Tuesday, October 1, 2013

We've Got Nails!

Tools for Nailing Veneer Packets

When you practice an art form which was perfected in France over 200 years ago, it is natural that you will need some specialized materials, usually not available in America these days.  Home Depot carries a lot of stuff, but they do not have animal protein glue or cast iron glue pots, as I understand it.

Some of the things I need to do my job properly include sawn veneers in a variety of exotic species, bleached bone, 16cm fret saw blades, backer board (ayous) in both 3mm and 1.5 mm thickness, Kraft paper and, of course, veneer packet nails.

Veneer Packet Properly Nailed

"Veneer nails?" you ask.  Why, those are easy to find.  Perhaps, if you don't want the "correct" nails which are used in France exclusively to make the veneer packets.  The problem is that the nails you find in America are more like pins than nails.  The shape is wrong.  The point is not sharp.  The steel is the wrong hardness.  They usually have no flat heads.  Otherwise, they work ok, I guess.

Some years ago it was easy to bring in kilos of the correct nails from Paris, packed in Kraft paper and carried in my carry on bag.  That was before paranoia changed air travel.  Heck, I used to bring liquids of all types, powders in paper bags, tools, and a wide variety of professional materials all the time.  Now I worry about how much toothpaste I have in my bag.  How long does 3 oz last?

Anyway, the last kilo of nails lasted a long time.  So when I returned to Paris and made a trip to the nail factory which had operated in the Faubourg St. Antoine for more than a century,  I expected that it would be easy to buy another kilo.  I still remember standing in the street, looking at the building which was completely gutted and the impressive sign which proudly announced the new condos soon to be finished.

No more nail factory...Instant panic set in.  What now?

Searching on the internet made me realize that nail guns had replaced brads generally with the special nail strips that these guns used.  Useless for my projects.  Other than that I found small brass nails which were used for model building.  I couldn't believe that small nails had become obsolete.

These nails are used in building packets of veneer for marquetry.  They have a special hardness which makes it possible to drive them through hard woods, and, after the excess length is cut off, the ends are riveted in place.   They come in different lengths for different thicknesses of veneer, usually 15 mm and 20 mm in length.

Finally, after some time searching for another factory which understood the special type of nail we needed, we got a tip from Yannick Chastang, ebeniste working in England.  He pointed us to a factory in Creil, near Chantilly, North East of Paris.  I discovered this factory was the last factory in France which was able to make these nails, but they had a minimum order requirement of 50 kilos.  That meant that to place an order I had to spend more money than I had.  Also, 50 kilos of these small nails would last me for a century.

Not only that, these nails were not normally in stock.  The minimum order was because they needed to actually make the nails for us on demand.  We needed to order 25 kilos of any size before they would tool up and make them.  Note on the label that there is the date (11/9/13) which is September 11, 2013, the actual date of manufacture.

It took me two years to get the money together to place the order.  So two months ago I sent the money transfer for 25 kilos of 15mm nails and 25 kilos of 20mm nails.  Naturally, they took August vacation, so the shipment was delayed.  Then it was sent by air freight, which added to the cost, and arrived in Los Angeles to clear customs (even though I told them to send it to San Diego.)  Thus, I had to pay the duty and trucking to have it delivered to my shop, which further added to the investment.

15mm Nails in Can or Box

Last French Company Making These Nails

15mm Length
What a crazy thing it is to spend all this time and money for a bunch of tiny nails!  The  only consolation is that I will never need to buy nails again.  Also, I can now supply nails to students and other marquetry workers here in the States so that they don't need to go through what I went through.

20mm Nails in Can or Box

"Acier Clair" means "Bright Steel"

20mm Length

I am making these nails available, if you need them, at reasonable prices, for several sizes of packages in both lengths.  These nails are 0.7mm in diameter which is American wire gauge #21.  The 15mm length is packaged in tins which weigh at least 200 grams or 7 ounces and cost $15.  The 20mm length is packaged in tins which weigh at least 100 grams or 3.5 ounces and cost $9.  The 15mm length is also available in a box that weighs 1Kilo or 35 ounces and cost $50, and the 20mm length is sold in a box which weighs 500 grams or 17.5 ounces and cost $25.  Shipping is extra for any size, of course.

Please contact me if you want to get some of these nails for your project.  I will be happy to send them to you, and you don't need to invest the kind of money I did to get them.  Frankly I am amazed that any factory still makes them, and I wonder how much longer this supply will be available from France.

I also import 90gm/square meter Kraft paper and sell it for $3/meter and the impossible to find backer board in two thicknesses, 3mm for $3.50/square foot and 1.5mm for $3/square foot.  These are speciality items for the serious marquetry professional, and I need to purchase them in substantial quantities to be able to offer them in this country at these prices.

If you are interested, just call or contact me by email.


Bob Egbert said...

Patrick do you sell or can you tell me where to find backer board for making up packets both front and back? I am having a real difficult time finding anything other then small pieces of balsa and 1/4 plywood.
Thanks Bob Egbert

W. Patrick Edwards said...


Your comment reminded me to add a paragraph to my post with the prices for Kraft paper and backer board.

Since the backer board is sold in 3 foot lengths, it is easier to cut it into shorter pieces. Tell me if you want the full length or half length so I can compute the shipping costs.`````````````