Saturday, 17 January 2015

Nails et al.



These are just a few of the wonderful old hand-forged nails that I've dug up or found over the years. The middle one is almost 9 ins long. The top one I dug up yesterday.

It wasn't so long ago that all nails were hand made in small village smithy's. A helluva task if one was building a house, or barn, etc. 

One easily forgets what 'craftsmanship' really means. When I look around me at what people built with just the raw materials around them (stone and wood), I am amazed by not only their skills, but also their exquisite sense of design. That same village blacksmith who made the nails was probably also responsible for the mason's, and carpenter's, tools as well.

Each individual wall stone had to be 'finished' with a reasonably flat surface, and the corner stones, or window/door opening stones, quarried and shaped by hand; as an ex-stone cutter myself I know what this involves. Each piece of wood for either the beams, doors, or flooring started as a felled tree, and had to be sawn and 'adzed' into shape. The work involved was huge; there was no handy DIY store.

I always look at early vernacular architecture with some awe; you can imagine what I think when faced with the magnificence of medieval cathedrals.



25 comments:

  1. Having watched a programme recently on how medieval castles were built I concur with everything you say - a long slow process with so many skills involved.

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    1. The programme about the castle being built at Gedelon Elaine? Brilliant project, would love to go and look. They showed how the blacksmiths made nails there too.

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    2. I watched it as well - they said that many that made nails were female which I thought was really interesting for the middle ages.

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  2. I have often be in awe of craftsmanship in a similar way, particularly in the light of my average DIY skills and the availability of modern tools and B&Q. This feeling is certainly accentuated when visiting cathedrals such as Ely (including mysterious its secrets).

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  3. Replies
    1. So, you've discovered them? Have you found the small nude?

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  4. It must be so exieting to live in an old house and area.

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  5. Never ceases to amaze when I see some of the old buildings, ow did they get such enormous weights up there?

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  6. It's amazing!
    Hand forged nails ... wow. I don't know if I've ever found one here in Australia but I do know that a nail was a precious item indeed and were recycled again and again. Stories abound of people stealing them from boats and houses.
    I built my bush shack on my own but I had a generator and some really cool power tools. The closest neighbour a few miles away built his completely by hand, using hand saws, wooden pegs instead of nails etc. It was beautiful, until the white ants ate it.

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    1. By the way, do you have a recipe for pickled sardines? I salted some this afternoon. Usually I do herring rollmops. This is my first with sardines. I'd like to know what to do with them tomorrow.

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    2. The only way I know of preserving them is probably what you've done. Empty them, sprinkle with coarse sea salt, and layer into wooden boxes. They are then weighted down with a snug fitting wooden top and a few stones. Good luck; let us know how you got on.

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    3. That's called a kench box, right (but did I get the spelling wrong?)
      I've put them in layered plastic Chinese takeaway boxes, a hot fork through the top one as drainage. Couple of vege peelers in the bottom one to give it leverage.

      What I'm interested in is the next process of pickling.

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    4. Well, after salting, 12 hrs in vinegar, olive oil, chili and garlic ... delicious.

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  7. They are amazing, I really admire great craftsmanship. Not only all the fantastic cathedrals, stately homes etc we have but I love to watch folks up here dry stone walling. It looks so beautiful when it becomes mossy and weathered and is so sturdy.
    Twiggy

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  8. It is amazing to think about. I'd guess every nail was accounted for, even after a fire. No waste in those days.

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  9. I used to find them at my previous property. An innocent piece of rotten wood would have an evil looking nail sticking through the back, unseen, and lethal. ready to attack. I never found ones with the smart heads though. .

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  10. I always have that same feeling Cro - and it is easy to say that the skills have died out now. Although when I look at Coventry Cathedral I feel that maybe they have not died out they have just changed to adapt to the times. But I do agree - those nails are awe inspiring.

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  11. We have lived in a 17th century cottage and a late Victorian house and, from all of the old nails { like yours } that we have found, we could have built a mansion with them !!!! We have also found clay pipes, a little china bulldog, a crinoline lady, a mourning vase and thousands of pieces of old china !! It's one of the lovely things of living in an old house Cro. XXXX

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  12. Some knife makers reforge them in to really nice blades.

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  13. Our farmhouse was built in 1895 and unlike so many farmhouses in our area it is till going strong and well supporting our family. Americans like everything new in houses and build cheap homes and so much is lost. Every so often my husband or I will dig up a hand forged nail similar to some of yours displayed. One day I hope to frame them and hang them so our GK's can appreciate the hard work that went into them. Great post Cro.

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  14. Wonderful post.
    I have some hand forged nails and think they are beautiful.

    cheers, parsnip

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  15. O/H has just looked over my shoulder and said that the middle one (in darkest Wales) is called a 'gad' - used for securing heavy beams. We've got a few in the old mill. They don't make 'em like that any more.

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    1. I'll try to remember that name; thanks.

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  16. These are great! We have quite a few of these around the farm. I wonder how many were forged on the old anvil I found in our barn?

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