How To Drive Your Nails Straight: 8 Tips That Actually Work

How to drive a nail straight

When it comes to driving a nail into any kind of surface, there is always the risk of pounding it in crookedly and not noticing until it is too late. By that time, the hole will have already been created and the nail inserted. To combat this common mistake, I came up with a list of tips for straight nails that actually work.

How can you drive your nails straight? In order to drive your nails straight, you will need to make some preparations to the surface and your hammer. Start by drilling a pilot hole, and sanding the surface of your hammer to create a better grip and prevent the slipping that usually causes crooked nails.

You should also hold the nail toward the head during this process, and you can even use a pair of pliers or a small clothespin to hold it into place without hurting your fingers. It is most important to focus on the nail only, and let the weight of the hammer do most of the work for you.

Whether you are an aspiring DIY-er or a clueless homeowner with no home improvement experience, you might have found yourself in a situation where you need to hammer a nail for one reason or another. When these types of scenarios come up, it is best to be prepared with a solution. As we all know, driving a nail into a surface crooked is a nightmare.

So, instead of making some of the most common mistakes, you can follow the tips in this article that will actually work to help you drive a nail, perfectly straight. Keep reading to find out everything you need to know to become a professional builder, or someone who at least looks like they know what they’re doing.

8 Tips For Straight Nails That Actually Work

When it comes to driving a nail into a surface for any reason, there is usually a huge need to get it right the first time. If you use a hammer, or any other kind of tool, to push a nail into another material and it ends up being crooked or placed in the wrong spot, it is very hard to correct your mistake.

Even though you can use the back of the hammer to dig the nail out, you could ruin the surface that you might have been trying to preserve. In some situations related to hammering nails, you have one shot that you can’t miss. Otherwise, the entire task will end in failure.

On the other hand, when you are able to drive a nail completely straight into a surface with no error, it is one of the top best feelings in the world. Aside from it being satisfying to look at a perfect nail, you can leave the stress of trying to fix your mistakes behind you.

With the importance of driving the nail straight into a surface, you might be wondering how you can execute something like this the next time you are faced with driving a nail. Or, you might be in need of hammering a nail into a surface as we speak, and need some guidance on how to do so accurately.

Either way, you will find the information that you need throughout this article. Take a look at the list down below, where we will outline 8 of the best tips for driving straight nails that actually work.

8 Tips For Straight Nails That Actually Work:

  • Drill a pilot hole into the surface before you start
  • Hold the nail in place with a pair of pliers or a clothespin
  • Hold the nail closer to the head (instead of the surface) for stability
  • Use sandpaper to make the striking surface of the hammer more rough (creating grip and friction)
  • Focus on the nail as you are hammering, not how you are moving the actual tool (don’t look at the hammer)
  • Let the weight of the hammer do the work, you are just there to guide it
  • Blunt the tip of the nail before driving it into a wood surface (to prevent splitting)
  • Use a nail gun and point it straight at the target

The first, and probably one of the most helpful, tips that you can follow for driving the straightest nails into any surface is to drill a pilot hole in the exact spot before you start. A pilot hole is a hole that goes into a material before the nail, bolt, or screw goes into it.

This helps to make sure that the object is secured into the right location, instead of guessing when it is time to drive or drill it in. In order to create a pilot hole, you will need to first decide where exactly you will be putting the nail in the surface of your choice.

For additional accuracy, you can mark the area with a pencil, or use some kind of stencil with holes in it to make sure that even your pilot hole is the straightest that it can be.

The actual drilling part will be done with an electric power drill, and is as simple as creating a hole in the precise location where you would like your nail to go. The hole should not, however, go all the way to the end of the surface. There should still be some material for the nail to push through on its own.

Otherwise, the nail might slip through and not hold. The pilot hole should simply serve as a guideline for where you will hold the nail and proceed to hammer it in.

Aside from the location in which you will insert and hammer the nail, the next most important thing is the position of the nail when you begin. If you are not able to hold the nail in one place before you start hammering, or it moves throughout the process, it will most likely go in crooked.

However, if you are able to hold it firmly in the same spot the whole time, it will have nowhere else to move as you are applying pressure to the head. For added stability and assurance that your nail will be driven into the surface flawlessly, you can use something to hold it in place.

Some examples of things you can use for this purpose include a pair of pliers or a clothespin. By securing the nail into the clamp and squeezing the other end with your fingers, you can keep it in place much easier than with your fingers alone.

While you are holding the nail into place, it is important that you hold it closer to the top of the head, instead of down by the surface that you are nailing. This provides more stability, rather than holding the very bottom of the nail and allowing the top portion to wobble as you apply pressure.

A common issue that a lot of people run into while driving a nail with a hammer is the frequent slips that occur while they are striking. The hammer will usually move off of the head of the nail while still in motion, hitting the fingers or any other nearby surface that is in its path. This, unfortunately, can also cause crooked nails.

This is mostly due to the slippery and smooth surfaces that are on both the surface of the hammer and the nail. To avoid this, you can create friction between the two objects by sanding the tip of the hammer with a piece of sand paper.

The scratches that will be created on the previously smooth surface will allow the hammer to grip the nail better than it would when both of them had no traction.

The next tip has to do with the actual process of hammering the nail, and is something that you should keep in mind while doing so. When you are striking the tip of the nail, it is important to make that your main focus.

Instead of watching the hammer striking it, you should keep your eye right on the center of the nail’s head. This way, you can stay more focused on your goal instead of getting distracted and producing a crooked nail.

Additionally, you should let the weight of the hammer work for you, not the other way around. Carry out your motions as you normally would, without too much added force. This is what the hammer is for, and you are there to guide it.

If you are driving a nail into a wood surface, it is common for the wood to sometimes split or break in the area that you do this. You could be executing everything correctly but still experience this setback with this particular material.

There is, however, a way to avoid this altogether. Along with following the rest of these tips, you can blunt the tip of the nail. This is done by holding it face up on a surface and gently tapping the tip with your hammer.

This will dull it very slightly, enough to get past the wood splitting, while still sharp enough to penetrate the surface.

Finally, if you have given up on all of the other suggestions for driving a perfectly straight nail, you can result to using an automated nail gun. Nail guns automatically shoot the nail out exactly where you want it to go, all you need to do is point it, hold it firm, and shoot.

If you are not too good with the hammer, you can try this option right away. Just make sure that your stance is good and that you are holding everything firm. Even with a nail gun, you only have one shot to get it correct.

How To Choose The Right Hammer

Now that we have gone over almost everything you need to know about driving nails straight into a surface, there is another very important topic that must be discussed: the hammer that you are using.

After all, you will not be able to do anything with the nail if you do not have the tool that actually drives it into the surface.

Just like you need to follow all of the tips that were outlined in the beginning of this article for making the nail as straight and perfect as possible, you need to follow some additional tips to make sure that you choose the right hammer for the job.

To begin this discussion, we will start by highlighting some of the main factors that must be considered while making this decision.

Here are some factors that you should consider before choosing the right hammer for your job:

  • What is the project that you will be working on?
  • What does the project entail? (How much strength do you need)
  • What are the materials that you will be hammering into?
  • How easy will the hammer be to use?
  • What is the grip like on the hammer?

First of all, you need to consider what project you will be working on that will require the hammer and nail. What does this project entail, and how much strength will you need? This will give you some valuable insight on how heavy your hammer should be.

What are the materials that you will be hammering into? There are certain hammers for specific tasks, which we will get into soon. However, it is important to do your research and keep in mind that certain tools cannot be used for everything.

Additionally, how easy will the hammer be for you to use? If a hammer is too heavy, you might find that you are straining your wrist and arm, and consequently ruining your chances of driving a perfectly straight nail into the surface of your choice.

Finally, what is the grip like on the hammer? Will you be able to hold on tightly and complete your task, or will your hand slip off mid-way? Maybe the grip will be fine for a while, but will start slipping once your hands sweat.

A great suggestion for handle materials, in particular, is rubber. Due to the unique characteristics of rubber, you will enjoy a good grip, even with sweaty hands. A lot of different types of tools are made with rubber handles automatically, and you can find them almost anywhere you look.

To give you a better idea of what general type off hammer you should be using for the task at hand, I have put together a list of the main categories of hammers, as well as some information on what they are best used for to give you a general guideline and point you in the right direction.

Some of the main types of hammers and what they are best used for:

Claw hammer (almost any surface)

Soft-face hammer (furniture assembly, decorative wood projects, etc.)

Drywall hammer (for drywall tasks)

The claw hammer is the most classic option, and you more likely than not have one in your home somewhere. This might even be the hammer that you are using for the current project in question.

These hammers are very versatile, and can be used on almost any surface. If you have a claw hammer and you need a nail to be driven, these two pieces of equipment are best friends.

If you will be assembling furniture or completing decorative wood projects that require you to be more gentle with the nail, you should consult a soft-face hammer. Drywall hammers, on the other hand, are quite obviously used for drywall tasks.

These are just a few of all of the different types of hammers, but you most likely will get what you need out of any of the three options above.

The Proper Way To Use a Hammer For Straight Nails

After learning about the correct process for driving a nail straight into a surface and choosing the perfect hammer for the job, you will also need to make sure that you know exactly how to use the hammer.

Driving a straight nail is not all about the nail itself. Instead, you will need to demonstrate the proper skillset and hammer technique in order to get anywhere with this task.

With this in mind, I came up with a list of tips for the proper way to use a hammer, for the straightest nails in particular. Take a look at the small outline down below, and keep reading for more details.

The Proper Way To Use a Hammer For Straight Nails:

  • Hold the hammer in the middle of the handle with a firm grip
  • Maintain a wide stance with both feet flat
  • Use an elbow motion to pound the nail, don’t use your back or arm
  • Keep your eye on the head of the nail at all times

First and foremost, you should be holding the hammer right in the middle of the handle, using a firm grip to keep hold of it. If you hold it toward the end of the handle, you will have much less control over where you are swinging it.

However, if you keep your hand in the middle, and more toward the top than anywhere, you will be able to establish a strong grip and increased control on where the hammer goes.

When you are standing to operate the hammer, you must maintain a wide stance with both of your feet flat on the ground. This will help you to draw strength from your legs, and stay put in the same place while you are hammering.

While actually pounding the nail, it is important that you use an elbow motion for all of your striking, not your back, arm, or any other body part. All of the power should come up from your legs and through your elbow to complete the task.

Once again, keep your eye on the head of the nail at all times. Although this was mentioned previously, it is one of the most important things to remember. If you are too focused on the way your hammer is moving, you will come out with a crooked nail.

Safety Tips For Driving Nails Into a Surface

To tie up this conversation, we will end by going over some safety tips for driving nails into a surface. With the help of the tips throughout the earlier sections of this article, you will be able to properly execute a perfectly straight nail the next time you hammer one.

However, you might not be exempt from any injuries during the process. Well, not yet at least. In this section, we will discuss some safety tips for driving nails into a surface. Make sure that you take all of these into account while you are completing this task, in order to have the straightest and the safest possible results.

Safety Tips For Driving Nails Into a Surface:

  • Wear the proper safety equipment (safety goggles)
  • Keep your fingers toward the head of the nail (to avoid crushing fingers)
  • Always use the right type of hammer for the job

The first safety tip, and probably one of the most obvious ones that you should always adhere to for any kind of construction or carpentry project, is to wear the proper safety equipment.

In the particular situation where you will be hammering a nail into a surface, the main piece of safety gear that you will need is a pair of safety goggles. This is due to the fact that you might experience some flying dust and debris that will travel toward your eyes as you are hammering the nail.

Whether you are working with wood, metal, drywall, or something else, there will most likely be something that comes out of the area that you are hammering. With that being said, it is important to always be prepared for this scenario with safety goggles in place, protecting your eyes from any harm that they could come in contact with.

The other safety equipment that you will definitely need, although not really classified as safety equipment, includes a sturdy pair of closed toed shoes and some clothing that will cover and protect your body from anything that could bring you harm while you are on the job.

The shoes will help to protect you, just in case something falls toward your feet. If you are wearing sandals, on the other hand, you might experience a few broken bones if your hammer slips.

While you are actually hammering, it is important to keep your fingers toward the head of the nail, as much as possible. While it is true that the hammer will be closest to this area, this is a surprisingly safer practice than keeping them on the opposite end.

If the hammer happens to slip while you are driving the nail, it will almost always head toward the bottom of the surface on either side. So, if your fingers are resting at the bottom near the place where the nail is being driven, they will be right in the path of the hammer when it comes down and strikes the surface.

Along with keeping the nail steady in one place and helping you to drive a perfectly straight nail into the surface, holding the nail toward the top of the head will also keep your fingers and hand out of harm’s way.

Lastly, you should always use the right type of hammer for the job. During the discussion of the hammer types in one of the earlier sections, there were three main categories that were laid out: the claw hammer, the soft hammer, and the hammer that is used for drywall.

All of these tools are used for specific purposes, and should not be used interchangeably. More specifically, you would not use a drywall hammer for driving a nail into wood, and you would not use a soft hammer for metal.

Additionally, you should only use a hammer that is up for the task. If you try to use a wooden mallet on a hard material, take drywall, for example, you will probably experience a split down the middle and a lot of small wooden pieces flying toward your face after you strike it a few times.

However, if you were to complete the same task using the right type of drywall hammer, you might have had a perfect nail. All in all, it is important to use the perfect hammer for the job in order to come out with the best results.

In conclusion, driving a perfectly straight nail into any surface is not as difficult as it may seem. Most people make a lot of common mistakes that they don’t know they are making while driving nails, but you don’t have to fall into the same trap.

With the help of a few tips and tricks, along with safety precautions that should be taken along the way, you will be able to finally meet your goal of executing the perfect nail, both this time and every time you attempt it after that.

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