The varieties of nails used in cabinet - making are not numerous, and there is no reason why those most commonly employed have the preference given to them, except that they are the most convenient forms. Any nails, therefore, which may suit the purpose may be used when they are more convenient than others.
The principal nails used are screws. These are often called wood - screws, though made of metal, in order to distinguish them from those used in metal working, which as regards thread and other important particulars are of different construction.
Wood - screws are to be had in several varieties, the sort principally used being of iron and having flat heads. They are also made with rounded heads and japanned, these latter, however, being seldom required. More useful than these are the brass screws, which are also made with flat and rounded heads. There is also another variety with the plain part of the shank in the middle and a screw at each end. These, which are known as double-ended or dowel screws, are not much used, but they come in handy occasionally for special purposes such as joining turned columns above and below a shelf. It is, however, quite possible to dispense with them and to use wooden pegs instead.
Screw-nails are made up in packets containing one gross, and are distinguished by a number indicating the diameter of the shank, and by the length. Thus a No. I screw, whatever its length, will always be found of the same thickness. Lengths increase by \ inch from \ inch to inch, after that by \ inches, so that there is plenty of variety. Needless to say that it is quite unnecessary for the cabinet-maker to have all the sizes in stock for him to work from, as a few judiciously chosen will serve almost every purpose. So much depends on what the bulk of the work is that it is hardly possible to reliably advise every one what screws will suit him best, but the following will probably be found as useful an assortment as any for the general cabinet-maker. If he wants others he can easily procure them as occasion arises:- For general carcase work, Nos. 10 and 12, 11/4 inch and 11/2 inch. For odds and ends, locks, hinges, etc, No. 6 and 8, 5/8 inch, 3/4 inch, and 1 inch. The smallest and largest sizes made are seldom wanted.
The iron wood-screws do well enough for structural parts where they are not seen, and are often used exclusively. The appearance of any work is, however, better if brass screws are used whenever the nail heads are visible or when used to fasten on the brass-work, such as hinges, escutcheon plates, handles, etc, also for headings holding door panels in the frames. The flat-headed nails are used whenever the head is sunk level with the surrounding wood or brass, as in hinges, the round head ones being better for beads, handles, and those parts in which it is not convenient to sink the heads. Only the smaller sizes of brass screws are required. For screwing on handles Nos. 2 and 6, 5/8 inch are very useful. Those with flat heads cost from two to three times as much as the corresponding sizes in iron, while those with rounded heads rank equal in price with the next larger size in flat heads.
Brads are almost too well known to require any remarks, except that they come in handy for many parts in which it is not necessary to use screws. They are slightly tapered, with a kind of hook or return for a head which allows of them being driven close in.
Wire or French nails have of late years largely superseded brads, and may generally be recommended in preference to them. They are to be had in a great variety of sizes, and when of brass and of small size they are often used to fix in the headings behind panels, though they neither look so well nor are they so convenient as screws if from any cause the panels have to be taken out.
Tacks and large-headed nails are hardly ever required in cabinet-work.
Needle-points are sharp pieces of steel very like needles without eyes. They are often extremely useful for various purposes, though it is not easy to define them. It will suffice to say that from their small size and the facility with which they can be snapped off short at the wood they can be used in places where the presence of a nail of the ordinary kind would be objectionable. They are specially useful when veneering to hold the veneers down temporarily when nails could not be inserted. They can hardly be regarded as indispensable, and many, for some purposes, prefer thin wire pins, which seem to be taking their place. In many parts of the country heckle pins, which I understand are used in cotton manufacturing, are preferred for veneering purposes, but I do not think they are obtainable everywhere.
So closely allied to nails are dowels or dowel - pins that they may appropriately be classed together. In most places the user will have to make these for himself, as he very easily may. In large towns, where the manufacture of furniture is of any importance, they may be obtained ready, or perhaps I should rather say partly so, for they generally want a little attention from the cabinet-maker before he can use them. Their use will be found described elsewhere, meanwhile their construction may more appropriately engage attention. It may be well to explain that they are merely pieces of round stick of various thicknesses, those most common being 3/8 inch and 1/2 inch. Short lengths are cut off as required, and as they are generally invisible after the work is made up, I may refer readers to about the only place in which they can be seen afterwards, viz., on the edges of the leaves of an extending dining - table. The short pegs which fit into holes in the corresponding part of the tables are dowels. In this case one end, that which is seen, is unglued, but for ordinary constructive parts both are secured with glue. From this it will be seen that a dowel may be described as a double-ended wooden nail. As they must fit very accurately, tightly, within the holes bored for their reception, they must be made of uniform size with the bit which is used for boring the holes, and this is how it is managed. A steel or iron plate, say \ inch thick, has a hole or holes bored through it, the edges being left sharp. This plate is either sunk into the bench top or left loose, or for reasons to be shortly shown, is mounted on a piece of wood an inch or so thick. Of course a hole must be bored through either this or the bench top at least as big as that in the iron. The dowel wood in any convenient length, say 6 to 12 inches, is roughly planed to shape, and is then hammered through the plate to finish it. Almost any hard straight-grained dry wood will do for dowels, the preference, if any, generally being given to beech. Now it will easily be seen that on driving a dowel into a hole which it fits exactly the air beneath it must be compressed, and to allow this to escape a channel must either be cut in the dowel, or a side of this be flattened with a rasp or something convenient. To take too much off is not advisable, and a channel can easily be cut while forming the dowel by having a sharp point projecting through the wood block above-mentioned into the hole. A screw-nail, with the point filed sharp, will at once suggest itself as being an easily formed cutter. It only remains to be said that dowel wood should be thoroughly, not merely nearly, dry before the dowels are formed. If at all damp they will be apt to shrink either before or after they have been used, and in either case will not fit so tightly as they should.
Glass paper, or, as it is often termed, sand paper, though, unlike the foregoing, it does not actually enter into the construction, is essential for preparing the wood of those parts which must be finished as smoothly and cleanly as possible. It is sold in sheets of 12 inches by 10 inches, and is prepared in various degrees of coarseness, any of which the user can select to suit his work. Nos. 11/2 and middle 2 are the most useful. It is used over a cork rubber of any convenient shape and size, and should on no account be simply pressed on the wood with the fingers direct. The blocks generally used are 4 or 5 inches long by 3 inches wide, and rather more than an inch thick, but there is no rule as to size except that it should be such that the cork can be conveniently grasped on top by the worker's hand, and the paper be held firmly wrapped over the edges. The edges of the lower surface should be slightly rounded off.
I must touch on a point out of deference to public opinion, erroneous though this may be. The supposed use of putty to fill up and disguise bad work is alluded to. I am far from saying that this material is never used, but it certainly would not be permitted in any respectable shop unless for filling nail holes in the commonest and roughest kind of furniture. A good cabinet-maker has no need to resort to such artifices to hide bad work. Occasionally something is necessary to fill up natural flaws in wood, and then a stopping may be used. There is nothing better for the purpose than a mixture of ordinary resin and beeswax (wax alone should never be used) melted together. The proportions of each may vary considerably, but provided the mixture is hard enough nothing more is requisite. It may be rolled out before it is cold into sticks, in which form it is most convenient, but the more common way is just to melt a little, as required, in an iron spoon or anything handy, and work it into the fault with a piece of hot iron, scraping and papering it down smooth when cold and hard. Besides tools and various appliances there is little else that is used by the cabinetmaker in the shape of material.