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Thread: iron nails vs. copper nails on a Lawrence skiff

  1. #1
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    Default iron nails vs. copper nails on a Lawrence skiff

    I am restoring a 100 year old 18' St Lawrence skiff which has been built completely with iron nails and fasteners. Most of the nails have been removed except for the clinch nails in hull as it is a pretty extensive rebuild and all I am left with right now is ribs and planking. Every rib will be replaced. Nails include clinch nails, 1-3 inch finishing nails, small tacks, etc. I have the plans from Mystic seaport for "Clotilde" and another set of plans drawn by Andrew Steever as a reference guide but am wondering how hard it will be to find all these true or original style iron nails or should I just go with copper? Sorry. Couldn't get photo to not rotate so if you turn your head just right the picture looks normal.

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  2. #2
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    Default Re: iron nails vs. copper nails on a Lawrence skiff

    COPPER !!! Speaking as one who has had to dig corroded steel fasteners out of a traditional boat or two, never use ferrous fasteners if you want the boat to last. Google "iron sickness" if you haven't already had to deal with it. Be aware that the "iron" used 100+ years ago had less carbon than today's commercial iron, which is so close to steel it can be hard to tell the difference once it starts rusting. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Histor...%E2%80%931970)

    Out here we call those "clench" nails. I prefer copper rove rivets to clench nails (easier to subsequently tighten up) but that may be overkill for some of the size wood you're working with on this restoration.
    http://www.faeringdesigninc.com/fst-clen.html
    "The enemies of reason have a certain blind look."
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  3. #3
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    Default Re: iron nails vs. copper nails on a Lawrence skiff

    What Thorne said.
    They might have been wrought iron nails, which are softer and corrode less due to the purity of the iron, but they are unobtainable now.
    Scandinavians use galvo square boat nails and rooves, but they would not be appropriate for your rebuild.
    It really is quite difficult to build an ugly wooden boat.

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  4. #4
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    Default Re: iron nails vs. copper nails on a Lawrence skiff

    Good news is the iron tacks will problem fall out with a stern look, or a thin blade between the planks. Copper for sure. Just wondering if you have some temporary thwarts or even rope keeping here from amidships spread while she's being restored. The Ducker I'm restoring spread a good 3" in the middle.
    Denise, Bristol PA, Oday30, Anchor Yacht Club, On tidal Delaware River. my current project; http://forum.woodenboat.com/showthre...0-Ducker-Resto

  5. #5
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    Default Re: iron nails vs. copper nails on a Lawrence skiff

    There were no thwarts or seats that came with it, but I do plan on pulling the boat together to proper beam with some temporary bracing while I replace frames. All the old nails are coming out easily so not a problem there and most of the rotted wood will be replaced. Not much left of original except good shape. Copper nails is what I thought and maybe even some bronze screws. I had considered rivets for rails, but this was not how it was originally. I don't think the owner cares much about originality of fastenings, just appearance when done. The same family has owned it since it was built 100 years ago and the great grandson wants to let his grand mother row it one more time and then maybe donate it to a museum, hence as original as possible, just not fastenings.

  6. #6
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Rod Tait View Post
    There were no thwarts or seats that came with it, but I do plan on pulling the boat together to proper beam with some temporary bracing while I replace frames. All the old nails are coming out easily so not a problem there and most of the rotted wood will be replaced. Not much left of original except good shape. Copper nails is what I thought and maybe even some bronze screws. I had considered rivets for rails, but this was not how it was originally. I don't think the owner cares much about originality of fastenings, just appearance when done. The same family has owned it since it was built 100 years ago and the great grandson wants to let his grand mother row it one more time and then maybe donate it to a museum, hence as original as possible, just not fastenings.
    I would never assume a Museum would even want something that's been donated, they are rather picky. The boat I have was actually headed for the dumpster from the museum. Storage "collection" (Independence Seaport Museum Philadelphia PA)

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    Denise, Bristol PA, Oday30, Anchor Yacht Club, On tidal Delaware River. my current project; http://forum.woodenboat.com/showthre...0-Ducker-Resto

  7. #7
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    Default Re: iron nails vs. copper nails on a Lawrence skiff

    I'm thinking that once this thing looks nice and pretty again, he will consider keeping it or donate it to a rowing or wooden boat club where people can use it.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: iron nails vs. copper nails on a Lawrence skiff

    At high risk to my credibility I will add an * on the iron nails. I am the current owner of two Rangeley lake boats, one from 1909 and another from the 30's. Both are clench fastened with iron through cedar into steamed oak. Research when I did repairs on these revealed that they used a kind of wrought iron back then that would not rust in fresh water, and that they were preferred for strength. This would probably never work in salt water and it is doubtful that one could find nails made of this kind of iron anyway, but at one time it was possible. Fellow curmudgeons will all agree that this is further evidence that everything continues going to hell in a hand-basket. So, I did my repairs with clenched copper. Tricky double bevels on those Rangeley boats.........

    Ken

    Quote Originally Posted by Thorne View Post
    COPPER !!! Speaking as one who has had to dig corroded steel fasteners out of a traditional boat or two, never use ferrous fasteners if you want the boat to last. Google "iron sickness" if you haven't already had to deal with it. Be aware that the "iron" used 100+ years ago had less carbon than today's commercial iron, which is so close to steel it can be hard to tell the difference once it starts rusting. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Histor...%E2%80%931970)

    Out here we call those "clench" nails. I prefer copper rove rivets to clench nails (easier to subsequently tighten up) but that may be overkill for some of the size wood you're working with on this restoration.
    http://www.faeringdesigninc.com/fst-clen.html

  9. #9
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    Default Re: iron nails vs. copper nails on a Lawrence skiff

    Quote Originally Posted by kbowen View Post
    At high risk to my credibility I will add an * on the iron nails. I am the current owner of two Rangeley lake boats, one from 1909 and another from the 30's. Both are clench fastened with iron through cedar into steamed oak. Research when I did repairs on these revealed that they used a kind of wrought iron back then that would not rust in fresh water, and that they were preferred for strength. This would probably never work in salt water and it is doubtful that one could find nails made of this kind of iron anyway, but at one time it was possible. Fellow curmudgeons will all agree that this is further evidence that everything continues going to hell in a hand-basket. So, I did my repairs with clenched copper. Tricky double bevels on those Rangeley boats.........

    Ken
    Well, if that risks your credibility, mine is gone to hell in a handbasket as well. post #3
    It really is quite difficult to build an ugly wooden boat.

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  10. #10
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    Default Re: iron nails vs. copper nails on a Lawrence skiff

    Sadly, the wrought iron nails used 100 plus years ago are no longer available. I restored a 1900 power dory and was amazed to find clinch nails showing no corrosion at all.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: iron nails vs. copper nails on a Lawrence skiff

    Many of the nails are still in good condition and holding. They did use quite a few though. Nailed on first layer of inwale with a 1/2 inch, then double up the layers with 1 inch nails and then when they put on the outwale a full 2 inch went through all, or 3 inch into breast hook, so nails in all directions. My original question was to ask whether new iron nails could be found and used, but it looks like copper is the best choice I have now.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: iron nails vs. copper nails on a Lawrence skiff

    I answered the question as asked, but in fact silicon bronze (SB) nails might be better in some applications in this restoration. They'll be stiffer, stronger and more expensive. If you find that the cost of copper nails is close to that of SB then you might opt for the latter - or at least get some and test.

    I'm certainly not a fan of ring-shank nails, but if SB ones will work best then you should try 'em. One of many online suppliers - https://www.fisheriessupply.com/fasc...silicon-bronze
    "The enemies of reason have a certain blind look."
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  13. #13
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    Default Re: iron nails vs. copper nails on a Lawrence skiff

    Whatever you use, put back a gauge thicker than the nail that you pull out, so that the wood grips the nail.
    It really is quite difficult to build an ugly wooden boat.

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  14. #14
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    Default Re: iron nails vs. copper nails on a Lawrence skiff

    Thanks to all for the input. Did not think I was going to find iron nails that would suit. The copper clench nails will go through new ribs so I don't think I will need to use larger and on the trim all new wood so will be combination of SB screws/nails and maybe copper rivets/nails to hold it all together.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: iron nails vs. copper nails on a Lawrence skiff

    Quote Originally Posted by Rod Tait View Post
    Thanks to all for the input. Did not think I was going to find iron nails that would suit. The copper clench nails will go through new ribs so I don't think I will need to use larger and on the trim all new wood so will be combination of SB screws/nails and maybe copper rivets/nails to hold it all together.
    You are still going through old preworn holes in the plank. Go up a gauge.
    It really is quite difficult to build an ugly wooden boat.

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