One hundred larger 10d (10 penny) nails cost 10 pence. Thomas Jefferson, a true Renaissance man, made nails on his plantation.Until the very end of the 1700's, most nails in better furniture had a head that was rose-cut or faceted like an old miner's cut diamond.Archaeologists have found hand made bronze nails from as far back as 3000 BC.
The next phase of progress in nails was the appearance of “cut” nails, beginning in the very late 1700's.
As plates of flat steel became available, a simple hardened steel knife was used to “cut” one tapered rectangular nail at a time.
Machinery was developed to produce cut nails in the 1900's, and they are still used in flooring and concrete applications, where holding power is paramount, and power nailing tools are standard.
Machine made cut nails are also made for use in reproduction or hobbyist replica furniture, but they are so perfect and identical that it is usually easy to see that they are new.
Here are examples of hand-forged nails with tapered square shafts and hand-hammered heads from the 1700's: This immigrant's pine trunk was made about 1800, and has the original hand painted inscription: “Catherina Iud aus (from) Konigsberg (in East Prussia, Germany) uber (via) Bremen nach (for) Neu Iork (New York).” Although some hardware has been added , it has beautiful rose-cut, hand forged nails securing the original iron bindings.
Some nail heads were “butterfly” shaped, with visible facets where the iron head was hand-hammered, one nail at a time.
Here are examples of small cut nails from the early 1800's: Cut nails continued as the standard until the end of the 1800's, and were used in building construction, ships and furniture.
These nails fairly accurately date furniture to the 1900's, although it is worth remembering that sometimes modern nails were added in subsequent repairs.
Until about 1800, nails were hand-forged – tapered square shafts and hand-hammered heads.
During the 1800's, cut nails have tapered rectangular shafts and rectangular heads.
This is an example of a replica cut nail: In Europe in the 1850's, steel wire was made into tiny nails known as “brads,” with only a very small widened head.