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 wrote of experimenting with iron production, but they didn’t rely on iron made at James Fort to fill their needs. Blacksmiths in the fort reworked old iron objects to make and repair new objects. In an area with blacksmithing scrap, archaeologists uncovered this fragment of an iron tool used to make nail heads. 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 blacksmith 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 blacksmith then turns the header over, and the cooling nail slips out.