Every woodworker knows how vital nails are; they are hard, firm, and durable. Nails help to secure pieces together, with all its parts playing a role. The sharp point pierces through the materials, the shaft keeping the pieces together, while the head secures the connection.
Nailing pieces together is straightforward as you can use a hammer and force it in or go the easier way with a nail gun. However, removing the nail is a little tricky. Just as you cannot drive a nail in by hand, pulling it out by hand is not possible either. You’ll need a different approach when removing these nails.
It is vital to consider your safety and the integrity of the wood when removing nails, especially if you intend to reuse the lumber. Carelessly ejecting the nails will have the nails flying out, which can harm you and others.
This guide will highlight the different ways of removing nails from wood.
Easy Ways to Remove Nails from Wood
Depending on the size of the nail, the depth it is driven in, and the type of wood, it is easier to remove some nails than others. Nails buried deep into the wood pose a more significant challenge than those with their heads poking out.
1. Using a Nail Kicker
The nail kicker is a tool that forces nails out of wood without the user applying pressure. It is one of the easiest ways to remove nails from wood. However, its effectiveness is limited to only when the nails tip and the shaft protrude from the other end.
Nail kickers are especially useful when you reuse the wood, as they leave little to no damage on the lumber. The specialized tool makes nail removal easy but may be better utilized for professionals who frequently need to remove nails.
- Place the wood over an elevated surface so the part with the nail is overhanging the surface. The aim is to allow room for the nail to leave the lumber.
- Ensure the nail point is facing upward and its head towards the ground. Place the nail kicker into the nail tip. You can straighten the nail with the nail kicker if the nail is bent.
- Press the trigger to release the pressurized air that pushes the nail out. Sometimes, getting the nail out of the wood may take more than one try.
2. Using a Claw Hammer
Combining a hammer and a claw end makes this claw hammer a valuable tool in driving nails into the wood and removing them — the claw hammer is helpful when the nail is not entirely into the wood with the head protruding.
Ideally, the larger the nail, the better, as smaller nails may be difficult to pick up, especially if only a tiny portion is protruding. This option may permanently damage the wood as it uses the lumber as a pivot to pull the nail out.
- Place the wood on a flat surface with the head facing up, then grab the nails between the claws.
- With the handle facing up and the top of the metal end touching the wood, pull the nail by bending the handle towards the hammer.
- Pull the nail gently and adjust the grip towards the lowest part of the nail exposed. Do this till the nail is out of the wood.
3. Using a Cat Paw
A cat paw features two nail removal ends, with one of the ends L-shaped to improve the angle of pull. The tool removes nails flush on the surface and those with their heads out.
A cat paw can pull it out into the wood and under the nail head. All you need is to set it at an angle and drive it in a little using a hammer. They may damage surfaces if the pivot area relies on the wood.
- Use the paw on the L-shaped area to grasp the nail head. You may have to do more to reach heads flush with the wood.
- Pry slowly by pulling the cat paw handle in all directions as you raise the head away from the wood.
- You must adjust your grip to the lowest end until you pry the nail out.
4. Using a Nail Jack
The nail jack is ideal if you’re looking for a small yet capable tool for removing nails. It, however, requires some effort to pull the nail out using its jaws. It can also pick nails flush on the wood’s surface.
- Grab below the nail head with the tip of the nail jack under the head and on the wood surface. It would help to hammer the jack into the wood a little to reach under the head of nails flush with the wood surface.
- Pull the handles towards each other to tighten the grip on the nail shaft while bending and pulling the nail away from the surface.
5. Using a Pair of Pliers
Pliers can do more than cutting wires; woodworkers can utilize this popular tool to remove nails. It leaves only minor damage, if any, on the wood surface, but you must be careful while holding it to avoid cutting the nail off.
You can use two primary types of pliers to remove nails from wood, each featuring a similar working mechanism but with varying suitability. They’re primarily used at different intervals to remove the same nail.
The needle nose pliers have pointed tips, making them suitable for removing smaller nails. On the other hand, the diagonal cutting pliers have larger ends and can quickly grab bigger nails. Generally, these pliers can remove headless nails without stress.
- Identify the headless nails you want to remove and grab the top using the tip of the needle nose pliers.
- Gently pull the nail upwards while adjusting the grip to the lower end. Repeat the process till a good portion is off the wood surface.
- Grab the shaft using the diagonal cutting pliers while ensuring not to apply too much pressure to avoid cutting the nail. Hold the plier handle firmly and pull the nail out.
6. Using a Pry Bar
A pry bar is similar to a crowbar in how it removes nails from wood. However, the pry bar features longer handles, making it more powerful. It can remove large nails firmly driven into the lumber but usually leaves a lot of damage.
The heavy-duty tool is easy to use, with one end featuring a flat top and the other with claws to grip the nail. There’s also a good angle to the end with the claws, so pulling nails is easier.
- Place the pry bar claws under the nail head for protruding nails. Nails flush with the surface may require a different approach. It would help if you gently tapped the pry bar into the wood around the head to reach underneath.
- Ensure the nail is as deep as possible between the claws before pulling the handle back and downwards. This movement will lift the nail with the help of the pivot at the L corner of the bar. This pivot area usually comes in contact with the wood and may leave some indentation.
- Repeat the process by pulling in different directions till the nail leaves the wood.
7. Using a Reciprocating Saw
It may seem shocking to find a saw on this list of removing nails from wood. But this reciprocating saw can eject nails using the saw’s push and pull movement. The reciprocating saw is a demolishing tool as it features minimal control.
It is suitable for nails buried deep into the wood with little to no visible part. Only use this tool when you don’t intend to reuse the wood.
- Locate the nails that need to go and place the saw blade close to the nail.
- Turn the saw on and allow it to chip at the areas around the nail. You can cut the nail with the saw or keep chipping around it until it comes off.
With several methods available to remove nails easily from wood, questions may arise about their use or the process in general. Here are some of the most popular questions answered:
Ans: You can use tools like a nail kicker to push the nail out without leaving marks on the surface. You can also drop a wooden block under the pivot area to avoid direct contact between the wood and the tool.
Ans: A reciprocating saw may be the best option to remove rusted nails buried deep into the wood, as most other options struggle to remove them.
Ans: The time depends on the tool and the nail depth. Nails with head protruding from the lumber take a shorter time to remove.
If you have a nail stuck in your wood that you need to remove, the removal process can be quick and straightforward with the right tool. Choosing the most suitable tool depends on the depth of the nail in the wood.
Rusted nails, nails buried deep in the wood, nails without heads, and more all have varying tools with the best chance of success. You want to select the best for a seamless process. Some do not affect the wood, while others leave the wood in pieces.