Shop Fasteners

IMG_1468I consider myself a furniture maker; to me, that’s a sub-group of woodworkers. A furniture maker is more narrowly focused on building furniture. As a result, I have a narrow view on fasteners.

In my shop, I do not have the need for a drawer full of various-sized screws and nails. Throughout my shop life, I’ve found that I use one size slot-head screw for most every furniture-building need. That size is a #8 x 1-1/4″ flat-head wood screw.  That length allows me to join, even if I countersink the screw, two pieces of 3/4″ thick material – the thickness most commonly associated with furniture – without the worry of the the pointed end of the screw making an appearance on the show side of my project. (My hardware, whether brasses from a specialty hardware supplier or low-end hinges from my local hardware store, comes with the screws needed to use the pieces purchased. I do replace Phillips-head screws with slot-head screws)

I buy these screws by the gross. When I use them, for the most part, I strip off the zinc plating using gun bluing purchased from a sporting goods store – at least that’s where I easily find the solution.

IMG_1469Other screws I buy are square-drive, self-tapping screws used for jigs and other shop stuff, and I sometimes purchase other sizes of wood screws if I find the need. But that’s not often.

I have a similar philosophy when it comes to nails. I keep 1-1/4″ and 1-1/2″ fine finish (reproduction) nails on hand. And I have 1-1/4″ shingle nails (the headed ones in the above photo). The finish nails are used on show faces of nailed-together furniture, and the shingle nails are used mainly for backboards, and for interior work where the nails seldom show.

I’ve had a box of headless brads gathering dust in the shop for nearly 20 years. I discovered that these nails were a pain to install and set, IMG_1471but more importantly, I discovered that the small rectangular depression left by the #18-gauge nails driven by my air-powered nail guns look almost identical to hand-driven brads.  The only difference is that on occasion, hand-driven brads need to be pulled, and that messes up the surface. And before you write that air-driven brads can shoot out the sides of your projects, remember that you need to accurately size the brads for the task, and pay attention to grain direction. I have a couple of lengths of #18-gauge brads – 1″ and 1-1/4″.

I also use a #23-gauge fastener. These fasteners disappear, and are perfect on small moldings.

You can call me nail and screw deficient, but I’ve made it 22 years and built a few more than 500 pieces of furniture using just the fasteners. I think that’s all I need.

Build Something Great!



Filed under Hardware, Methods of Work, Shop Tips

4 responses to “Shop Fasteners

  1. Joe M

    When removing the plating from modern screws, I use vinegar, let the needed screws soak over night, then wipe off/rinse. let sit another couple of days wet, then a liitle rust sets in, add the gun blueing and the screws look 100+ years old.

    • Why the vinegar? The gun bluing has the ability to strip the zinc off the screws. In an earlier post, I discovered that vinegar itself was not the look I wanted, so I went back to the bluing.

      • Joe M

        I use the vinegar to get the palting out of the slots in the screwheads (somtimes I also cut the slot deeper with a hacksaw blade) and with the small amount of tarnish/rust that occurs in a few days they look “period” like plain steel screws. The bluing adds the dark patina and when all is done,,,I have been able to repair/replace parts on antiques that would be hard pressed for any one to tell the originals from the replacement/new screws.

  2. I have used a blowtorch and dipped the hot screws in wax before to create an antique/ancient look to screws, but it’s hard to make a square or Phillips head look antique. There’s also a complete subset of screws when it comes to hardware. I have a whole shelf dedicated to small brass screws. From #6 to #1, which I usually replace the zinc or stainless screws that come with some hardware. Also, it’s good to have extras in case you break screws in the wood. To combat that, I use a stainless version of the brass screw to cut a ‘pilot’ path. Smearing the screw with wax also helps alot. And that last thing about those little screws is never, never, ever use a power drill. Always use a small screwdriver. Saves the screw head from tearing out and all but eliminates breaking the screw, because you can feel when the tension is building and you back off. Great article, Thanks Glen!

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