Driving and Pulling Nails


You probably haven’t thought much about safety when it comes to driving and pulling nails. Perhaps you believe there isn’t much to it. But almost everyone who drives nails eventually winds up with a bruised finger or banged-up fingernail. Other unpleasant things can happen too. A badly hit nail can fly and strike an eye, perhaps putting it out. Loose hammerheads can fly off. You can miss your target and give yourself a nasty wallop. A cracked handle can push a sliver into your palm. And it’s likely to become infected if you don’t get first aid immediately.


Learn to drive nails quickly and cleanly. The first step is to be sure the hammer is in good condition. The head must beset at the proper angle and fit good and tight. The handle must be smooth, straight grained, shaped to give a good grip, and of the right length and weight to give good balance. The hammer face is important. Lt should be in good condition and not chipped or worn
away from the shape the manufacturer gave it. Always use the right size hammer for the nail. There is an increase in the use of steel and fiberglass shank hammers. Basically, the same precautions apply that we have recommended for wooden handled hammers.


Drive the nail so that the center of the hammer face always meets the nail head. If it doesn’t, the nail may fly at the first blow or bend at the second. Lt requires practice to hit a nail right every time.

Learn to groove your swing; that is, make the hammer head go through the same path to hit the nail head, always dead center and at right angles.


Remember, nails left in old form lumber, packing crates, or in lumber from wrecking operations are like a snake’s fangs. Pull these nails out immediately or bend them over. You may be the one to step on them or rip your hand open. It’s easy to get hurt when pulling nails. One “do-it-yourselfer” tried to pull a 40-penny spike with an ordinary claw hammer. When it didn’t come out, he threw his weight into it. The handle broke and his knuckles landed with a wallop on the edge of the beam.

Two of them were broken. He should have pulled the spike up until he could get a pry bar on it, then placed a block of wood under the bar as a fulcrum to increase the height as more of the nail was removed. Never use a “cheater” pipe on the handle.


Driving and pulling nails is not as simple as it seems. But once you’ve got the knack, you can do it efficiently and reduce your chances of getting hurt.

Nail Gun Safety

Recently, three injury reports described the details of accidents that occurred while employees were using pneumatic nail guns.

One injury resulted in an employee shooting himself through the thigh. The nail was a Ring Shank and it embedded itself in the employee’s femur (large thigh bone) which was shattered by the impact.

Surgery was required to remove the nail. 

Another case involved an employee who shot himself in the groin area.

In the third case, an employee injected a nail into the fleshy part of his thigh.

All three investigations revealed that the nail gun safety spring, which holds the nose guard in the extended position, was not in place. This allowed the gun to discharge when the trigger was depressed because the nose guard was easily slid back when the gun was placed against the worker. The nose guard being depressed is like cocking a gun. Pulling the trigger with the gun “cocked” will fire it.

A nail gun is not designed for rapid fire. Trying to alter the rate of fire by removing the safety spring or keeping the trigger depressed will eventually end up in a jammed gun, or worse yet, accidents like those described above.


General Safety Rules for Nail Gun Use:

1. Never use a nail gun with the nose guard safety spring missing.

2. Be sure that when you carry a nail gun out of the work area, you do not carry it connected to the electrical or air power source.

3. When you are moving about the work area – keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to fire. Make sure you have only placed the nose guard against the material you are going to nail together.

4. Never rest the gun against any part of your body, or try to climb a ladder with the gun cradled against your body.

5. Remember that a nail gun is a labor and time saving tool — but it cannot save the time lost to an accident.