Tame That Wayward Nail


Errant nail? Pull, Don’t Push for the Cleanest Fix

Air-nailers have made fastening much more efficient. I use my air-nailers on a daily basis to fasten small pieces of trim to cabinets, frames and doors. While the process is much more efficient, there’s a little less control when driving the nails, compared to hand nailing. Sometimes the smaller, 18 gauge nails can be redirected by knots or hard grain patterns. This is no reason to give up this great tool. It’s useful, and a project saver, to know how to fix those wayward nails!

This nail, driven into red oak by a brad nailer, hit a dense spot of grain and was re-directed through the face frame. This isn’t uncommon when nailing thin gauge nails into hard woods. Fortunately, it’s a simple fix that will be invisible when completed.


Step 1.

First, clamp the work piece firmly to your bench. Then, drive the nail with a nail-set as deep as you can into the trim. This will force the nail into the trim and further through the face frame.


Step 2.

With pliers or channel-locks, pull the nail through the face frame. Place a protective block of wood on the face frame so you don’t dent or mar the surface. When the head comes through the face frame, it will pull some wood chips through the face.


Step 3.

Apply glue to the torn out wood. I use a toothpick to apply the glue to all of the small, protruding wood grain pieces. Use the toothpick to fold the wood grain flat and back towards its original placement. This is the finesse part of the process. Take your time and get it right.


Step 4.

Clamp a block on the face frame to set the glued wood grain flat. I put a piece of plastic wrap between my wood block and face frame so they don’t adhere together.


Step 5.

Remove the clamp after 30 minutes.

tame-wayward-nail-6The surface glue will still be a bit wet and therefore easier to scrape off. Lightly sand the surface to remove any remaining residue.

tame-wayward-nail-7 The repair is now invisible. You can see the other nail hole I’ve driven to hold the trim in place. Once both holes are filled with wood putty, the panel will be ready for finishing.

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