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Jewelry with 100 plus year old nails


#1

A boat builder friend is restoring 2 shad boats which were built in
Eastern N.C. over 110 years ago. He has the original nails, and wants
me to fashion a couple of them them into jewelry. I scraped off some
of the corrosion, and they look very much like copper. I had
originally assumed these boats would have been fastened with bronze.
Anyone have any thoughts?


#2

Hi Peggy,

Me, the boatbuilder, currently building 100 year-old boat designs -
guesses that if they look like copper then they are copper. Bronze is
often used in boats - but more for bolts and screws than for nails.
Copper is typically used for nails because the nails are usually
either clinched (bent over) or hammered to form rivet heads. Copper
is much more amenable to either of these two treatments than bronze
or brass which are harder to bend and/or to rivet without cracking.

The cross-section of the nails is a clue also - Square ones are meant
to be rivetted. Ones that taper to a rectangular cross- section near
the pointy end are meant to be clinched.

If they just look like ordinary round-shafted common nails with a
point on the end - then look to see if they have rings around the
shaft, looking sort of like screw threads, but running straight
across the shaft rather than in a helix like screw threads would.
These rings would be cut in the full length of the shaft, not just a
little bit near the head end. Then it is just possible they are
bronze - but if the shafts are smooth then they’re likely copper.
I’m not even sure they had ring nails available back then. And if
they did, it would have been damned hard for your friend to pull them
out in good shape - unless the wood was totally rotted - in which
case he’s got a tough job.

Of course, ya never know what some poor ignorant boatbuilder in
Eastern North Carolina might have done all those years ago. It’s no
wonder his creations have to be re-built after only a hundred and
ten years working in the shad fishery. Too bad he’s not around to
holler at.

Anyway, I’d still guess, sight unseen, that you’ve got copper nails
there. Have a good time!

Marty in Victoria BC, where I’m still using copper nails.


#3

look up rob jackson he teaches at university of georgia

goo


#4

Peggy,

A boat builder friend is restoring 2 shad boats which were built
in Eastern N.C. over 110 years ago. He has the original nails, and
wants me to fashion a couple of them them into jewelry. I scraped
off some of the corrosion, and they look very much like copper. I
had originally assumed these boats would have been fastened with
bronze. Anyone have any thoughts? 

Copper is the traditional metal for nailing boats together. Long ago
a friend built small boats, he went through a lot of copper
nails/rivets (I forget the proper term) but there were 1000’s of them
in even a small boat. A little voice in the back of my head says only
some bronze alloys mix well with salt water. From my limited
experience even brass (the stuff with zinc) does not play well even
with fresh water.

As a jeweller, you can treat bronze and copper pretty much the same.
Although bronze has a slightly lower melting point in general.

Ignore anything I say, I should have been lost at sea decades ago
:slight_smile:

jeffD
Demand Designs
Analog/Digital Modelling & Goldsmithing
http://www.gmavt.net/~jdemand


#5

I had the same task a few years back. A guy had found some old ship
planking on the beach and removed some old hand forged nails. They
were copper…or what resembled copper. These were small nails,
about 40mm long if I recall. I found some images of old Spanish &
Greek coins and made silver coins that were similar. I made pendants
from these, by piercing the wax and letting the nails be the pendant
bail. The nail pierced the coin multiple times like you would stick a
needle through fabric if you were stitching. They were all different
and made neat conversation pieces…

Hope that helps give you an idea.

Dan.
http://www.dearmondtool.com


#6

In regards to the remark about zinc bearing brass alloys (yeah, I
know, all true brass has zinc), yes, it is not good underwater. The
brass will eventually undergo a process called dezincification. Here
in the Las Vegas area a large number of homes were build with water
systems made of plastic pipe and brass fittings. After a while behind
walls where no one could see the brass fittings suffered from
dezincification, constricting water flow, and eventually blocking it
completely. Eventually the dezicification became so bad and the brass
so weak the fittings would burst. More than one homeowner returned
from time away from home to find feet of water in their expensive
homes. This is also a danger for boatowners with valves below the
waterline.

Mike DeBurgh, GJG
Henderson, NV