How to Toenail Wood
You will need:
- 2 x Wood (at least 60mm x 60mm x 500mm)
- 1 x Bag of Nails (50mm long)
- Working Boots
What is Toenailing Wood?
A skill essential to many woodwork projects is the ability to drive a nail through a board at an angle in order to join 2 planks at right angles. This technique is known as toenailing. As well as making a strong join, toenailing is also an excellent method for shifting misaligned boards into the correct position. Although this skill is not well known to beginners, we’ve got a few tips and tricks for positioning and driving your nails that’ll turn you into a master of toenailing, allowing you to add perfect right angle joins to your arsenal of carpentry skills. Let’s get started!
Step 1: Starting your Toenail
With your pencil, mark the desired position where you’d like your boards to join at right angles. Place the board about 5mm in front of where it should end up – your nail will drive it back to the correct spot. Put the toe of one of your working boots up against the back of the board. Place your nail about 15-20mm from the bottom of your board and tap the nail in just a little. The secret here is not to tap it in at an angle, but rather tap it straight in at first (about 5mm). If you’re not sure how high up on your board to start your nail, hold the nail next to your board at the eventual angle so you can see its final path.
Step 2: Driving your Toenail at an Angle
Pull the nail up to about a 50-degree angle and tap it in a couple of times. Then, with your toe firm against the back of the board, let go and drive your nail in until it protrudes slightly from the first board. Then reposition your board before continuing. Don’t worry if the board moves a little past your intended mark. Toenailing does take more precise hammer control than usual, so take note of the following tips. Hold the hammer at the end of the handle with a firm but relaxed grip. Swing from your elbow with a little wrist snap at the end of the stroke for extra oomph. As the nail goes deeper into the boards its head will become closer to the board, leaving less space for your hammer’s hitting surface to connect with the nail head. To deal with this, swing slightly further away from yourself so the hammer’s hitting surface (face) contacts the nail head off-centre. This allows you to drive the toenail all the way into the wood at an angle.
Step 3: Completing your Toenail
To complete your toenailing, repeat this process on the opposite side of your upright board too. If on your first attempt your drove your board back to far, toenailing the opposite side will compensate for this. You’ll often find that one edge of your joint is off the mark. Your board appears twisted, but that’s no problem – the beauty of this technique is you can simply toenail the corner that needs to be forced back.
The ability of toenails to move lumber is amazing, especially when the wood you’re working with is not 100 percent straight. In such cases use big nails with big heads like 16d sinkers. Also remember that if one toenail doesn’t move the board as far as you’d hoped, use another toenail alongside to move the board even further.