Introduction: Balance 10 Nails on One Nail

This instructable is suppose to sound impossible (and look like its about to fall over) Balancing ten nails on a single nail? That can't happen can it? Well I'll not only show you it is possible, but also how to do it and present it as a kinetic art piece and not just a bet between friends.

Step 1: Supplies and Tools

-11, 12" long spikes + or - a couple nails (or shorter based on personal preference)
-a few finishing nails
-scrap wood
-Muriatic acid (enough to fully submerge all the nails)
-plastic shoe box (container large enough to fully submerge the nails)
-dremel tool
-Bench top grinder
-Buffing wheels
-Buffing compounds and polish

Step 2: Safety


-Leather gloves
-Welding mask
-Mask, respirator, or fan

It is VERY important that you do not inhale the fumes made by the acid or made while the acid is eating the zinc.   It is also VERY important that you do not let the acid come into contact with your skin.   It might not burn on first contact but if you let it sit for an amount of time (depending on the amount of acid and thickness of the skin) it will burn like nothing you've felt before. Thus it is imperative to rinse the area with water immediately!   This information based on personal experience (remember that Muriatic acid is neutralized with water. other  acids and chemicals are not, so know what you're working with and how to neutralize or contain any spillage).  Further more, getting muriatic acid on cement or brick work will cause an undesired reaction. This is again known from personal experience

Step 3: Prepareing the Nails

The first step (after acquiring your materials) is stripping off the galvanic coating (the zinc that is coating the nails to protect against rust).  I used a plastic "shoebox" to put the Muriatic acid in,  the acid used ended up being about two inches deep which was enough to fully cover all 11 nails.    once the acid has stopped bubbling it is time to dispose of the acid.  I decided to pour the acid used back into the bottle I had poured it out from (the acid in the bottle had been used multiple times before for various  things).  After the excess acid is dealt with rinse the nails excessively leaving them covered in water.  (read on for explanation) Once the zinc has been removed from the nails you're ready to start polishing.

Step 4: Polishing

 I went with the bench top grinder for this. after attaching the cloth wheel to the spindle turn the grinder on and apply the first abrasive compound labeled "1"  lightly rubbing from side to side at or below the mid point of the buffing pad.  then start polishing. I would like to add at this point it is best to polish with at least the first abrasive immediately following the acid bath.

The second stage of polishing is of coarse the #2 polish/abrasive. Followed by #4 and then finished off with #5. #4 and #5 both labeled polish (#4 light polish and #5 high polish) but they are also abrasives. #3 is used on soft metals such as aluminum and brass. Once you have finished all of the nails all that is left is presentation

extra note

Even after washing the nails off they will begin to noticeably oxidize after just a few minutes out of the water. they start turning a yellowish brown, left longer rust will begin to form. even though Muriatic acid dissolves rust it will also cause oxidation as it is a corrosive agent.   Leaving the nails in water protects them from the air which combined with the trace amounts of acid start the very rapid oxidation process

Step 5: Welding .if You Feel So Inclined

This is now the step for the optional welding ( technically this whole instructable is optional but I digress).  As I stated in the intro I wanted this to appear to be as implausible as possible. To achieve this I devised a way to make it look like only the very tip of the nail was the only part in the wood. Unfortunately I didn't think of this till after I had already completed the entire polishing process. Anyway the plan is to take a finishing nail, trim it shorter than the  piece of wood, then welded to the tip of the long nail. And.....  well that's pretty much all there is to it. Find a safe way to hold the two nails together until you have them tacked into place. Then finish welding can be done taking care not to over heat the finishing nail to the point of melting it into two pieces. This process is the same wether welding the piece to the head of the nail or to the tip. Once the piece has been welded, more attention will need to be given to cleaning up the piece welded to the tip than the head of the nail. This is do to the fact that the tip of the nail tapers to a fine point already. And to achieve the look of impossibility the tip needs to be as thin as possible with still maintaining strength to support the weight of the ten nails on top. If you decide to put the finish nail on head of the nail more support can be left.  

Step 6: Base

I decided to make the wood base as small as I thought I could. And that ended up being fairly small only about 2 1/2" x 2 1/2" . I ended up using a scrap piece of wood, cut to size. I'm not sure as to what type wood it and I'm sure it would have stained and varnished nicely. However with how brightly the nails shined up I thought the stand should have contrast. So taking a spare piece of scrap and decided to see what it would look like if I polished it. The buffing wheels were left covered in a grey steel color which I was hoping (and ended up being right about) would leave that color on the wood. As I polished the nails in secession I polished the wood as well

Step 7: Presentation Option Two

Balancing the nail for the hole location. This is a simple but important task. If the hole is not placed at the balance point, and will not balance by itself it and will impair the balancing of the entire thing. Finding the balance point is as easy as hanging the nail from a string (wire in my case) and making slight adjustments until the nail hangs levelly. Mark and then drill. Using a center punch to help keep the drill bit from wondering  is a good idea. I started with a small drill bit (about 1/8") then widening it but no to the same depth. Then using a dremel tool and grinding bit to make a conical shape opening to match the tip of the nail 

Step 8: Show Off

make people look at it
Kinetic Sculpture Design Contest

Participated in the
Kinetic Sculpture Design Contest