Nail Header

Project details

  • Object number – 6231-JR
  • Material – Iron
  • Place of Origin – England
  • Date – Early17th century
  • Context – Pit 21
  • Location – Archaearium
  • Category – Craft & Industry

Researchers suspected for a long time that there must be a nail heading tool somewhere on the James Fort site, given all the raw material the Jamestown Rediscovery archaeologists have found — more than 70 sections of nail rod and more than 98,000 hand-wrought nails!

The English colonists speak of experimenting with the production of iron, but they didn’t rely on iron made at James Fort to fill their needs for the metal. Blacksmiths in the fort reworked old iron objects to make and repair new iron objects. Recently, in an area with blacksmithing scrap, the archaeologists uncovered this fragment of the iron tool used to make the heads on the nails. Nail headers of much the same form were used in Roman times.

The nail header consists of a bar with a domed end perforated with a hole. The hole is larger on the underside than on top so the inserted nail won’t get stuck. While holding the end of the nail header over a hole in the anvil, the smith places the hot section of worked rod cut to the length of a nail into the hole and makes several hammer blows to flatten the head. The smith then turns the header over, and the cooling nail slips out.