History of Iron Nails

History doesn't name the person who first joined two pieces of wood with a sharp implement, but the results of that discovery are all around us. From the desk you sit at, to the bridge you cross on the way home, the creation of the nail has changed our lives forever.

old iron nails, iron nails


The early evidence of large-scale nail making comes from the Romans 2000 years ago.

metal nails

In the UK, where many Roman villa sites have been excavated, ancient nails have been found. At the fortress of Inchtuthil in Perthshire, 875,000 nails weighing 7 tonnes were found.


Hand Forged Nails - The History of Nails

Blacksmiths heated iron ore with carbon to form a dense mass of metal, which was then placed into the shape of square rods and left to cool.  After re-heating the rod, the blacksmith would cut off a nail length and hammer all four sides of the softened end to form a sharp point. The hot nail was then inserted into a hole in an anvil and, with four strikes of the hammer, the blacksmith would form the rose head.

nails metal

This traditional design had the benefit of four sharp edges which cut deep into timber. When the wood fibres were damp they would swell and bind around the nail, ensuring an extremely strong fixing.

Automated Nail Production

In the late 1700s, a machine was designed to automate the process of nail production. This machine had three essential stages: first, a triangular strip of metal was cut, giving the desired width of the nail; next, a lever held the metal in place, and then a third lever formed the head. The metal was then turned through 180 degrees to cut the next equal and opposite nail shape off the strip. These are known as cut nails.

By the 1900’s, the first coils of steel wire were produced. Automatically produced wire rails could be made without human intervention and were cheaper to produce.  These thinner nails do not have as much holding power as the previous hand made nails, however with modern construction methods, this did not matter as much. The wire nail quickly became the nail of choice for construction projects.

With recent home renovation trends, and the desire to preserve authentic period details, hand forged nails are once again on trend. The individual hand-made look of these nails is ideal for period properties and traditional style homes. Perfect for doors, upholstery or floor boards .

We offer 1kg bags of hand forged mild steel nails. The 35mm nails are available in dark metal self-colour or rustic pewter.

For longer length nails we have 65mm nails, also available in dark metal self-colour or rustic pewter.