Removing a Headless Nail


Pulling a nail out of a piece of wood is quite uncomplicated if the nail has a head. However, the head of an old or rusty nail can sometimes snap off, making its removal more difficult. With the right tools, removing a headless nail can be a straight-forward process, as long as you take care not to ruin your wood.


  • When removing a headless nail, the first thing you will want is leverage to prevent damaging your wood. The best way to get this important advantage is by placing a block of wood next to your work piece. You can then use your tools with less risk. The most useful tools for removing a headless nail are a pair of self-locking pliers, also known as vise-grip pliers, and a claw hammer.


  • When you have leverage from your wooden block, use the pliers to grasp the piece of the nail that is exposed. Slip the claw of the hammer under the pliers to assist with leverage. As you pull back on the hammer, the nail will come out of the board. Repeat this process until the nail is removed from the board. If the wood is extra brittle, cut a piece of sponge, wet it and allow it to rest over the nail for about 30 minutes.


  • Your first instinct to remove a headless nail may be wedging it out with your hammer's claw. However, removing a headless nail is different than pulling out one that is bent, as there is nothing to grip with the back of your hammer. Trying this technique on a headless nail will likely damage your board.

Brad Nails

  • This technique is also handy if you must remove brad nails from a board. A brad nail is much smaller than a normal nail and has very little head. It is used to fasten pieces of wood while remaining nearly invisible. Just like a headless nail, brad nails are difficult to remove and digging into the wood around them will likely do little more than frustrate you and ruin the board.

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