What are Ring Shank Nails?
Ring shank nails, sometimes called deformed shank nails, are nails with ridges or grooves along the shank, the part of the nail that penetrates the wood. These nails have a much better holding power than nails with a smooth shank because the rings act as wedges to keep the nail firmly in place so that it cannot pop out. For this reason, these nails are commonly used in construction, especially for roofing, and they are readily available at most hardware stores in the form of boxed loose nails and strips for use with nail guns. Some stores also sell them in bulk bins so that customers can purchase just a few at a time.
The design of a ring shank nail looks a lot like that of a screw, except that the head is flat. The pattern of ridges along the shank of the nail can vary, depending on the manufacturer and the intended use of the nail. Some brands have very shallow rings that provide a small amount of extra grip, while others have much larger ridges. Some have spiraling grooves, while others have a neat set of ridged rings.
Like other nails, ring shank nails are not designed to be easy to remove — they are used for permanent construction. The shanks make these nails even harder to remove than conventional ones, and their removal will leave a large and ragged hole behind. Although the nails may look like screws, they are not designed to function in the same way, and this is important for the people using them to remember.
When working with softwoods, ring shank nails are extremely useful. Conventional nails under pressure tend to pull out easily from woods like pine, which is not desirable. The deformed shanks keep the nails in position, even under intense pressure. Enough weight or pressure will eventually cause either the wood or the nails to fail, but nails with a ring shank will provide around 40% more holding power than those with smooth shanks.
It can be useful to keep a box of ring shank nails around for various home improvement projects. It is possible to find galvanized and treated nails that will resist corrosion, along with basic steel nails. Nails that have not been treated may be oiled for storage so that they do not rust, which explains why nails sometimes have a strange texture when they are taken out of the box.
By all means, use wood screws. One day individual steps may need repairing, and the screws can be removed without tearing up the rest of the structure.
@ GiraffeEars- I would recommend framing nails. Screws have less shear strength than nails, and will only last about a couple of years. This is especially true if you live in cold climates. Cold and hot weather will cause wood to expand and contract, causing a screw to pull out of the wood. This leaves a void in the wood where moisture can build up, causing premature rot in the wood. Nails can withstand more abuse, especially on stairs, than screws, and your project will last much longer.
What a great article. I am working on a set of stairs for my patio (wood). Should I use ring shank nails or should I use a wood screw?
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