One of the projects I usually did at demonstrations was nail making. Even so I’ve probably made only a couple of hundred nails and the intermissions between sessions were lengthly so I’ve never gotten very good at it.
The first time I ever saw hand forged nails was at a Saltfork Craftsmen conference in Guthrie, Oklahoma in 1999. Peter Ross was one of the featured demonstrators. As he introduced himself he worked making five clout nails. It looked very causal, almost effortless, as he tapped out one after another and scooted them off the anvil. After just a few minutes the opening exercise was finished and the nails were picked up and laid out. When I got a look at them the experience was something like seeing a magician finish an act. There were a dozen or more virtually identical and perfect small nails.
What seemed like a small thing was no small thing. It is always a pleasure to watch a master craftsman work. I have had the pleasure to watch Peter several times and always enjoy his skill as well as his expert narrative about the history of our craft in America.
Probably, I should spend more time making nails. It may be one of the best ways to practice controlled hand forging. Each nail is a test of skill and the series can serve as a measure of progress over time.
Here is a site which features building products for restoration of historic buildings in the UK. There are images of traditional nails and more.
A Pete Stanaitis article:
Another article about how nails are made:
And three more:
Interesting photos of a historic Halesowen, Dudley, UK nail shop: