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Walter S. Fowler

Cache Of Square Nails Found

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I've been metal detecting with my Minelab Equinox 800 all summer sine getting it in April 2018, but just finding the usual coins and nothing exciting to post.   The last several days outside Reno I made it out to a new site and found a cache of  75 square(actually rectangle) cut nails and some other interesting items.  One item appears to be the end of an old spoon. Using Field 1 pretty much factory settings, but when in town and hunting parks I lower recovery speed down to 3 and slow speed rate speed way down . ( I find gets better depth) . Also, switch target zones to 5 to get more different sounds on the various targets.  For the first 1 and 1/2 years of using the Equinox I used Park 1 all the time, but after getting more experienced with it, help from this forum, and reading a couple of books on the NOX( Clive James Clynick and Andy Sabisch books) I feel comfortable enough using some other modes and changing the factory settings.  After using a Whites XLT for 15 years it definitely was a learning curve with he NOX , but well worth the learning process.   Now, up to 1061 coins and $71.16 for 2019 including the water/sand finds with another detector. (including 9 wheat cents). The forum does great job of speeding up the learning process. Great day in the field. 

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The lack of corrosion on those nails indicates they were likely annealed by a structural fire or the wood was intentionally burned in a bonfire.  Though the arid climate and soil could have also limited corrosion, too.

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The country around Reno and over in the Plumas/Sierra counties is very easy on those older nails...I found them in like-new condition many times...enough to build a small house...they are different than modern nails.

fred

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Most folks would call that a pile of Junk. I love square nails, but I usually have to pick mine up one at a time. If I found that many together, I'd have to build something using them. Way to go!

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Most square nails I find here in Indiana are severly rusted (globs of rust stuck to them) but recogizable.  Sometimes, though, they are pristine other than their dark color.  I suspect different nails have different treatments and also different alloy compositions.  Interesting find.

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The pristine nails have typically

1 hour ago, GB_Amateur said:

Most square nails I find here in Indiana are severly rusted (globs of rust stuck to them) but recogizable.  Sometimes, though, they are pristine other than their dark color.  I suspect different nails have different treatments and also different alloy compositions.  Interesting find.

Chuck - in that case those pristine nails have typically been annealed by fire (not intentionally though).  They look great because the annealing inhibits the corrosion process, but are too soft to actually be used and will bend easily under a hammer.  When recovering the corroded nails at archeological sites we call the severely corroded nails "cheetos".  The type of nail (hand forged, machine cut (starting in the late 1700's to late 1800's), or the modern wire nail) and the type of head on the nail provides clues as to when the nail was made, what it was used for and can help you date or determine what a former structure was used for at an archeological site.

When I do volunteer survey work at local historic sites, the archeologists get really excited about ferrous recoveries that detectorists typically throw in the scrap pile.  I have learned a lot about what seemingingly mundane or junk targets are telling me about a site when I am detecting it for relics.  It is all about doing the detective work up front and during the hunt, piecing together the back story of the site from old maps, to historical records, to the trees, water soures, and terrain to envision where the dwelling or long-term camp was likely to be located.  Once you start heading in that direction, hitting the nails and/or seeing pieces of plates or pottery on the ground, you know you have arrived.  That is why I always like to hear the iron when I am relic hunting and don't mind recovering the nails.

Some additional info:

https://www.uvm.edu/~histpres/203/nails.html

https://www.harpgallery.com/library/nails.htm

 

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Good stuff.  I think all the ones I've found are Type B.  I assume the terminal dates of use are only approximate.  My uncle (a home builder) not only reused wood from demolitions but also nails, having lived through the great depression when almost nothing of any usefulness was thrown away.  I wish I had asked him if he ever (re)used square nails.  Also, if he had somehow come upon a keg of virgin square nails I have a feeling he would have found a way to use them.

I found revealing these two similar statements from the two articles:

Cut nails are still made today, however, with the type B method. These are commonly used for fastening hardwood flooring and for various other specialty uses.

Machinery was developed to produce cut nails in the 1900's, and they are still used in flooring and concrete applications, where holding power is paramount, and power nailing tools are standard. Machine made cut nails are also made for use in reproduction or hobbyist replica furniture, but they are so perfect and identical that it is usually easy to see that they are new.

From the second excerpt, it appears that the square nails in current use can easily be distinguished from the antique varieties.  I certainly hope that is the case.

 

 

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17 hours ago, Chase Goldman said:

The lack of corrosion on those nails indicates they were likely annealed by a structural fire or the wood was intentionally burned in a bonfire.  Though the arid climate and soil could have also limited corrosion, too.

Funny you should mention that. There was some evidence of a campfire or some other type of fire at the site including some pieces of melted glass.  As always, thanks to everyone for the added information about square cut nails and comments. Good hunting!

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FASCINATING.  Thanks for sharing, Chase.

This information is very interesting, and it confirms the reason I almost NEVER find square nails in Oklahoma.  Oklahoma, long the land of Native Americans resettled here in the 1830s, was not opened for "white" settlement in much of the state until 1889 to 1891.  So, the "dating" of the use of nail types explains my observations quite well.  Meanwhile, when hunting back home in western PA, I very frequently find the type-B "cut nail" (which I have always referred to as a "square nail.")  

One time here in Oklahoma however, detecting an old U.S. Military fort (1850-1870), we -- like Walter -- stumbled onto a huge cache of square nails (type B, as I now know, thanks to Chase's info).  They were all in a large "bunch," and so -- while the outer ones were rusted, the "inner" nails in the bunch were quite well-preserved.  It was an interesting find, for sure!

Steve

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