Introduction: 12 Unusual Uses for Nails

Picture of 12 Unusual Uses for Nails

Nails are traditional fasteners that have been used for 1000s of years to join things together or act as hooks or pegs to hang things up.

But what else can they be used for?

This is a collection of 12 unusual uses for common metal nails. Each step spotlights one or more Instructables that feature a non-traditional use for nails.

Got any ideas that are not shown here? Be sure to leave a comment at the end and share them!

Step 1: String Art

Picture of String Art

Let's start with a DIY project idea that's fairly well-known: String Art!

These string art maps are two great examples of what you can make with just a wooden board, some nails, and string: String and Nail Art `World Map´ (top image) by He Se, and String Art Map (bottom image) by scoochmaroo.

The techniques used to make string art are simple and reproduce-able even for new makers of things. You should give it a shot. Want more string art ideas? There are dozens of excellent string art Instructables here on the site: check them out here.

Step 2: Bottle Opener

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This style of handmade bottle opener has been around for many years, and for good reason; it's a simple and excellent idea.

Here are a few versions of the wood-and-nail bottle opener that have been shared on Instructables:

Magnetic Bottle Opener (top image) by mikeasaurus

Class Up a Classic Bottle Opener Hack by hay_jumper

Nail Bottle Opener (bottom image) by sbanas

Weathered Magnetic Bottle Opener by M3G

Step 3: Decorative Miniature Knives

Picture of Decorative Miniature Knives

You can use some old nails to practice a bit of metalworking and make forged decorative knives.

Here are three forged knives from the Instructable Knife From a Nail by pennabilli. This Instructable covers the basics required to anneal and forge common nails into new objects.

Step 4: Jewelry

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You can use the same forging techniques shown in the Instructable from the previous step to make all sorts of small metal objects, like jewelry.

In the Instructable Horse Shoe Nail & Cement Nail Jewelry, author Fikjast Scott demonstrates how to make the jewelry items shown here. Be sure to check out the "pocket jewelry" items, which are especially interesting . . a non-spinning fidget toy - what a novel idea!!

Step 5: Caliper

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Aside from decorative forged items, you can use forging and soldering techniques to make small tools, like the caliper shown here.

The Instructable Caliper From Wire Nails by Pricklysauce demonstrates techniques that could be used to make all sorts of practical, albeit small-sized implements.

Step 6: Pin Art Toy

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Author rimamonsta shows you how to make a DIY version of a pin art toy in her Nail Wall Instructable.

This toy shows a 3D duplicate shape on the front side of the pins of whatever is pressed against the back side of the pins . . or in this case, nails!

Step 7: Bent Nail Puzzle

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This is a classic puzzle that has supposedly been around for at least 150 years.

It's a simple puzzle that consists of a pair of identical bent nails that connect together and come apart - but the method to do so is trickier than it seems.

I made the Instructable Bent Nail Puzzle which covers how to make this puzzle as well as how to solve it.

Step 8: Play a Game

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Pound nails into a stump to demonstrate your prowess.

For rules, suggestions, and gameplay procedures, check out How to Play Nails (Stump) by smithallen_studio.

Step 9: Trick Box

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Small metal nails are an integral part of this Trick Opening Box by author Fathomlis.

Check it out the Instructable to learn how this box was made, as well as the secret to locking and unlocking it.

Step 10: Nail Hammer

Picture of Nail Hammer

Got a pile of old rusty nails?

Use them to make a working hammer!

It's meta..l!

Author timsway shows you how in his Instructable Make a (Working!) Steampunk Hammer From Reclaimed Nails.

Step 11: Decorative Accents

Picture of Decorative Accents

Have you made a wooden object that you'd like to dress up with some metal accents?

Use nails!

Check out how author AverageJoesJoinery made these great coasters in his Instructable How to Make Drinks Coasters With Nails Inlay.

Step 12: Balancing Nails Puzzle

Picture of Balancing Nails Puzzle

This is a classic nail puzzle that will stump even the sharpest tools in the shed.

Can you balance a handful (or two) of nails on top of one single nail standing upright in a board?

The following Instructables show how to make versions of this same puzzle, as well as how to solve it. Check them out:

Balance 10 Nails on One Nail by somebullcrap

How to Make a Gravity Puzzle (Brain Game) (image above) by The King of Random

Balancing Nail Puzzle by Miguel Augusto

Step 13: Impossible Objects

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This Instructable is my take on the popular nail-through-block-of-wood trick: Impossible Nail in Wooden Block

I love objects that seem to defy physics and logic, and have a growing collection of "impossible" objects I've made.

If you'd like to make a similar object or just see how this was done - be sure to check out my Instructable above.

Step 14: Nailed It!

Picture of Nailed It!

Well now . . that's it!

Nails can be used as more than just fasteners and pegs for hanging things.

Have you thought of any ideas for other non-typical, unusual uses for nails?

Share your ideas in the comments!


jgbeilue (author)2017-07-16

Loved this Instructable. One use not mentioned is to use a hammer to drive a nail through one piece of wood into another to connect the two pieces. I'm not sure how well it would work but it seems feasible. (I'll be here all week!)

Crossforge (author)2017-06-19

To harden steel, the hotter is not the better. Get a magnet. Then heat the steel till it does not stick to the magnet anymore. This non-magnetic temperature is the temperature at which you want to dunk it in oil to harden it. Also hardenability is dependent on the carbon content and other ingredients in the steel. Normal nails, often called wire nails do not harden much. Cut flat nails and masonry nails are hardened as Bruce S61 mentioned. However, if you re-shape them by heating and hammering or grinding the hardness will have been lost so after working them into the desired shape you want to re-harden them by heating to non-magnetic and then rapidly cooling them in oil.

lbrewer42 (author)2017-06-15

Hardened nails can be used to make engravers for producing items called Hobo Nickels: Engraved coins - look them up on ebay - incredible artwork!

PerryM3 (author)lbrewer422017-06-17

How do you harden the nail as i would love to try my hand at hobo coin work but dont want to buy engraving tools

BruceS61 (author)PerryM32017-06-19

Hello, cut flat nails are already hardened.

Masonry nails are also.

To harden metal, you need to heat with torch until it glows.

the hotter the harder. Cool rapidly by dropping in oil or water.

11557 (author)2017-06-17

Leather punch - file to the shape you want.

Socket organizer - tap finish nails into a narrow board to hold sockets.

Drill for nailing hardwood trim, or drive finish nails with a drill, except for the last 1/2 inch, then drive with a hammer.

HollyMann (author)2017-06-17

Wow. That balancing nail puzzle looks fun! LOVE IT! So many ideas :)

Yoruk (author)2017-06-17

I remember a science book when I was a kid, the goal of one experiment was to create a microphone with three nails. I need to do some researches.

EDIT : Here is a video sample :

Pa1963 (author)2017-06-15

Had an old co-worker tell me that they would thow a rusty nail in a pot with a chicken they were cooking to tenderize the chicken. (Not the pot).

PerryM3 (author)Pa19632017-06-17

This is a old trick from war times not to tenderise food but they would put a lump of iron in food cooking pot so that the familly would get there iron intake as fresh meat and veg was rare and they could become anemic

Bugseyb (author)2017-06-16

Good ideas! Looks like your unusual stuff is for fun, mine is for practicality, but still rather unusual. With the nails filed to a finer, longer point, I've made carders and hackles used for making rolags, rovings and battings for spinning. They turned out quite beautifully, have been using them for years. Other spinners feel their store bought combs with finer teeth are better, but I haven't seen a difference in the end results. So - combing wth nails.

kyoung5 (author)2017-06-16

Make a wood stain with rusty nails and vinager

SusanH75 (author)2017-06-15

LOVE the nail hammer. Clever art, that:)

Najn_arte (author)SusanH752017-06-16

It may be painful to handle that hammer. It doesn't look very safe. Maybe it is just a sculpture.

tzny (author)2017-06-15

When I was a kid (many years ago in a galaxy far, far away), I placed large nails on railroad tracks and made small daggers for my friends. We used telephone wires to create wrapped handles on those squished knives.

Najn_arte (author)tzny2017-06-16

That is the best way to flatten nails that I have ever heard about.

ajoyraman (author)2017-06-15

You hit the nail's on the head!

A practical application of your string art is a "loom Board" for electrical wiring.

Najn_arte (author)ajoyraman2017-06-16

Instructable please, please please please. Thank you.

Najn_arte (author)2017-06-16

Awesome. Humble nails can become so many things. I have to try the pin-art toy.

jensign2 (author)2017-06-16

I once saw an artist using nails to create "Sculptures" by pounding nails into a board, the one I remember was a fish and the nail heads were scales

maverick500 (author)2017-06-16

jabony1269, do you have an instructable for your crosses? They are beautiful and would love making a few of these for members of our Church and family.

Thank you, Paul

jabony1269 (author)2017-06-16

I'll be making these as long as I can.

Snidely70448 (author)2017-06-16

Blow gun darts. Flatten one end with a ball-peen hammer, then cut a blade point with side cutters. Heat the shaft and melt it to a long piece of braided nylon cord. Cut off the cord and fluff out the end. Can be blown through a piece of 1/4 inch plywood.

Flat tipped screwdriver. Flatten with and rough shape one end with a hammer (also work hardens the piece). Grind or file to final dimensions. Handle can be made by bending at 90 degree angle, or into an oval or round shape, or by inserting into a piece of dowel. Without the handle, can be used in drill to drive screws.

Nails can be used as stock material for making pins, or bolts if you have tools for cutting threads, or for just about anything else.

BettinaS7 (author)2017-06-15

I loved every single one of these! Funny though when you scroll down to see similar posts all you see are (finger)nails and how to paint them lol

Jim L. (author)2017-06-15

Many african tribesmen would make arrow/ atlatle dart points by forging larger nails to task. They only need be sharp once or twice before resharpening or lost.

catsmaid10 (author)2017-06-15

... and don't forget to put a rusty nail in with your Geraniums for added iron.

AndrewW173 (author)2017-06-15

three nails pushed through a bit of cardboard or rigid foam makes an excellent support for objects being painted. There is only three very small points of contact that are virtually invisible in the finished object. I make decorative Faberge type eggs and this is by far the best way to support during painting,lacquering and drying.

TheKid1451 (author)AndrewW1732017-06-15

That is a great idea! Thanks!

kz1 (author)2017-06-15

Emergency cotter or shear pin.

Turn your Louisville Slugger into a rather nasty club to whup zombies

Make a mattress for overnight guests who happen to be magicians

Make a supply of Caltrops....Google it.

kz1 (author)2017-06-15

How about a Community Service Stick? A broom handle with a nail in the end for picking up trash on the roadside. Even more stylish if you were stripes while using it. :-)

AnneC71 (author)2017-06-15

Liked this very much. Always fun to learn new uses for something and these are really creative. Thank you kindly.

JGDean (author)2017-06-15

Interesting Instructable, but while nails have been used for 1000's of years, it has only been within the last 200 years that they have been in common use. Before that, they were hand-made and relatively expensive. Structures were often burned down to recover the nails. Wooden pegs were used far more for joinery and for hanging objects.

FrankM23 (author)2017-06-15

In eighth grade, we built our own electric motors. The rotor had a core of several large nails. Similarly, nails wrapped in wire that is hooked to a DC source will make a good temporary magnet, which can be turned off when the wire is disconnected.

alex.cunningham.3950 made it! (author)2017-06-15

I like using some good strong nails and a old stripped nut to make throwing stars or go 3D and make spike spheres like a ninja but becareful very dangerous!

jlindy (author)2017-06-15

Another use?... How about the pole pieces for the pickup in your electric cigarbox guitar! :)

Jobar007 (author)2017-06-14

When laying out the lines of a traditional wooden boat, you typically do what is called lofting: you draw stations and points along a long, typically white, sheet(s) of plywood so you can get dimensions for the frames and other boat parts. You'll lay down nails with heads along the line and then press a sheet of plywood against those nail heads to transfer the lines that you've drawn to the plywood. That way you have everything still intact on your lofted lines and can cut out frame molds.

evanandkatelyn (author)2017-06-14

Think your cover photo was the best unusual use!

gravityisweak (author)2017-06-13

This is great! I especially love your cover photo!

seamster (author)gravityisweak2017-06-14

Thanks! I was initially going to just photograph a pile of nails . . but then inspiration struck! :)

38ren (author)2017-06-13

The decorative knives are so adorable and creative, I'll have to check that one out

seamster (author)38ren2017-06-13

Please do - and be sure to leave a note for the author and let him know your thoughts! :)

About This Instructable




Bio: I got an old sewing machine when I was just a kid, and I've been hooked on making stuff ever since. My name is ... More »
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