The most fundamental and basic tool in construction is the nail. Nails come in a variety of sizes, shapes and colors. These useful pieces of metal are available at most hardware and home improvement stores. Frequently-used nails include common and box nails. When you're looking for nails for a project or craft, compare these two to see which one is the best fit.

Person hammering nail into wood
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Make sure you're using the right nails for the project.

Size

Common nails have a thick shank and are made from iron wire. These nails range from 4 to 14 inches in length and 2d to 60d in size. The "d" comes from the symbol for the monetary penny and is a measure of the size of nails. Each 1d increase equals a 1/4-inch increase in length up to 12d. A 16d nail, however, is 1/4 inch longer than a 12d nail. Starting with 20d, the nail lengths go up 1/2 inch with each multiple of 10.

Box nails are lighter and smaller. These nails range from 1 to 5 inches long and from 2d to 40d. The largest head diameter on a box nail is approximately 0.2 inches.

Uses

Most people use common nails for medium to heavy construction work. With a thick nail head, the nails drive easily into tough materials. Some examples include thin sheet metal, wood and thin aluminum. Use common nails on projects such as fences, roofs and decks. Box nails are lightweight and ideal for small projects or household use. Hang small pictures and wall decorations using box nails. Use box nails on thin wood materials such as wood boxes to reduce splitting.

Features

Common nails are strong and stiff, and their shanks have greater diameters than other nails. Both common and box nails have notches near the head of the nail. These notches allow the nails to hold better. Some will have screw-like threads at the top of the nail head for extra holding power. Box nails have thinner shanks than common nails and shouldn't be used for framing construction. When nailing two boards together, both types of nails should completely penetrate one piece of wood and should penetrate the other piece with half its length. This ensures the nail is strong enough for the job.

Crafts

Common and box nails can both be used in craft projects. Hammer a common nail into a piece of a wood and leave the nail head protruding about an inch or two from the wood. Use miniature paintbrushes and acrylic paint to draw designs on the end of the nail. Make a picture by hammering several nails in the wood. For example, shape the nails like a flower bouquet and paint each nail head to resemble a flower. Hammer several box nails into a wood plank to spell out words, such as your name. Paint the ends of the nails for added decoration.