Help support the WCHA Forums by making a tax-deductible donation!

Need to replace steel nails in an Old Town...

Discussion in 'Wood and Canvas' started by Howie, Feb 7, 2020.

  1. Howie

    Howie Wooden Canoe Maniac

    In a post several weeks ago I mentioned that I have been given a very early 18' 1921 OT Molitor. This one is unusual in that the outer rails are held in place with steel nail pounded in from the inner rails at most every rib - the exceptions being at the two ribs surrounding a seat or thwart bolt as well as the tips of the outer rails where the nails are pounded from the outside. The nails measure 1-3/4" and about 0.075" diameter (difficult to measure on account of the rust) and have a minimal head like a brad or finish nail.

    I'd prefer not to steel nails. Can someone recommend a good substitute? I can predrill the holes through the inner rails and ribs (1-1/8") but the nail will need to be sturdy enough to take pounding into 5/8" of the mahogany outer rails. Plus I'd like the head to be relatively small and unobtrusive.

  2. David Satter

    David Satter LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Ring nails would hold great. Heads are probably 3/16 but the heads are nice and flat and their not bad looking when varnished over. Anything with a smaller head wont have the holding power of rings. Wouldn't you predrill into the outer rail also. The ring nails come in bronze and stainless.
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2020
  3. MGC

    MGC Scrapmaker

    Depending upon where the rings start relative to the head you could grind the heads off of them. It would be a PITA but they would less visible. I spent a few minutes looking at alternatives and it looks like all ring nails are made the same way...there are no silicon bronze ring finishing nails.
    I agree with David about the rings though...I used to have a Kennebec with nailed on rails. I hated it. The rails were constantly working off the boat... I solved the problem by selling the boat. This is long before I met you otherwise I would have tried to sell it to you! :D
    Dan Lindberg likes this.
  4. dtdcanoes

    dtdcanoes LOVES Wooden Canoes

    GEEZ....why not just put a lot of ring nails in a drill, get out a file and size the head as you would prefer , pr-drill the wales and get it done. I would use the SS nail as it is close to originally used. Now yo can keep the boat for at least a while, and not worry when you find a new home for her.
  5. OP

    Howie Wooden Canoe Maniac

    Ya know, that's not a bad idea about filing the nail head's diameter down using a drill press. I see I can get 1-3/4" ones at Jamestown in bronze in size #12 (0.109"dia), and at Home Depot in stainless in size #14 (0.08"dia).

    Excellent advice guys. Thanks.
  6. Ron Bedard

    Ron Bedard Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    the heads on stainless steel siding nails are not very large. The face has a waffle pattern that might look OK. They're easy to snip if the available length isn't just right. They bend when being driven into anything hard so pre-drilling might be necessary.
  7. Craig Johnson

    Craig Johnson LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Stainless steel square drive finish head wood screws might be an option. I found some with brown colored heads that I used to put the rails back on my Kennebec. They are rarely noticed unless I point them out and are much more secure than any kind of nail. Not for a strictly traditional restoration though.
  8. Rod Tait (Orca Boats)

    Rod Tait (Orca Boats) Designer/Builder

  9. OP

    Howie Wooden Canoe Maniac

    Rod: Like Mike/MGC points out unless the nails have rings they will pull out. Hey - maybe that's why OT used steel nails: when the nails rusted they held tight!
  10. mmmalmberg

    mmmalmberg LOVES Wooden Canoes

  11. Rod Tait (Orca Boats)

    Rod Tait (Orca Boats) Designer/Builder

    I doubt that a common copper nail will easily pull out. I use them all the time on older classic boats. I am working on an old town from 1909 that still had the copper nails in it. Mind you, it did have lots of them in there of different lengths. Just nail then in on slight angle so they can not all easily back out together.
  12. dtdcanoes

    dtdcanoes LOVES Wooden Canoes

    I haven't moved away from using copper nails and have never experienced their backing out esp. when they were used originally. I have been suspect in certain instances of the holding power in a particular fix. I just grabbed my nail snipper and ran down the copper shaft making SLIGHT dents that appear on two sides. I tested the effect of the trick and could feel by hand the increased holding of the treated nail, esp. in hardwood . Seems goofy, I know, but I did get more sleep. ( need I say, SLIGHT again ). Have fun.
    mmmalmberg likes this.
  13. Rollin Thurlow

    Rollin Thurlow member since 1980

    Of course if you were going for historically accuracy you would have to use steel finish nails. Most often the heads of the nails would have been countersunk and plugged with a bit of wood dough. They didn't want the steel nail to be seen!
    Now that your considering something a bit different you might consider using an exterior trim screw. They have a very narrow diameter and the heads can be countersunk just like the nails and plugged. The screws are non corrosive and you get the holding power of a screw without the pounding on the rail using a nail.
    Just don't tell anyone that I recommended it or I might lose my membership in the " Good Enough for Granddad Club".

    Attached Files:

    pklonowski and mmmalmberg like this.

Share This Page