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split woodJoe Provey/Home & Garden Edtiorial Services
Ever drive a nail into a piece of molding, only to crack the wood? Here are a few tricks to avoid "split ends."

You've made a perfect miter cut to a long piece of wood and then comes the moment of truth: hammering home the last nail without splitting the end of the board.

There are several ways to avoid these kinds of splits. One way is to run the nail through your hair. The oils of your hair will help reduce friction and minimize splitting. I learned this trick as a framing carpenter thirty years ago and still use it. But nails are dirty, so here are several more sanitary methods.

For nails, try slightly blunting the point of the nail with a tap of the hammer
. This blunting causes the nail to tear straight through the wood rather than spread the wood fibers and cause a split. The beauty of this approach is that it's fast and easy. But it's not always foolproof. Only drilling a pilot hole is.

pliers with bitJoe Provey

A cheap and easy way to drill a pilot hole for a nail is to actually use a nail of the same size as a drill bit. Cut off the nail head with pliers and then chuck it in a drill point first. The cut end of the nail is enough to create the drilling action you need to bore the hole.

drill with bitJoe Provey

When using wood screws, drill holes with drill bits that countersink and bore correct diameters for the screw in one easy operation. Countersink drill bits are sized to the screw gauge you plan to use. By loosening the set screw, you can adjust the bit length to the desired pilot hole depth. This drill bit size chart will help be sure to use the proper size bit for the screw. If you use a bit that's too small, the screw may still cause the end of the board to split (or at the very least, be difficult to drive). If the bit is too big, on the other hand, the screw won't hold.

drill bits, screwsJoe Provey

A quick way to judge whether the bit size is correct is to hold the bit in front of the screw. If the bit diameter and screw shank match up and all you see of the screw is threads, you're good to go. If you see some of the shank -- or little or no threads -- keep searching for the right bit.


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