Lee Valley Tools Woodworking Newsletter
Vol. 3, Issue 3
January 2009
Featured Patents

The Dirigo Nail Puller

Dirigo nail puller

In today's world, the phrase "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" is the battle cry of the concerned environmentalist, just as "Use it up, wear it out, make it do" was the advice during the shortages of the Second World War. However, as many know, the idea behind these catch phrases is not necessarily a modern one. For example, caches of used nails have been found dating from the Bronze Age and the time of the Roman Empire. At the Roman ruins of the fortress Inchtuthil in Scotland, archeologists uncovered over 10 tons of iron nails found in a pile. In the 18th and early 19th centuries, a common North American practice was to burn wooden objects or unused and abandoned buildings and then sift through the ashes to recover the iron (later steel) fasteners. Wood was plentiful, but nails and other iron items were expensive and at every opportunity were saved for further use. What workshop or home today does not have a stash of used nails or screws to rummage through to complete a job?

The nail extractor shown here (patent #300,766, granted June 24, 1884) is part of a group of pullers classed as slide or hammer type. They rely on the upper handle portion to move along a shaft to set the jaws before extracting the nail or spike. This particular item exemplifies the Victorian's desire to decorate; the lower handle grip is a stylized boot shape. The model shown is not a true representation of the patent description and drawing; it is boldly marked as "Dirigo". It is interesting to note that most first-time users of this type of tool pinch some skin, as they invariably place their lower hand in the wrong place while driving the ram with much speed and force.

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