Copper Clench Nails

Copper clench nails are an excellent method of fastening, for small boats.

Though perhaps not quite as good riveting, it is a much faster method.

It is certainly more than adequate a fastening method for light scantlings.

And it can be quite easily done by one person.

These nails are particularly useful for fastening the laps between lapstrake frames.

Copper Clench NailCopper Clench Nail

A proper clench nail should have a chisel shaped point.

They should be sharp enough to penetrate the wood when clenched over.

But not so fine as to allow the point to curl when being driven.

In the absence of proper clench nails, copper boat nails can be used.

Clip the boat nail off at an angle sloping away from the direction you are going to clench it.

Then tap it on the end to produce a barb.

The only tools required for clenching are

  • A light hammer to drive and clench the nails.
  • A drill fitted with a slightly undersized bit for boring the pilot holes.
  • And a 'dolly' / 'holding' / 'bucking' iron, a large hammer head will do, or any rounded lump of iron.
Clenching the Nail


The size of the nails will depend on the size of the scantlings, you will need enough of the point protruding to be able to clench it over into the wood.

  • First clamp frames/stock in place.
  • Next drill the pilot hole for the nail, this will reduce the hammering required and avoid the danger of splitting the wood. Light construction doesn't like too much hammering.
  • Either use the 'bucking iron' to curl the nail back on itself as soon as it emerges from the wood.  
  • Or drive it right through then place the 'bucking iron' on the head and use the hammer to curl the nail.
  • When the point enters the wood hammer it flush.
  • It is best if the nail is clenched slightly across the line of the grain rather than along it.
  • A few light taps with the hammer will draw the frame onto the plank.

Although it will be much faster to work with two people, one nailing and one wielding the 'bucking iron', this is a job that can easily be done by one person working alone.

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Herreshoff's Rules for the Construction of Wooden Yachts, Clench Nails

scantling rules for wooden boat fastenings

scantling rules for wooden boat fastenings

"Cruising has two pleasures.
One is to go out in wider waters from a sheltered place.
The other is to go into a sheltered place from wider waters."
(Howard Bloomfield)

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