Whenever I have to hammer a nail into something (the wall for a picture mount, a piece of wood for a project, etc.), I hurt my fingers when I slam the hammer against the nail. Even when I don't hit my fingers, I'm scared that I will.

I've tried being more careful by not slamming as hard and not starting back as far, but when I do that, it is much less effective and takes longer.

Are there any effective, yet safe ways to hammer nails into walls or pieces of wood, etc.?


9 Answers 9


You can use a piece of cardboard to hold the nail. There are some variation in this method:

  1. make a hole and put the nail inside, you can tear the cardboard when the nail is embedded enough
  2. make a cut in the cardboard and put the nail inside, you can use this for several nails without need to tear it
  3. for bigger nails make a stripe of cardboard and wrap it around the nail so that you can hold the two ends of the stripe

And here is something like the first method:

enter image description here

  • Thanks! This seems like a great hack! I wonder if maybe using like construction paper might even be better though since it's easier to tear out, and would probably still provide a steady nail to hammer in.
    Commented Dec 23, 2014 at 10:43
  • 2
    You can furthr enhance the cardboard trick and put in multiple nails (far enough apart from each other) so that you can do quite some nailing before reaching for more nails. Especially handy when you are standing on a ladder.
    – PlasmaHH
    Commented Dec 23, 2014 at 13:43
  • This would work great for projects that require a specific nail pattern.
    – apaul
    Commented Jan 1, 2015 at 0:27
  • one question: is there any survival stack exchange where one can ask survival question with a given situation?
    – Fennekin
    Commented Jan 10, 2017 at 17:07
  • @Fennekin I can't see similar SE site, you can check if there is any proposal for a site like this in area51.stackexchange.com . You can also propose it if not existing. There was "The Great Outdoors, Camping, Survivalism" which was merged with other proposals and now it is "The Great Outdoors". You should check there if you can find what you want
    – vladiz
    Commented Jan 11, 2017 at 11:21

To make sure you don't hurt your fingers, you can use a clothespin to hold the nail in place.

Image from Pinterest

This is very safe and probably more effective than using your fingers.

  • 1
    Nice Q&A style! Though this is a good trick for people who rarely drive nails, if you are driving enough nails that this is a common problem, then learn Apaul's method in the other answer!
    – dotancohen
    Commented Dec 23, 2014 at 7:24
  • 7
    So Americans call clothespegs clothespins. That's interesting.
    – TRiG
    Commented Dec 23, 2014 at 12:22
  • 3
    @TRiG I might be just me, but this is a clothespeg and this is a clothespin
    – apaul
    Commented Dec 23, 2014 at 18:25
  • 2
    @apaul34208 despite the filename of the first link? Commented Dec 24, 2014 at 3:05
  • 2
    I'm American, and I call the thing in this answer a "clothespin." So does just about everyone I know. ( cc @TRiG )
    – Shokhet
    Commented Dec 31, 2014 at 22:11

There's clothespin trick, but that one is almost a meme at this point.

So, how about the traditional approach:

  1. Set the nail.
    • Place the tip of the nail where you want to drive your nail and just push it in with your fingers. If the surface is too hard to push it in by hand, grip the hammer higher (near the head) and gently tap the nail till its embedded just enough to make it stand without being held.
  2. Drive the nail.
    • Once the nail is standing without being held, hit it hard.

The trick is not to hold the nail when you are swinging your hammer hard. Hold the nail and gently tap with the hammer just enough so the nail will stick in the wood without having to hold it. After that, you can drive it home.

Another trick is to pre-drill the hole with a tiny drill bit before hammering it in. This should allow you to push the nail into the hole enough with your fingers before nailing it in. It will also help prevent the wood from splitting.


I don't carry clothespins in my toolbox, but I DO have needlenose pliers. Just hold the nail with them until you get it started. Really good with small brads!


Don't hold the nail with thumb and forefinger! Instead hold it between forefinger and middlefinger, fingernails resting on the wood. Now when you hit your fingers it won't hurt nearly as much.

And like Apaul said there's no need to hit the nail very hard at first. If you do, a half-miss will make the nail shoot away and leave an ugly mark on the wood.

By the way, screws may be treated in the same manner, before finishing the job with a power tool.


Start the nail first, ie a light tap on the nail, enough to at least have the nail support it self in the wood or what ever you are nailing into first. Then move your hand and swing away.

If your having to go to the clothesline to hammer in a nail, then maybe you should put the hammer down and try a different hobby LOL, just kidding

Merry christmas.

  • +1 Why was this down-voted? It's pretty much the right answer. Commented Dec 26, 2014 at 1:03

Holding the hammer in the very far outer part of the handle will give you more precision (just the opposite of what many beginners do). Also using a heavier hammer will make you able to hit the nail with a lower speed and still push it through the wood -- this also means that if you miss the nail, you can stop the hammer faster (someone good at physics can probably tell you why ... in the meantime, just try it).

  • 1
    Also, a bigger hammer head makes it harder to miss the nail (and hit the finger instead). Commented Dec 26, 2014 at 23:28

set the nail between two teeth of a pocket comb. place the comb in position, and drive the nail with your hammer. this works well for small sizes of nails.

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