Darn nails and small shop photos

Author: Rob Brown
Nails Are Strong

A few weeks ago, I pulled up some wonderfully old olive-green carpet that had been covering our basement stairs for the last 40 years or so. To be clear, we didn’t install it.

We just decided enough was enough, and it had to go. It took about three minutes to remove the dusty old carpet and chuck it on the driveway, right beside nine large, heavy bags of reno trash. “That’s another job well done,” I thought to myself as I walked back to the stairway to start measuring up flooring and nosing. What an optimist I was.

I quickly remembered all the tack strips, staples and nails I would now have to painstakingly remove before even considering how to go about installing the new flooring. A pair of side-cutting pliers was my tool of choice, but not before experimenting with a mix of other tools. At one point I started hammering in as many of the nails and staples as I could, but that only slowed progress as they often didn’t sit flush with the stair, making them harder to pull out.

I wrestled with each and every one of those nails and staples. I could feel blisters starting to appear on my thumb and forefinger from all the twisting and pulling. If I was smart, I would have put a couple of preventative Band-Aids on my hand to stop the blisters from growing, but those are the sorts of thoughts I have only after the dust settles and it’s far too late. I often get so focused on a task I ignore most common sense.

Relatively heavy

After about two hours of continuous work the task was nearing completion. The plastic grocery bag I was putting all the nails and staples into was getting surprisingly heavy, relatively speaking. It was somewhat satisfying knowing there was indeed a pound or two of these tiny fasteners that were forced to submit to my impressive strength, dexterity and tenacity.

In hindsight, I’m sure my partner looked on in amazement at how slow I was at removing the tiniest of fasteners from the stairs, even if there were a lot of them. Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure she wasn’t too worried about all the awful blisters I was becoming more and more vocally concerned with, either. Considering a day later my hands and fingers showed absolutely no signs of struggle, maybe she was right and I should have stopped whining.

I eventually won the battle. And I’ll eventually win the war, too. My friend has been gone for a few weeks, but I toil on. Although I spend a fair bit of time editing the magazine and building projects in the shop, I also work away cutting and installing baseboard, painting all sorts of surfaces and searching for the correct hardware, moving closer and closer to completing this basement reno.

I’m guessing nails and staples hold a good portion of this country together. And judging by how well they tried to stay in the stairs I worked on there’s no chance Canada is going to fall apart any time soon.

Small shop photos

I always ask readers to send me images of their small shops, and from time to time someone obliges.

I got an email the other day from a reader named Ralph who included some shots of his shop. It was a nice-sized, well-equipped garage. I liked his approach to a router table, and thought I should share it with you. It’s nothing revolutionary, just a good approach that can help when working in a small space.

Ralph built a mitre saw station, complete with lots of storage underneath for routers, drills, sanders and other tools. His mitre saw sits on top of the stand, and there’s a raised surface on either side of the saw to help support material to either side of the saw. When he wants to switch to his router table, Ralph removes the saw and installs his router table surface on top of the station.

Another one of the interesting things about Ralph’s shop is that he does his ironing right beside his table saw. Joking aside, I’ve never thought of bringing an ironing board into my shop, though I could see how it would be advantageous as an adjustable height work surface. Obviously, you can’t set anything heavy on top of an ironing board, but for very light work it could work nicely.

Nails Are Strong
This is about 1% of what I pulled from the stairway. I probably wound up with as much carpet as fasteners.

Nails Are Strong

Mitre Saw Station
In the distance you can see Ralph’s mitre saw station, ready to cut lumber to length. You can also see an ironing board in his shop, his unique approach to an adjustable-height workstation.

Mitre Saw Station

Router Table
With the mitre saw removed there’s lots of room for a solid router table on top of the cart. Lots of storage underneath help keep the cart more stable while routing.

Router Table


Relatively heavy

After about two hours of continuous work the task was nearing completion. The plastic grocery bag I was putting all the nails and staples into was getting surprisingly heavy, relatively speaking. It was somewhat satisfying knowing there was indeed a pound or two of these tiny fasteners that were forced to submit to my impressive strength, dexterity and tenacity.

In hindsight, I’m sure my partner looked on in amazement at how slow I was at removing the tiniest of fasteners from the stairs, even if there were a lot of them. Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure she wasn’t too worried about all the awful blisters I was becoming more and more vocally concerned with, either. Considering a day later my hands and fingers showed absolutely no signs of struggle, maybe she was right and I should have stopped whining.

I eventually won the battle. And I’ll eventually win the war, too. My friend has been gone for a few weeks, but I toil on. Although I spend a fair bit of time editing the magazine and building projects in the shop, I also work away cutting and installing baseboard, painting all sorts of surfaces and searching for the correct hardware, moving closer and closer to completing this basement reno.

I’m guessing nails and staples hold a good portion of this country together. And judging by how well they tried to stay in the stairs I worked on there’s no chance Canada is going to fall apart any time soon.

Small shop photos

I always ask readers to send me images of their small shops, and from time to time someone obliges.

I got an email the other day from a reader named Ralph who included some shots of his shop. It was a nice-sized, well-equipped garage. I liked his approach to a router table, and thought I should share it with you. It’s nothing revolutionary, just a good approach that can help when working in a small space.

Ralph built a mitre saw station, complete with lots of storage underneath for routers, drills, sanders and other tools. His mitre saw sits on top of the stand, and there’s a raised surface on either side of the saw to help support material to either side of the saw. When he wants to switch to his router table, Ralph removes the saw and installs his router table surface on top of the station.

Another one of the interesting things about Ralph’s shop is that he does his ironing right beside his table saw. Joking aside, I’ve never thought of bringing an ironing board into my shop, though I could see how it would be advantageous as an adjustable height work surface. Obviously, you can’t set anything heavy on top of an ironing board, but for very light work it could work nicely.

Nails Are Strong
This is about 1% of what I pulled from the stairway. I probably wound up with as much carpet as fasteners.

Nails Are Strong

Mitre Saw Station
In the distance you can see Ralph’s mitre saw station, ready to cut lumber to length. You can also see an ironing board in his shop, his unique approach to an adjustable-height workstation.

Mitre Saw Station

Router Table
With the mitre saw removed there’s lots of room for a solid router table on top of the cart. Lots of storage underneath help keep the cart more stable while routing.

Router Table
Published:
Last modified: August 12, 2022

Rob Brown - [email protected]

Rob is a studio furniture maker and the editor at Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement.

5 Comments

  1. I have had the same unpleasant task in the past. We pulled out all the carpet in the house and replaced it with hardwood. I swear the original installer was being paid by the staple. 😆

    The best tool I found was small vice-grip pliers. They grab and hold very well and have a “nail pulling curve” on one of its jaws.

  2. In my next life (which is when I next renovate a basement) I’ll use one of those Vice Grips you mention, Gary.

    Thanks for the tip!

  3. I can sympathize Rob. My house was the first built on the street and I think they did some experimenting with fasteners on my place. We ripped up the carpet a few years back on the main floor then removed the vinyl in the kitchen. To make up the difference they had used some thin ply. There was enough staples and nails to hold down three houses. I’m convinced they had bought a new nail gun and were testing it out on my floor. I ended up using a cat’s paw, screwdriver, pliers, hammer and a good amount of foul language.

  4. If you use the curve on the vice-grips, sometimes the nail breaks at the head. I use a claw nail puller under the vice grips. Less chance of the nail breaking. Vice Grips the multi tool!

  5. In the late 1980’s, I built a 17 and a half foot stripper canoe, after having taken a course with the master himself, Ted Moores. This technique involves many hundreds of staples holding the strips in place on the mold while the pieces bond. Ted’s removal technique was to use one of those pop can openers with the sharp point. An elastic band installed around the opener right at the bend allowed the staples to be pried out, and protect the cedar strips. It worked like a charm. Ted has used this technique many times and at one point years ago built two 30′ war canoes. How many staples did he use then, I wonder?

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