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Steel nails or wire nails
Conical square nails (Spiekernagel)

A nail used in technology (from ahd. Nagal in the meaning of finger or toe nail or claw) is a metal pin that is pointed at the lower end and thickened at the upper end or provided with a flattened head . It is used to connect parts predominantly made of wood. Nails positioned in the wood in a standardized manner are called the nail pattern .

The most common metals used to make nails are steel, copper, and brass. Nails are either driven in with a hammer or with a pneumatic nailer .

Nails are the oldest known fasteners. There is evidence that nails made of wood were used as early as 5101 BC. Used to nail a wooden well in Saxony .


large hand-forged nail (15 cm)

Metal nails were originally forged by a nail smith . Certain types of nails, such as nails for horseshoes , can still be made this way today.

The first known attempts to machine nails were made in New England from 1775 onwards by cutting slightly conical strips from sheet metal with subsequent upsetting of the nail head and the nail tip. One of the inventors at the time was the American Jacob Perkins . In England in 1790 Thomas Clifford received two patents for the manufacture of nails.

At around the same time, the machine production of wire nails began in France. The first French patents are known from 1806. These early wire nails were called French nails , Parisian nails, or Parisian nails .

The replacement of the forged nail by more efficient machine production was a lengthy development process. For example, wire nails for upholsterers in North America were first produced in New York around 1850 and larger nails made of wire were only produced from 1870 by German emigrants on machines imported from Germany.

Today nails are made from wire by cold forming .



All modern nails are made of steel . When nails are explicitly offered as steel nails , they usually refer to hardened steel nails that are hardened after annealing, for example in a salt bath.

Unhardened steel nails bend easily and must be driven in with straight hammer blows. Hardened steel nails usually do not bend, but break when subjected to bending stress.

In order not to split fine wooden strips when nailing, very thin strip pins are used. Long and thin bar pins are hardened, otherwise they can hardly be driven in without bending.

In construction, hardened nails are used to drive them into mineral materials such as cement-based plaster, soft bricks or concrete (low strength class). In contrast to the anchor nail , the shaft of hardened nails for mineral building materials often has (interrupted) longitudinal corrugation, which is intended to improve grip and pull-out strength . With a concrete nailer, Nagelschuss-, Bolzenschuss- or actuated tool hardened nails can also use a propellant to be set. Some devices are also suitable for driving hardened nails into structural elements made of steel.

Stainless steel nails

Steel nails are galvanized or made of stainless steel to protect them from rust. Nails are usually painted for decorative reasons and do not offer permanent protection against corrosion .

Copper and brass

Copper and brass nails

  • are used for decorative purposes when, for example, a reddish metallic or gold-colored brass color is preferred to the silvery shining steel in furniture construction,
  • do not rust, which is advantageous in boat building , among other things ,
  • are not magnetic .


Wooden nail

Wooden nails were made by joiners and carpenters themselves and are still used today in restoration and partly in ecological construction. Since wooden nails do not have a head, they were mainly used to secure traditional wooden connections , for example in half-timbered, window and furniture construction. Instead, iron nails made by the blacksmith were used to fasten planking , cladding , sheet metal, fittings and the like. Since the beginning of the mechanical production of iron goods in the course of industrialization , wooden nails have largely been replaced by nails made of steel.

Nail types


Smaller nails are also known as pins or wire nails. A pin in the dimension 28/65, for example, has a diameter of 2.8 mm and a length of 65 mm. Wire pins are z. B. used for nailing wooden formwork.

Upset headed pins are also known as bar pins or skirting board pins . Compressed nail heads are so narrow that they can hardly be seen after hammering in. Pens with a broad head are also called combs . Wallpaper pegs can have either a wide head (for pinning wallpaper) or a narrow head (for pinning wallpaper strips).

Hardened pen

In order to be able to nail narrow strips without the wood splitting, fine pencils are required. Hardened pins have the advantage that they do not bend if they are hammered in unevenly or if they hit harder material. They can usually be wrapped in plaster , for example to hang pictures.

All nails and pins are made of steel. In order to emphasize the flexural strength , however, mostly only hardened wire nails are explicitly referred to as steel nails or steel pins . Hardened pencils are often given a dark surface layer by browning , bluing or coloring them black .

Double headed nail

This is a wire pin with two heads in a row. This makes it easier to de-nail temporarily attached boards or squared timber, for example when stripping .

Hook nail

Hook nail with a round cross-section

Hook nails have a hook at the head end and are used e.g. B. for quick fixing of pipes in masonry, fixing of cap strips.

Hoof nail

Hoof nail

The horseshoe nail is a nail with a square shaft and a slightly larger square head that is the width of the groove of the horseshoe . Occasionally there are also hand-forged pieces. The asymmetrical tip ensures that the nail protrudes outwards from the hoof wall for “riveting”.

Roofing felt nail or broadhead pin

Roofing felt is fixed to the wooden formwork with roofing felt nails . They are also often used to fasten slate sheets. Today they are mostly driven in mechanically with the help of a pneumatic nailer . For this purpose, the individual nails are magazined with a wire to form a nail belt. Roofing felt nails are relatively short - 20 to 35 mm - and have a relatively wide head, making it difficult to tear out the roofing felt. Today they are mostly hot-dip galvanized or, more rarely, copper-plated .

Smaller broad- headed pencils are also known as combs .

Anchor nail

Anchor nails with flat connector and perforated sheet (panicle tape)
Anchor nail

An anchor nail , also known as a comb , grooved or ring nail , has a profiled shaft with transverse grooves that are beveled in the manner of a barb towards the tip and cut straight towards the head. This results in an up to four times increased pull-out resistance in wood. Sheet metal parts ( perforated sheets , panicle tape , angles) are often connected to (load-bearing) wooden structures with anchor nails . The common diameter is 4 mm with a length of usually 40 to 60 mm. Wood connections with perforated sheet metal profiles are often used instead of the previously common carpenter-like wood connections , as they weaken the wood cross-section less than tongue and groove connections .

Joining method with anchor nails are now also in the production of vehicle bodies used when the site is only accessible on one side and the connection mainly to shear is charged. The nail is driven in pneumatically and without pre-punching the components. Compared to riveting , the process is easier and cheaper.

Screw nail

Screw nails

A screw nail or screw nail is a nail, instead of the smooth shank a completely or partially steep " thread has". When hammering in, the nail turns into the wood like a screw, and the "thread shape" creates greater pull-out resistance. This nail can be found in the manufacture of wooden pallets , for example .

Impact screw

Impact screws are screws that have a nail tip and a head provided with a knuckle-blower ring to drive in with a hammer. The screw thread is flattened towards the tip so that it does not get caught when hammering in. The thread digs into the material or the wall anchor used when it is hammered in . The advantage over the comb nail is that hammer screws can simply be unscrewed to loosen the connection.

Notched nail

Semicircular notch nail

A grooved nail has three bulge notches on its circumference. They deform when the grooved nail is hammered into a hole. This (blind hole) hole in a piece of metal is drilled beforehand with the twist drill. ( Tolerance grade H11). Grooved nails and grooved pins save the time-consuming fitting of cylindrical pins . Signs, sheets and hinges in metal construction are fastened with the half-round notched nail according to ISO 8746 (formerly DIN 1476) or the countersunk notched nail according to ISO 8747 (formerly DIN 1477).

Marking nail

Marking nail

Marking nails can be found in road construction z. B. to limit the roadway in urban areas. Due to their raised head shape, they are immediately noticeable when driven over acoustically and by vibrations.

  • Made of aluminum and fitted with a pin, they are permanently anchored in the ground.
  • Made of colored plastic and sometimes provided with reflectors, they are glued on during construction work on motorways to change the lane guidance.

On graveled platforms they are used as a replacement for the painted white safety line.

Marking nail

Marking nail

Marking nails are ground marks on solid road surfaces such as asphalt, composite stones, etc. that are attached for surveying purposes. A notch is used to accommodate the steel tip of a ranging pole .

Upholstery nail

Upholstery nails are used to fasten the fabric to be covered in upholstered furniture . They are characterized by particularly large, mostly semicircular nail heads, which offer a large contact surface on the tissue. This ensures that the cover is permanently and securely fastened to the wooden body, even under greater stress. In the visible area, the heads are often stylishly designed. The upholstery nail is therefore often referred to as a decorative nail. So it is not just a fastening element, but can also be a defining style element if the fastening points are arranged accordingly (see pearl rod ).



Gutter or gutter iron nail

Gutter iron nails , more correctly referred to as gutter support nails , but also as gutter iron nails , are used to attach gutter supports to the eaves . The dimensions are usually 4.2 × 80 mm.

  • Hot-dip galvanized nails are used for galvanized gutter supports
  • Copper nails are used for copper gutter supports

Shoe nail

Nailed boots around 1900

The shoe soles have been provided with special shoe nails for better "grip" and longer durability. (See image)

Hand-forged toe nail

Shoe nails were forged by hand for military and work shoes. The following pictures show hand-forged shoe nails from Sulz (on the Rhine) . Such particularly durable and non-slip shoes or wooden slippers are popularly called nailed for short .

The high-heel corner nail, which could not be made by every nail smith, is similar to a work of art and has a complex design.

Whale nail

The term is merely a description of the purpose of a nail in the shoemaking trade. There is no special nail that is only used for this. The one referred to here as a whale nail is a cylindrical nail with a pyramidal tip. It has a small diameter (approx. ½ mm), a length of approx. 25–35 mm and a flat head. The head has a diameter of approx. 2½ – 3 mm. It is not to be confused with the Täcks . In contrast to this element, which is used almost exclusively in the shoemaker's trade, the whale nail can also be used for other purposes, such as smaller wood connections. In the shoemaker's trade, the “whale nail” is used during the fulling of the leather in places where greater pressure has to be exerted for shaping.

Sleeper nail

Designation nail Nageno (1965) Is still used today to mark all wooden sleepers

An offset nail that was used to attach rails to railway sleepers . This nail shape is no longer in use today, screws are used for fastening . Younger sleeper nails indicate the year of manufacture of the wooden sleepers and, for turnout sleepers, the sleeper number.

Designation nail

Tagging nails on a telephone pole

Identification nails are used to identify telephone poles, for example . Here the masts are usually typified by triangular, square and round nails with stamped numbers.

Spike nail

Designation in northern Germany for a large, square ship's nail with a flat head. (see picture above)

Pin wire

The pin wire is used in glazing.

Tent nail

A tent nail , also a line, rope or tension nail, is an anchoring pin when camping with a hook on the head.
The peg for general technical use has a compressed head.

Carpenter nail

Carpenter nail

The carpenter's nail is a nail with a length of 18-27 cm with a diameter of 5-7 mm. In common parlance, all larger nails are referred to as such, e.g. B. rafter nail or Jesus nail. Mostly the part to be fastened is pre-drilled accordingly.


The act of driving nails in is called nailing . This joining process belongs to the group pressing on and pressing . To prevent the wood from splitting, the tips of the nails can be beaten beforehand. As a result, the wood fibers are cut instead of shifted, which reduces tension and, in the case of round nails, improves the sealing of the nail against penetrating water (corrosion protection). Alternatively, forged square nails were previously aligned with the grain of the wood in order to separate the wood fibers accordingly.

The traditional tool for nailing is the hammer .

Magazined nails

Stapler nails for a hand tacker

If larger areas, e.g. B. a formwork must be applied, devices are used, which shoot the nails mechanically, hydraulically or by compressed air.

Paper-bound resinated anchor nails

Magazined nails are u. a. used for shooting in pneumatic nailers. In order to enable automated nailing, the individual nails must be connected to one another in “nail strips”. There are the following types:

  • glue-bound
  • wired
  • Plastic band bound
  • paper-bound

Derived meaning

In the colloquial language, nailing has other meanings in connection with rhythmic knocking noises, see knocking (internal combustion engine) .

See also

other nails with a special purpose:

Similar tools for press-fit processes are:


Web links

Wiktionary: Nagel  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Nagel  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikiquote: Nagel  - Quotes

Individual evidence

  1. Dating based on the annual rings in the wood, see: Angelika Franz: The oldest wooden nails in the world . In: Der Spiegel , December 30, 2010. Retrieved March 6, 2012.
  2. a b c d History of the manufacture of iron in all ages, and particularly in the United States from colonial times to 1891 . The American Iron And Steel Association, 1892, from page 448. Retrieved June 25, 2013.
  3. ^ Thomas Martin: The circle of the mechanical arts , London 1815, p. 455.
  4. ^ Peter Priess: Wire Nails in North America . Bulletin of the Association for Preservation Technology, Vol. 5, No. 4, pp. 87-92 (1973). Retrieved June 25, 2013.
  5. ^ Carl Friedrich Alexander Hartmann: Conversations Lexicon of mining, metallurgy & salt works and their auxiliary sciences . Volume 3, Scheible, Stuttgart 1841, from page 621. Accessed June 25, 2013.
  6. Drawing example of a ring nail ( Memento from December 25, 2013 in the Internet Archive ).
  7. Esslingen-based vehicle technicians are developing a new process for automotive engineering ( Memento of the original from March 4, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. on, accessed on March 13, 2013. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /