Or, rather, I de-nailed it. If you’ll recall from a few posts back, I’d recently (it’s a relative term) picked up the heart pine beams I was going to use for my new workbench. Most of them were in fairly good shape, except one that still had a few nails buried in it – five, to be precise.
After spending some time sorting beams, flipping and flopping them around to determine the best layout for the top, I had them lined up the way I wanted. I struck a few lines with a square and straight edge and trimmed them to length with a hand saw. Because the beam with the nails still in it was a few feet longer than the others, I used this step to remove two of the nails for me.
That left me with three nails to pull, since I did not want to bury them in the top. Having de-nailed several hundred board feet of reclaimed white oak (which was all clench-nailed when the wood was still green), I know how hard it can be. It isn’t something that causes me to skip to the shop with excitement, to be sure. But, in this case, I saw an opportunity to use a tool I’d picked up at an estate sale about six years ago and had not yet had the chance to use – an old Keen Kutter nail puller!
Since all three nails were broken off below the surface, I had to excavate a bit of wood from around the holes to make room for the jaws of the tool. Now, some people might say, “To begin, reach for an old chisel…” I say they’re wrong! All of my old chisels are my BEST chisels. I’ve spent a lot of time rehabbing them into good condition, so why on Earth would I use them to chop into wood around old rusted nails? No, this is when I reach for a NEW chisel – one of the chisels I bought when I first got into woodworking and didn’t know any better – they are perfect for such a task (and the only reason I still keep them around)!
After a few minutes of work, even being careful, my chisel edge was chipped in several places. It is easy enough to grind the chips out, but it feels better not needlessly grinding a good chisel, you know? With a rough mortise chopped around the nail, things become clearer. For one thing, I clearly needed to make larger openings if I was going to get the jaws around the nails.
Once I had enough clearance, I set the jaws of the tool around the nail and levered into the foot of the tool. The nail immediately started pulling out… and the foot immediately started making an impression in the softer heart pine. Adjusting slightly for a better grip, and inserting a thin piece of wood under the foot, I levered again and the nail pulled free. I repeated the process for the other two nails and…
I was done. Well… aside from patching the holes. That shouldn’t take too long, though I’ll still try to write something up if just to show you how easy it is.
I know, I know, kind of an anticlimactic story. Sorry. I guess I just wanted to reiterate the idea of using the right tool for the job. Or, part of the right tool, anyway. Looking at some on-line pictures, it appears I just have the bottom half of the Keen Kutter nail puller (and the label), but… it still works just fine. And it only cost me $3, so I’m cool with that. If I ever need the extra leverage, I can probably find a piece of iron pipe to slide over the handle.
The next step is to do some jointing so I can glue the top up. Although the faces were all machine-planed, I still have a lot of work to do. I’ve jointed plenty of edges before, but they were always ½” thick and less than two feet long (ahhh, the challenges of being a box-building woodworker). Having never jointed 3” thick 7’ long beams before, I expect it will take a little practice before I get the results I want. But we’re getting there.
Sometimes I feel like I’ve built my workshop in the Shire, because work seems to happen so slowly there, if it happens at all. But when your shop time is limited to a few hours on the weekends, things like a sick child, warm weather better suited for outdoor work, or a visit to the grandparents can reduce those few hours to nothing. As a result, this bench build is going a lot slower than those I read about in other blogs. I hope you’re cool with that, because I am. It is what it is; when you come to terms with that sort of thing, you quickly learn to enjoy and appreciate the limited shop time you have.
Speaking of shop time, I’d planned on doing more on the bench this weekend, but something else happened that cut my shop time short. That story will have to wait until later this week, though…