In construction and carpentry, a slender metal shaft that is pointed at one end and flattened at the other end and is used for fastening one or more objects to each other. Nails are most commonly used to fasten pieces of wood together, but they are also used with plastic, drywall, masonry, and concrete.

Nail Materials

Nails can be made from a variety of metals, including ordinary steel, stainless steel, brass, copper, or aluminum. Or, nails can be galvanized or plated with zinc or another metal. Most construction nails are steel, often with some kind of surface coating. Many construction nails are coated with a thin layer of vinyl, which acts as a lubricant when driving the nail. Nails can also be coated with phosphate to improve their holding power.

Different types of nail

  • Common
  • Box Nail
  • Roofing Nails
  • Masonry Nails
  • Finishing Nails
  • Casing Nail
  • Brad
  • Cut Flooring Nails
  • Spiral Flooring Nails
  • Annular Ring Nails
  • Duplex Nails
  • Miscellaneous Nails

The Manufacturing Process

Most nails are made from coils of metal wire. The wire is fed into a nail-making machine which can produce up to 700 nails per minute. The nails may then be further twisted or formed, cleaned, finished, and packaged.


1 Wire is drawn from a coil and fed into the nail-making machine where it is gripped by a pair of gripper dies. The shape of the head of the nail has been machined into the end of the dies.

2 While the dies clamp the wire in place, the free end of the wire is struck by a mechanical hammer. This deforms the end of the wire into the die cavity to form the head of the nail.

3 With the wire still clamped in the dies, a set of shaped cutters strike the opposite end of the nail, forming the point and cutting the nail free from the rest of the wire coming off the coil.

4 The dies open and an expelling mechanism knocks the nail into a collection pan below the machine. The free end of the wire is drawn from the coil and fed into the machine. The cycle then begins again.

Additional forming

5 Nails with helical twists, serrations, or other surface configurations are fed into other machines that roll, twist, stamp, or cut the required forms. This may be a purely mechanical process or may require heating the material before forming.


6 The nails are cleaned in a rotating barrel filled with hot caustic soda. This  Nail removes any oil from the forming machine and cleans up any small metal scraps, or nippings, that might be clinging to the nails.

7 Many nails are given a final bright finish before being packaged. This is accomplished by placing the nails in a rotating drum of hot sawdust to lightly polish the surface of the nails. Other nails may be passed through an open flame in an oven to give them a blued finish. Galvanized nails are dipped into a tank of molten zinc in a process called hot-dip galvanizing. A zinc coating may also be applied by heating the nails to about 570°F (300°C) in a closed container filed with a powder composed of zinc dust and zinc oxide. Other coated nails are either dipped or sprayed to obtain their final finish.

8 Depending on the tolerances desired, some specialty nails may also require an additional heat treating step.


9 Magnetic elevators convey the finished nails to weighing machines which drop them into open cardboard boxes. As they are dropped in, a magnetic field aligns them so they stack in neat rows. After they are packaged, the nails are demagnetized. Nails are usually sold in boxes of 1, 5, 10, 25, and 50 pounds. Smaller nails, such as brads, are sold in 2-ounce or 4-ounce boxes and are packaged without being magnetically aligned.

Tips for Using Nails

When working with harder woods or nailing into the end of a piece of wood, drilling a pilot hole will reduce the likelihood of the wood splitting when you drive in the nail. 

Turn the nail upside down and tap on it a few times with the hammer to blunt the point. Blunt nails are harder to drive, but they’re less likely to split wood. 

Nails driven through, or against, the grain lock into place while nails driven with the grain will slide out more easily. 


If you’re concerned about rust affecting nails, use aluminum nails, which resist rust even better than rust-resistant finishes. They are used most frequently on aluminum siding or screening. If you’re hammering into cedar or redwood, you’ll need to use stainless steel nails, which won’t corrode or break down. They also won’t streak or stain your wood.

Avoid driving multiple nails on the same grain line, as the increased stress is likely to cause wood to split.

Always wear eye protection when driving a nail into masonry.