They’re the simplest fasteners in the workshop, but nails and screws are not always used correctly. A. Fillinger Inc., a fourth generation family business, ACE Hardware store, and custom cabinetry and millwork company, offers tips for properly selecting and using them.
“You wouldn’t think nails and screws would be complicated,” said Ryan Fillinger, vice president of marketing and sales. “But if you’ve visited our store, you know there are many types and sizes. Make sure you’re using the right one for the job.”
**Choosing the Nail
Four nail types handle most fastening jobs – common, casing, finishing, and brads.
* Choose a common nail, the most widely used, when the appearance of the flat nail head is not objectionable.
* Choose a casing nail (slightly heavier than a finishing nail) primarily for cabinet work or interior trim. Normally countersunk, the head should be covered with putty or wood filler. Casing nails are good for 3/4-inch plywood.
* Used for finishing work, a finish nail has a rounded head that can be driven flush with the surface of the wood and may or may not be countersunk.
* Thinner, shorter, and smaller than finish nails, brads are for light assembly work where the head should be concealed, best in plywood no thicker than 1/4 inch.
Nails are normally driven through a thinner piece of wood and into a thicker one. A rule of thumb for length is that the nail should always be about three times as long as the thickness of the thinner piece, allowing 2/3 of the nail to provide holding power in the thick piece.
**Using the Nail
Using the wrong kind of nail is the biggest mistake. Another is to drive two nails into the same grain near the end of a plank. Still another mistake is to try to countersink a nail without a nail set. To countersink properly, drive the casing or finish nail into the wood, leaving the head slightly above the surface. Use a nail set that is the same size as the head and use it to drive the nail in slightly below the surface. Fill the recessed area with wood putty or filler, and sand it flush once it’s dry.
“There are some projects that will cause you headaches unless you use specialty nails,” Fillinger said. Specialty nails are available for:
* Holding wood to concrete or masonry
* Corners (corrugated fasteners)
**Choosing the Screw
There are two types of screws – slot-head (one slot requiring a slotted screwdriver) and Phillips-head (a cross slot requiring a Phillips screwdriver). The heads are available in either flat (flush with the surface), round (protrudes in a half-circle), or oval (extends above the surface in a slight oval).
The thicker the plywood, the bigger and longer the screw. “For 1/4-inch plywood, we recommend No. 4, 3/4-inch long screws. For 3/4-inch plywood, you’re looking at a No. 8 screw with a 1-1/2-inch length.”
**Using the Screw
Screws, especially Phillips-head, can become stripped if used improperly. “It sounds basic, but using the wrong screwdriver is a common error,” Fillinger said. Stripping often occurs when the bit in an electric drill is too small for the screw.
Another mistake is attempting to use a screw without first making a pilot hole. When the two pieces of wood are held securely, drill a pilot hole through the top piece into the second piece. The hole should be slightly smaller in diameter and as long as the screw.
For countersinking, use the pilot hole as a guide and drill a hole slightly larger than the screw shank through the top piece. Use a countersink to drill for countersinking oval or flathead screws. To completely conceal the head of the screw, a dowel plug can be used.
“It can get frustrating when you need to insert a screw in an area that’s hard to reach,” Fillinger said. “Get yourself a ratchet or offset screwdriver for this. You won’t regret it.”
Established in southeastern Wisconsin in 1938, A. Fillinger Inc. was one of the early ACE Hardware affiliates and has more than 20,000 products on-hand. The millwork division specializes in custom cabinetry and mouldings. A. Fillinger is located at 6750 N. 43rd St. in Milwaukee.
The complete guide to screws and nails, provided by ACE Hardware, is available at www.acehardware.com. A. Fillinger can be reached at 414-353-8433 and online at www.afillinger.com.
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