Period Pieces & Nails

A small sampling of Tremont Nails

I’ve been inundated with questions for the live stream Q&A that Chris and I are doing on Saturday at 11 a.m. Eastern on January 30, so I’m afraid we won’t be able to answer all of them before it’s time for our weekly Saturday lunch at Crafts & Vines (outside and socially distanced, of course). So, I’ll be tackling some of them on the blog. Here’s the first.

Q: Where would you recommend for purchasing nails for period pieces?

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A: This is an easy one, because as far as I know, there are only two possible answers, and the appropriate one depends on what is meant by period.

From the early 19th-century until the late 19th-century, cut nails were easily available (more easily the later one gets into the century). Today, as far as I know there is but one maker of cut nails: Tremont Nail (now owned by Acorn Manufacturing). So barring reclaimed nails from a salvage place, that’s the only supplier (I think). Tremont nails can be ordered direct from the company, but are available in smaller quantities from some retailers (Lee Valley Tools and Tools for Working Wood among them).

On the left are Rivierre square-shanked nails; on the right are blacksmith-made iron nails.

For period work prior to the early 19th-century, the only truly appropriate choice is blacksmith-made nails. But they are not cheap…so I would use those only when I’m wholly committed to authenticity. For these, make friends with your local blacksmith, and expect to pay anywhere from $1 to $3 per nail.

If, like me, your wallet isn’t quite so well-stocked, consider using Rivierre square-shanked nails. These have the look and shape of blacksmith-made nails but at a far more affordable price. They are available in the U.S. from Lee Valley Tools. Another option is Tremont “wrought head” nails. These are tapered, cut nails, but the heads look kind of handmade (and they’re available in a black oxide finish).

Tremont “decorative wrought head” nails.

— Fitz


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