wood tools on a wall

Should Screws Or Nails Be Used With Wood Artwork

Using Screws And Nails In Wood

Any woodworker would know the practice of using screws or nails. The question of whether or not they should be used in wood artwork can be an issue.

There will be times when it is unavoidable. This matter really comes down to a few key factors. What is the purpose, design, and skill level of the wood artist.

There are potential issues when using screws and nails in wood art. It can destroy the aesthetics of the work. Additionally it can damage the wood in unintended ways.

Within typical woodworking these blemishes are often overlooked. The appearance of the finished project must still be aesthetic to purpose, yet wood carving is of artistic standards.

At times the process of a design can impact a choice. Wood charring vs wood burning will affect the integrity of the wood, thus what can be used to hold pieces together matter.

While our options are simple concepts, it is good to understand what can aid us best within our project.

Problems With Nails In Wood Art

Nails can be a tricky thing within general woodworking or construction. Years ago many turned to using screws where possible.

With time, temperature changes, humidity changes, the wood will loosen the bond a nail makes. It is why you will see nails “work themselves” out of wood in places like deck boards.

tree of life version 2 wood art

Within wood art any nail which is used is often quite small. It serves more as a pin which will hold two pieces of wood together. This presents different challenges.

Depending upon the scale of the artwork many nails may be needed to join two pieces together. This does not remove the issue of how these nails can work loose.

Due to how thin these nails can be the lifespan of their service is more limited. They can take less strain than other methods. Ultimately nails are not the preferred way of bringing boards together for wood art.

Problems With Using Screws In Wood Art

If you are using screws within wood art, the created work will typically be a bit larger in scale. Screws can come quite small yet are not effective on their own without other complimenting hardware.

Using screws in conjunction with brackets is not visually aesthetic. There are tools which allow for hidden screws to be adapted to a project. Nevertheless this can only be achieved with larger pieces of wood art.

song bird box art

In the case of these larger pieces, screws can be the optimal choice when used with proper hardware.

One benefit to things like locking screws is that they will not give with time. The structure of the piece will continue to hold and serve its designed purpose.

The drawback is that this anchor point is not flexible. Over enough time wood can warp in small ways. Changes in humidity and temperature accentuate this shift.

The artist must consider these factors in order to prevent future cracking or joined edges from separated and bowing.

Benefit Of Wood Glue When Using Nails Or Screws In Wood

Wood glue is a life saver. It is a powerful bond which can aid the joining along the length of the whole seam. Here is where something so simple as glue can be a great benefit.

No matter if nails or screws are used the glue will become the key bonding tool. The screw or nail will serve to hold the initial shape. The glue once cured will be what truly holds the bond.

It is for this reason that care should be given to the aesthetics behind the method used. Within wood art no one wishes to see holes or screw heads.

Having said this, what options are best for wood joining?

Replacing Screws And Nails With Wood Joints

A simple box joint can replace any need for screws, nails, and complimenting hardware. Alternatively different wood species can provide an alternating color pattern to add to the arts beauty.

Dove tail joints are essentially the same. It holds a different shape by design yet is for the same purpose.

box art wood hinges

Nevertheless this simple joint cannot accommodate all needs. If an artist wishes to truly minimize the need for screws or nails then the answer can be found in Japanese woodworking.

Early woodworking in Japan specialized in creating methods of joining wood that would not require hardware. It is essentially friction joining.

While western cultures have their methods few can match the complexity, beauty, and concealment as what Japanese woodworking offers. The kanawa tsugi joint is an excellent example.

This Japanese joint will take two sticks of wood and join them with a key and lock system. The joint is typically hand cut to shape. It requires no other locking mechanism other than if one chooses to use glue.

Moving Away From Screws And Nails In Wood Artwork

Moving away from screws and nails within wood artwork will require work. Much will depend upon the skill level of the artist.

Wood chisels are essential to begin down the path similar to Japanese woodworking. To use the more complex joining methods this is required.

Simple edge to edge wood joining may seem elementary. Yet this simple method in Western practices has been questioned across time.

The Western mind seems to always add non natural locking systems into the design. Simple biscuit joining is a testament to this way of thinking.

The artist will need to begin approaching their artwork in a way that looks for natural joining methods. Screws and nails within wood may be needed at times, but these should never be the standard.

Achieving this will require practice and time, rethinking old ways to create new designs, and genuine care behind the creation. The artist cannot approach this from a production mindset.

When Should Screws And Nails Not Be Used In Wood?

Any time that a screw or nail will take away from the beauty of the finished wood piece it should not be used. If the eye is drawn to the joining method then it is undesirable.

If strength of the structure is of no concern then greater focus in design should be placed in aesthetics. If a simple wood glue joint will hold the piece then this should be used.

Wood art should always minimize hardware unless it is intended to be as part of the design and aesthetics. Hinges for example could be used if chosen well.

Alternatively wood hinges could be hand made in order to further the beauty of the piece. Choices such as these should be made with care given to the intent of the design.