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The wood fibres would often swell if damp and bind round the nail making an extremely strong fixing.In Tudor times, we have evidence that the nail shape had not changed at all as can be seen by the nails found preserved in a barrel of tar on board the 'Mary Rose' - the Tudor flag ship of Henry VIII built in 1509 and recovered from the mud of the Solent in 1982.Then the nail maker would insert the hot nail into a hole in a nail header or anvil and with four glancing blows of the hammer would form the rosehead (a shallow pyramid shape).This shape of nail had the benefit of four sharp edges on the shank which cut deep into timber and the tapered shank provided friction down its full length.Looking at antique furniture, we often seek clues for authenticity and age.There are many factors that show true historic construction, but one clue that is often overlooked is the type of nail used to hold the piece together.

The hand-forged nail changed little until well into the 1700's.

These nails have heads known as rose heads, a faceted and shallow pyramid-shaped design created from four blows of an ironsmith's hammer.

Between the end of the 18th and the end of the 19th centuries, nails were cut into shape.

(this page contains the substance of an article entitled 'Traditional Cut Nails - worth preserving?

' written in May 2002 at the request of, and for inclusion in, the RICS Building Conservation Journal)For nail making, iron ore was heated with carbon to form a dense spongy mass of metal which was then fashioned into the shape of square rods and left to cool. After re-heating the rod in a forge, the blacksmith would cut off a nail length and hammer all four sides of the softened end to form a point.

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