. A concern that I have is that I might acquire a pathogen from the inhalation of an aerosol containing bird droppings from the use of power tools in a milling process. A large number of diseases are recognized in humans as a result of this process. I am strict with the use of a quality dust mask and general dust control to minimize the chances of this exposure. May I suggest that your readers do as well.
could i use a carbide tipped metal cutting blade to cut thru the nails? Or would cutting wood with it kill the expensiive blade fast? i know saftey would be involved cutting nails, flying nail pieces.
I've often resorted to the method outlined by tommyreese... ie drive the nail through the board with a punch or another nail.
Consider also that one of the "features" of woodwork made from reclaimed lumber is that it wears the marks of time like no other wood can. Perhaps just leaving the nail in the wood would be even more appealing than the hole left behind by its removal.
Another option would be to run the board through a hospital MRI machine to pull the nails out with the intense magnetic field. The downside, of course, is that you might have to buy the hospital a new MRI machine. ;-)
Wow. thanks John and Chris. i also work with reclaimed wood and have started developing my own procedures for removing nails. even to the point of envisioning what kind of new tool i would invent for this purpose, to minimize any new damage to the surface. I think Chris really has the process dialed in. pretty impressive. I can't wait to try it out. I wonder if you could even use a strong magnet at that point, to lift the nail out with zero damage to the surface.
thanks for the tip guys.
and btw, anyone building with reclaimed wood is always welcome to email me and exchange tips and techniques: email@example.com
I do the samething, as mentioned in the article, and there is one other technique that I use. If the nail head breaks off, I will drill two holes on the side of the nail and then I will use a steel punch and drive the nail through the board.
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In this video Michael finishes the first of the three boxes. Gluing-up, planing, sanding and finishing bring a new piece of art to the world.
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