How to Position a Nail and Hammer It?

Hammering a nail is something anyone can try. However, it takes skill to do it right. The first step is positioning the nail so when you hammer, the hammer hits the nail right on the head. By knowing how to position the nail properly you can avoid potential problems.


How to Position a Nail

There are a lot of ways to position nails, and it’s important you set it properly before you hammer it. Here are your options:

  • The first method is to hold the nail with finger and thumb, or you can hold it close to the hammer for more control and precision.
  • If you’re afraid of hitting your finger, grab a pair of pliers and use that to keep the nail in place. An alternative is a clothespin or any device that can grip the nail.

Between the two, pliers are the better option as they are sturdy without bending the nails. Because they’re of some length, you can hold the pliers comfortably and firmly as you hammer.

Also Read: Safety tips while driving nails with a hammer

Position A Nail

Another advantage of using pliers is they often have a nonslip grip. Even if it’s a large nail and you need to hammer with force, the pliers will keep the nail balanced. There will be a point when you won’t be able to use the pliers anymore, but they’re handy.

  • Some people attach a magnet at the end of the surface /wood / board so the nail stays in place until you start to hammer.
  • You can also create a notch in the wood so the nail remains in position.
  • A simple method of keeping the nail in place is to press the nail against a cardboard so the nail remains stable.
  • If you have a drill, drill a hole that is smaller than the nail’s diameter. Place the nail here and it should remain straight.

No single method for positioning a nail can be considered the best. Try all these methods or just pick the one you’re most comfortable with.

Also Read: Use magnetic tray to keep your nails organized?

How to Hammer the Nail

Once the nail has been properly positioned, you can hammer it. There are several ways to drive the nail, and one of the most effective is the “tap bang” technique. Basically this means tapping lightly once followed by a harder strike. Keep repeating until the nail goes down.


If you used any of the positioning methods given above, the nail will remain steady as you strike it. If the nail moves, hold the head gently to steady it.

When it’s stable, remove your hand and strike it with the hammer. As you swing the hammer, hold the hammer low and flex your wrist.

Which Nail Should I Use?

There are many types of nails and the type to use depends on what you intend to do. Some nails are small, measuring ½ inch, while others are large and meant for framing.

So-called finishing nails are available in different lengths. These nails have small heads which you can drive under the wood surface.

To do this you’ll need a nail setter or nail set, and then you’ll be able to hide the nail with putty. If nail head exposure isn’t a concern, you can use box nails as they have a sizable nail heads.

various nail types

Before you attempt any home repair or DIY task, make sure you pick the right nails and hammer for the job. Just as important is the wood you’ll be working with.

Given a choice it’s best to work with soft wood as it is less of hassle to hammer the nails in. If you have to work with hardwood, use nails designed for it.

Which Hammer Should I Use?

The nail is just one part of the equation, because you must use the right hammer to get the best results. For DIY and home improvement projects, a 16 ounce claw hammer will do just fine.

These hammers have a solid face and the claw is great for taking out nails off floor boards. These hammers are designed for woodworking and suitable for a wide range of tasks.


Other types of hammers include the mallet (for light work) and the hardened ball hammer with its rounded metallic head. A blocking hammer is for car work and cannot be used for nails.

Tips for Hammering Nails Straight and True

  • Hold the hammer near the bottom, not the middle. You may feel a bit more comfortable holding the hammer in the middle, but it’s not as efficient. Holding the hammer in the middle will require you to exert more effort to drive a nail in.
  • Holding the hammer near the end allows you to exert more force with less effort. More importantly, you’ll have less trouble driving the nail down. Your grip will be more secure and you’ll be more efficient.
  • Hit the nail square on the head. Don’t hit it sideways, and don’t hesitate.
  • If you’re working on a light task, it’s enough to just rely on your wrist and elbow. But if you’re working with large nails, you’ve got to use your entire arm. Whether it’s a light or heavy task, keep your wrist straight.
  • Let the hammer do the work. Your arm, elbow and wrist are there for support, but in the end it’s the hammer that has to drive the nail home. In the beginning you might try too hard. Just focus on hitting the nail head first.
  • Make sure you’re working in a comfortable position and environment.

Final Verdict

Hammering nails seems like the easiest thing to do, but if you have never held a hammer before, you won’t know how important positioning is. With a little bit of practice however, you’ll see how simple positioning nails can be. There are a lot of new people who have expressed frustration with bending nails.

Most if not all of these problems can be traced back to improper positioning and placement. If you take the right approach as we suggested here, you’ll be hammering those nails in a straight manner.

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