The smith was here furnished, not with a nail rod, but with a strip of plate iron, several feet long, about two and a quarter inches wide, and often about one-eighth of an inch thick.This strip he slid into a cutter, worked at first by hand power, resembling those used by bookbinders to trim books, and not here shown.All the evidence examined establishes this fact, with the following exceptions; namely, that long after 1800, wrought nails, to stand the jar, and because they would clench, continued to be used in the facings of window shutters; in the battens of doors; in the overlap of boards (old style) in lathed room partitions: or on door latches, etc., until about 1850.
1825, and throughout the following century, with stamped heads, showing level tops impressed by a single blow or stamp.
Information gathered with difficulty from the Patent Office records and books, makes it probable (subject to correction by dated nails) that in general, up to 1825, the nail-cutting machines had not been perfected; in other words, that while after 1825, nail machinery produced cut nails at a single operation, before that time, two machines, run by hand power, but not yet by steam, nor even by water, one to cut, as described above, and another, probably nothing more than a special vise to hold the shank while hand-hammering the head, were used in the manufacture of cut nails.
Nails used at the time a house was built are nearly always to be found in the garret floors.
The wrought nail, no matter what its size, as generally used in house construction, is easily distinguished from the machine-made nails, called cut nails, above re-furred to, and described later.
It was made from rectangular strips of malleable iron, several feet long, and about a quarter of an inch thick, called nail rods, which were furnished to the black-smith or nailer, who, holding one of them in one hand, heated its end in his forge, and then, on the anvil, pointed it with the hammer on all four sides.
Next, he partly cut it, above the point, on the "hardy," with a hammer blow, and then, inserting the hot point into the swage hole, of his so-called 'heading tool,' he broke off the rod and hammered the projecting end so as to spread it around the top of the hole; after which, the cooling, shrunken nail was easily knocked out of the orifice.Wrought nails, as free-hand forged products, vary greatly in style and shape, but the evidence examined has not as yet furnished any definite elate for any of their variations.The far more easily made cut nail, as the evidence clearly shows, consists of a rectangular, tapering shank of iron, not hammered into a point by hand, but tapered, by a single cut, across a plate of iron.But as these latter continued in use for certain purposes (often for floors) until long after the middle of the nineteenth century, their confused evidence should here be thrown out of consideration.An examination, not only of the records above mentioned but also of dated nails, shows that about the year 1825, the cut-nail machine, still working by water-power rather than by hand, and not yet by steam, had been so perfected as to make cut nails no longer by two operations but by a single operation in one ma-chine, in which the apparatus cut the nail, instantly clamped it and, at a single blow, stamped the head. 1825 to 1830) comparatively thin, lopsided and imperfect, became more thick, square and typically regular after 1830 and are always easily recognizable after about 1840.William Bentley, who visited Read's nail works in 1810 (See Essex Institute Historical Col-lections, April, 1918, page 113), and found that the workmen were then heading nails in the only way thus far successful, namely, by hand, "as it is found heading is done better by hand than by any machine as yet invented both as to time and good-ness of execution.