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Wrought nails, as free-hand forged products, vary greatly in style and shape, but the evidence examined has not as yet furnished any definite elate for any of their variations.The far more easily made cut nail, as the evidence clearly shows, consists of a rectangular, tapering shank of iron, not hammered into a point by hand, but tapered, by a single cut, across a plate of iron.
The taper of the cut alone, produced the point, but not the head.
William Bentley, who visited Read's nail works in 1810 (See Essex Institute Historical Col-lections, April, 1918, page 113), and found that the workmen were then heading nails in the only way thus far successful, namely, by hand, "as it is found heading is done better by hand than by any machine as yet invented both as to time and good-ness of execution.
Joseph Whitaker (See his manuscript diary in the library of the Bucks County Historical Society) was also thus making cut nails in Philadelphia, from 1809 to 1816-20, by a double operation; namely, cutting the plates with a hand-cranked ma-chine and afterwards hammer-heading the shanks held in a clamp worked by a foot lever.
This was made at first by dropping the freshly cut piece, point downward, into a slotted clamp or vise, and then spreading the larger projecting end with a hammer, as in the case of the wrought nail.
Cut nails are easily distinguishable from wrought nails by the following very apparent differences.
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Nails used at the time a house was built are nearly always to be found in the garret floors.