types of nails, hammer and nails

A Complete Guide to Woodworking Nail Sizes & Types

Nails are a crucial part of woodworking. They can be used to attach things, such as shelves and trim boards, or they can be nails that you use for laying down the flooring on your new deck. But which nails should you use? Read along to find the right nail for your next DIY woodworking project.

common nailCommon Nails

When most people think of nails, common nails are what come to mind. Common pins are used for general construction, specifically to hold down rafters, joists, or anything you might be framing. They have a thick shank with the head wide enough so there is little risk of splitting wood while driving in your nail and they have plenty of holding power.

Cut Nails

The next nails we want to discuss are called “cut nails.” These nails were typically made from iron and they look like a wire nail. The name for this type of nail comes from the way that it was manufactured: people would cut off both ends of a piece of wire, leaving two sharp edges on each end.

The other reason why these nails were called “cut nails” is because the nails would rust after a while. Therefore, people had to cut off the bottom of their nails before they started to rust to expose the nails underneath.

Cut nails are not used much anymore because they aren’t very strong, but you can still find them in antique and old houses.

finishing nailsFinishing Nails + Casing Nails

A casing and finishing nail both have a similar head, however, they differ in shape. The finishing nail has an almost flat small head that is just slightly bigger than the shank; this allows for countersinking without slipping or gouging wood when installing nails by using pointed tips on each end of these tools which makes them easier to use compared with other types like roundhead ones (which would need sharp edges).

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A casing nail is used to finish off the edges of trim boards and door frames, as well as fasten them in place. It has large heads that are tapered with either flush or just below surface levels for easy installation on various surfaces like wood or metal. Galvanized nails have special corrosion resistance from moisture because they’re zinc-coated before being sold.

siding nails
Photo courtesy of Home Depot

Siding Nails

Siding nails come in different shapes and sizes, making them useful for both indoor and outdoor woodworking projects.

roofing nailRoofing Nails

“Roofing” nails are essential for holding your roof together and preventing it from falling off or being blown away by the wind. Roof tiles need these stronghold fasteners, which come in a variety of different lengths; they’re typically 1 to 2 inches long with an asphalt surface that allows them better purchase on whatever material you use (such as shingle). The head should match what kind like boards too: broad aluminum heads will get stuck easily while smaller flathead types work well when installation requires more precision, such as around chimneys.

tack nailsTack Nail

With a wide head and flat blade, the tack nail is what you need for fixing carpets to floorboards or stretching fabric upholstery onto wood.


pain nailsPin Nails

The nails that we will discuss next are called pin nails”. These nails are typically about an inch long, which means they can be used to attach two medium pieces of wood without being too noticeable.

People use these types of nails on picture frames and mitered corners on furniture because the nails help keep everything in place while you’re putting it together.

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Pin nails can be made out of brass, steel, or copper and they are very easy to hammer into the wood because they don’t leave much of a mark when you’re finished using them.

annular ring shank nailAnnular Ring Shanks

Annular ring shank nails are one of the best woodworking nails because their rings provide added grip and strength to ensure a secure attachment. These uniquely designed shafts allow for more versatility when fastening pieces together with different types of materials, like plastic.

brad Brads

The nails that we will be discussing next are called “brads.” These nails should not be confused with the nails you use for nailing down hardwood floor or roof shingles.

Brads are very small nails with a thin shank, typically only about 0.18 inches long, which means they can’t hold much weight by themselves. However, brad nails are used a lot in carpentry because they can be painted over to match the color of whatever project you’re working on and they’re great fasteners putting two pieces of wood together inconspicuously.

They’re commonly used in nail guns.

spike nailSpike Nails

The nails that we will be discussing next are called “spikes.” These nails were used to attach the boards onto the side of a house, which is why they are called “spikes.”

Spikes nails typically have large heads on them so you can easily see where to drive them into the wood. The nails also need to be long enough so that they go through two pieces of wood at once (if necessary).

masonry nailMasonry Nails

The nails that we will be discussing next are called “masonry nails.” These nails were typically used in nails made out of steel and they have a chisel tip so you can sink them into brick to hold it together.

Masonry nails should not be confused with construction screws, which are much larger than masonry nails.

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box nailsBox Nails

The nails that we will be discussing next are called “box nails.” These nails were typically used to attach the boards to build a box.

Box nails can also be made out of brass or copper because they need to hold up under pressure when you’re building something like a wooden crate.

Box nails have a head on them that is rectangular, which makes it easier to separate the nails when you’re finished using them.

drywall nailDrywall Nails

Drywall nails are incredibly useful for fastening anything to drywalls without damaging the surface. They have a round head and flat bottom so they can be driven through most surfaces with ease, even if it’s not tapered at all angles.

Another option is called cupped head nails. With a concave head, this nail head provides the best way to conceal itself. Cupped head nails are mainly for drywall.


With so many different types of nails, it’s important to select the right one for your needs. All these nails were invented to help people do their jobs more efficiently, which is why they are so important to the history of carpentry.

If you’re not sure which nail you’ll need, most home improvement stores offer nail sets that come with a variety.

About Peter Jacobs

Peter Jacobs is the Senior Director of Marketing at CNC Masters, a leading supplier of CNC mills, milling machines, and CNC lathes. He is actively involved in manufacturing processes and regularly contributes his insights for various blogs in CNC machining, 3D printing, rapid tooling, injection molding, metal casting, and manufacturing in general. You can connect with him on his LinkedIn.

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