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Captive Nail
plane, old tools, woodwork, galoot

Roy Underhill did this in Episode 2906 of the Woodwright's Shop.

Start with a block of wood. This is a short piece of 2x2 (really 1.5" x 1.5" cross-section) poplar from Home Despot. Cut out two notches so it looks like at "E" lying on its back. Note that the notches are cut across the grain.

Boil it in water for a while. An hour should be plenty for a smallish piece like this.

Quickly take it from the boiling water (be careful), and squeeze one end in a strong vise:

Leave it in the vise for two day (Roy Underhill waited three days, but I was impatient). Then take it out and flip it over in the vise. Notice that the top cross bar of the "E" stays compressed.

You can now drill a hole in the middle cross bar:

Then insert the nail:

Take it back to the kitchen and steam the compressed part, perhaps with a tea kettle (out of view to the right, but you can see the haze from the steam:

Even after just a few minutes the compressed part has expanded to almost its original size. You can also use a collander over a pot of boiling water, if you are confident that the nail will not slip out.

Set it aside and let it dry for a couple days:


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I think I'll have to try that!

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