common rosehead nail

2023-06-24

Introducing the ingenious rosehead nail – a wrought iron creation, forged with a unique rosette-like head. Employed throughout the 15th to 19th centuries, these multitaskers were infinitely useful, used to secure wood, leather, and even found a place in shipbuilding applications.

The moniker ‘Rosehead’ was derived from the unmistakable head of the nail, slightly rounded, with a raised center giving the resemblance of a rose in bloom. These nails were hand-crafted, each with its own distinct curved shape that set it apart from other nails.

Wrought iron was the material of choice for crafting Rosehead nails, which resulted in a robust and tough construction. Unfortunately, its high level of carbon also made it prone to rusting. To protect the nails from oxidization, a sealing of tallow was sometimes applied.

A bygone era saw cows and other creatures provide the foundational ingredient for tallow, a fat-based substance used both as a lubricant and a method of safeguarding from rust and corrosion. Rosehead nails, in particular, benefited from being treated with tallow to remain impervious to oxidation.

Wooden pieces and leather were solidly secured with the help of Rosehead nails, which required a two-step process. First, a hammer was needed to drive the nail into its intended host material and then a second hammer was used to peen over the nail head in order to make sure it stayed in place. Not only were these type of nails popularly used for carpentry and leatherworking, but they were also crucial to shipbuilding.

Heating up the tip of a Rosehead nail until it shone a bright red, and then affixing it to a metal plate, was an effective way of securing the plate onto a wooden piece. The hot nail melted into both the wood and the metal, providing a robust fixation between them.

As a nod to the past, Rosehead nails are still sought-after by collectors today – although they are no longer as ubiquitous. Their distinctive form and heritage make these historical relics treasured possessions, available to find in specialty stores and on the web.

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