People have pondered the power of nails since the Roman days. But only in the past 100 years have nails come into widespread use in homes and furniture. For centuries, blacksmiths made nails one at a time, at considerable expense, by drawing a short rod of red-hot iron, hammering one end to a point and pounding the other end to a head. By the late 1700s nailsmiths had devised hand-operated machines that could cut nails from flat iron sheets. By the 1880s steam-powered machines sped up the process and "cut nails" became less expensive; however, their strength was still variable.
That changed in the early 1900s, when steel became both flexible and very strong. Machines cut nails and formed the tip and head in one step from a long spool of steel wire. That process allows manufacturers to craft many types of nail points and shanks that improve performance.
This article was originally published with the title Staying Power.