How to Successfully Remove a Nail Without Damaging Wood


Introduction: How to Successfully Remove a Nail Without Damaging Wood

How to successfully remove a nail from a delicate piece of wood without damaging the wood itself.

Step 1: Get Materials

This really is pretty simple. All you need is a hammer to remove the nail obviously, your precious piece of wood, and a small scrap piece of 1/4in. plywood. Sorry about the pictures, my camera is broken so i gotta search for pics:D sorry!

Step 2: Extract the Nail or Whatever Is Stuck

Ok now put the the small piece of quarter inch plywood underneath the hammer and pull out the nail like you normally would

Like in the picture down below just put the quarter inch plywood under the hammer

Step 3: Finish!

Woo now you have damage-free wood. Great if you have a project that you can't mess up.



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    22 Discussions


    11 years ago

    If it's a piece of wood trim, it's probably fastened with a finish nail- which has a very small head. FInish carpenters know this trick: After you pry a piece of trim or molding away from whatever it's nailed to, you use a pair of large end cutters to pull the nail through the BACK of the wood. This prevents any splitting, damage to the surface, or damage to the pain or finish.

    3 replies

    But instead of using a tool with a very slight bend and the potential to accidently cut "through" the brad, use the Nail Hunter, which has been designed completely for this purpose, No one has seen them because they just came to market. Imagine that! A brand new hand tool!

    Seen it- interesting tool, though not that different from using end nippers. And in 30 years I've yet to cut a nail.

    I understand that it can be like looking at two parked cars side by side, the truth is in the driving...or in this case, the extracting. The fulcrum makes it effective and really efficient, so that anyone can do it. Also, this is just one of the hundreds of applications for the tool. I understand the pros out there are slow to see any reason for a new tool. I haven't cut a nail in 30 years either, but in a "time is money" scenario, this is a no brainer. We're not talking about a single brad being pulled through the back, the Nail Hunter is for all the baseboard.

    ...or you could just yank the hammer and use its own weight to pull out the nail instead of prying. and what about nails that are hammed flush to the wood? most are. a nail puller ("cat's paw"?) is your only choice there.

    3 replies

    The reason I keep talking about the Nail Hunter is that it is a brand new hand tool never before available and it has a built in fulcrum but is basically a cat's paw formed into pliers.

    you could hammer another nail directaly on the opposite side of the original nail and force it out... just kidding, you make an excelent point

    no, drill a hole on the opposite side and use a nail punch, thats a good idea actually

    um, does anyone know how to take out finishing nails that have been nailed a little too far in. I am attempting to refinish an old dresser and somebody decided to nail a veneer piece of wood that was coming off instead of gluing it and now I don't know how to get the darn nails out that shouldn't be there in the first place.

    1 reply

    There's a new tool on Amazon only called the Nail Hunter which digs, and grabs any kind of nail, staple or even brads, The Nail Hunter is probably the only tool that can do these things. Or watch the video at

    Removing a nail depends on so many things, is the nail spiral shanked? Can you get beneath it? Big or small head? Years in wood? Does it need removed, or can it be sunk in? Can face of wood have scarring? If the nail is spiral shank, it's VERY difficult to get out. If a smooth shank was used, then you got a good shot at it. Lets solve worst case scenario... "If finished surface of wood needs saved, you cannot get behind wood (such as pulling trim away from wall), spiral shank or really stuck old nail, and also counter sunk deep. 1. Get a drill, drill bit, also #2 Phillips head. 2. Nail starter, small punch, or something else with a nice thin body and hardened point. 3. Safety glasses. 4. Hammer. 6. Bar soap 7. long smooth shank nail 8. Long #2 Phillips screw with tip ground or broke off. Place the nail starter in the exact center of the nail head, strike the nail causing a dimple to form, drill off the top of the nail with a small drill bit in an electric drill. Take a smooth shank nail about the same diamater as the one you have been struggling with, and place sharp point on metal tip of nail beneath it's removed head, hammer new nail into space, pushing old nail through and out of wood. Gently remove new nail, by pulling straight up in claw hammer. If the nail falls to the side of the metal, going into wood next to nail, try again. If this technique fails, get a screw that is longer and larger in diameter than nail, put soap on it and flatten the tip of the screw by grinding or breaking it off. Attach a number 2 phillips head screw bit to your drill and run screw gently and slowly, but with tons of pressure, down the hole. Push the nail if you can. If that fails, drill down next to the nail where it fell off the tip and went into wood, try to drill to the point where the nailed top board is touching to the next one. If light pressure is applied, it may be possible to lift the top board away from what it is screwed into, but no gaurantees. If this fails, try it on all sides of the remaining nail and lifting up board. If this fails, you should have enough room around the nail to grab the tip of what is left with needlenose pliers. Place a board under pliers to give your self mechanical advantage, grasp on to nail and pull. If this fails, grab on to nail facing straight down into hole you made surrounding nail and turn hard to the LEFT! If it comes out a little, do the same with Vise Grips. Still can't get it out? Hang a picture over it.

    Seriously...have you left a single truly constructive comment, or read the comment policy? All of your comments seem to be promoting your own inflated self-image and degrading others. And no, I never said it was a good idea, so your facts are not, in fact, correct.

    Well then, why don't you make your own instructable since you think its such a good idea.

    5 replies

    If this was directed at me, as Phill said, I never said I could make a better Instructable. I don't believe that this qualifies as an Instructable. Instructables are a series of steps with a useful end result. This could be the step of another Instructable or a Forum topic, but there isn't enough to make a full Instructable.

    Oh really? Well guess what? I never said you could make a better instructable either captain no brains. Read it a little more carefully next time. It actually says to make your own since you think its such a good idea. And if you didn't already know, yes, there is a difference. And i'm pretty sure that this does qualify as an instructable, because it IS a series of steps with a useful end result. Since once again you're not smart enough to figure this one out, i'll tell you. It is a series of steps on how to remove a nail without damaging wood. And the end result is a damage-free piece of wood. It's just a simple instructable CameronSS...Get over it.

    When did I say I thought it was a good idea? If you are going to be obnoxious and generate utterly clueless and unfounded opinions, at least get your facts right.

    Use the reply button instead of post comment so we know what you're responding too ;)

    I had figured it was to theRIAA.... only because s/he said ...thats a good idea actually

    I had to pull some big trim nails out of old oak baseboards a little while ago. I found with pulling them out with a hammer like that, I would often get some splintering. I ended up grabbing them with one of those hand-tighten chucks on a cordless drill and spinning them out. Worked like a charm for most of them.

    Yeah well I do carpentry work, and I know exactly what your talking about mje. With SMALLER nails, the trick where you pull it though the back with nail pullers works. But with bigger nails it normally doesn't work when you try to pull it back. Even if you tried, you would damage the back of the wood. And if it is flush with the wood, nail pullers aren't your only option, all you have to do is hammer it out a little. Let me clarify: This instructable shows how to successfully remove a BIG nail from the face of the wood.