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Hand made nails suggest the building was built before 1800.Cut nails suggest the building was built between 1800 and the early 1900's.(this page contains the substance of an article entitled 'Traditional Cut Nails - worth preserving?' written in May 2002 at the request of, and for inclusion in, the RICS Building Conservation Journal)For nail making, iron ore was heated with carbon to form a dense spongy mass of metal which was then fashioned into the shape of square rods and left to cool. After re-heating the rod in a forge, the blacksmith would cut off a nail length and hammer all four sides of the softened end to form a point.The wood fibres would often swell if damp and bind round the nail making an extremely strong fixing.In Tudor times, we have evidence that the nail shape had not changed at all as can be seen by the nails found preserved in a barrel of tar on board the 'Mary Rose' - the Tudor flag ship of Henry VIII built in 1509 and recovered from the mud of the Solent in 1982.The first automatically produced wire nails with no human intervention other than to set up the machine immediately showed that this was the way to produce a cheaper nail.
But don't overlook trace evidence of daily life, relationships, and events on site or nearby.Then the nail maker would insert the hot nail into a hole in a nail header or anvil and with four glancing blows of the hammer would form the rosehead (a shallow pyramid shape).This shape of nail had the benefit of four sharp edges on the shank which cut deep into timber and the tapered shank provided friction down its full length.The strip of metal was then turned through 180 to cut the next equal and opposite nail shape off the strip. Because the nail up until then was handmade, the first machines were naturally designed to re-produce the same shape of product - a square tapered nail with a rosehead, but only tapered down two sides of the shank.
Soon nail making really took off, primarily in the USA and also the UK with its captive markets of the British Empire.
Thinner timbers were being used in construction and other forms of fastening were becoming available if a strong fixing was needed.