Nothing wrong with nails

What’s so wrong about using nails? Let me answer that for you: Nothing; nothing at all.

Using nails for construction seems to get a bad rap for anything other than basic building and framing. There’s a mindset that using visible fasteners – heck, sometimes using fasteners at all – detracts from a project’s aesthetics. This is often true, but it seems that too many woodworkers consider this to always be true. It’s not. That’s the same kind of thinking that says dovetails are the be-all and end-all of “proper” joinery, and that’s not true, either. Depending on the piece, sometimes basic butt joints are fine.

I may have shown you this before, but here’s a piece I made that uses both butt joints and nails throughout.

AJBLOG-763 image

Some of the finest museum-quality furniture ever made used nails as part of the construction, and often they’re visible. Next time you’re in a museum that features some outstanding antique furniture, take a look for nails. You’ll see them.

Well, sure, my hardware center in the photo above ain’t museum-quality anything. It’s simple shop furniture, but you know what? For it’s intended use butt joints and nails are perfect, and the piece is rock-solid.

And I think it looks darned nice in my shop.



  • Arthur Turner says:

    Most of my shop projects are glued ‘n’ screwed. Works great and fast. If I think I may have to modify the project, I just screw butt joints together. Edge banding or putty and paint make great looking projects.

  • Stanley Scruggs says:

    Your are right!

  • Bob Weaver says:

    Amen Brother

  • Jerry Finch says:

    I agree. I think it might be a bit of a media thing. I can’t count the times I have read an article about a piece of furniture wherein the writer (often a reporter with little obvious woodworking knowledge) states incredulously “ was made entirely without nails, using only glue and wooden pegs..”, as if this were some kind of miraculous process. It is a bit ironic, in a era when architecture has come through a phase of “honesty”, i.e, exposed structural members, unfinished concrete walls, etc, that nails or even screws in furniture construction are somehow bad. I never hesitate to leave exposed screw heads, or use nails where either are appropriate for the purpose. I also prefer finger joints to dovetails. Properly made they are stronger and easier to make (though not by hand.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive. For more information, please see our Terms of Use.