You’d think that this is an easy question to answer, but choosing between using a nail or a screw for pieces of wood is pretty crucial if you want to keep the wood’s integrity, not to mention not create an eyesore. Of course, metal nail company’s and steel screw manufacturers have long buried the nail-or-screw issue a few decades ago, with both sides being given specific jobs for a particular piece of metal.
Whether or not you should use a screw or a nail depends entirely on your project, the material you’ll be hammering/screwing it into, or the kind of things you’ll fasten together. They do have crucial differences that novice craftsmen should know about, though. But first, here is a brief history.
A History of Sticking Wood Together
In general, ancient cultures all around the world used one form or another of either piece of material, and for a good reason: both the nail and the screw are made as amazing wood fasteners, should they be installed and sized correctly. Of course, ancient contractors would use a specific material for specific purposes and tools in their buildings. Still, by and large, most of those old temples and castles and structures that you see on the History channel used nails, screws, or a combination of both (along with interlocking joints and wedges, but that’s a different story).
Nails, however, are the screw’s older brother, and for a good reason: nails were simpler and easier to produce back in ye olden times. It was also easier to install on wood: all you needed was a blunt object with a handle, and voila, you’re now equipped to fasten wood and stuff. Screws, on the other hand, needed a specialized (at least, specialized in comparison to a rudimentary hammer) tool to install a specific object. Sure, the invention of the Phillips-head screw back in the 30s incentivized the building industry to switch over and use screws more often, but there was still that pesky problem of having to use a screwdriver.
Over time, of course, the Big Screw industry developed the cordless drill, a quantum-leap in screw-fastening technology. Not to be beaten, Big Nail came out with air compressors and pneumatic hammers, and ever since then, it’s been a power tools arms race, much to the delight of builders and craftsmen alike.
But Should I Use a Nail or a Screw?
Again, the answer to this question is entirely dependent on the purpose of the material; here’s a quick breakdown.
Use a nail if you’ll be using it to/for:
- Framing your walls and your roof
- Securing objects such as plywood sheathing
- Securing hardwood onto floors
- Securing sidings and roofings to a house
Meanwhile, screws are much more efficient when it comes to or is used for:
- Hanging up drywalls
- Attaching boards to walls
- Cabinet installation
- Securing wood decking
- Wood-to-wood connections that you might want to take apart eventually
So that is a brief explanation as to why screws and nails fulfill general, yet specific, purposes, and why you should choose the right tool for the right job. Making the right decision can aid in creating a better project result.
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