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SFG box construction: Screws vs. Nails. Help!

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SFG box construction: Screws vs. Nails. Help!

Post  Megan on 3/28/2011, 9:34 pm

Okay... I need some sound, professional advice here, please. I have a dilemma.

I have seven boxes to build, plus 2 high-rises and a double-wide potato box.

I also am having problems with my hands right now. Don't want to go into details, but hard constant gripping is not a good thing for the meantime. (Hopefully it will be better soon.)

My lumber is all cut (yay!) but I need to build the boxes. I have a battery powered drill/screw gun, and had been planning on pre-drilling/countersinking all my 2x6's after I'd stained them, then screwing them all together with same device.

Hubby pointed out that we have a perfectly good air-compressor with a nailer. I made sad face about the nailer (screws seemed far better to me), and asked if we had a screw attachment for the compressor. No, we don't. I asked how much one would cost. He didn't know off the top of his head, but probably $80-$100+. Ouch!!

I really do not want to shell out another $100 or so for another gizmo for his air compressor. I am spending enough money on MM and lumber already. (While I'd love to get him a new toy for his a/c, I just can't see us really needing it and can't justify the expense for a single project. If we lived on a working farm, I'd go for it, but we're just in a little townhouse and I cannot imagine another project where we'd need something like that.)

Would I be an idiot to try to nail my boxes together to save my hands? Or should I just bite the bullet and screw them together like I think I ought to be doing? This lumber is reclaimed. It's not antique but it's very, very hard and dry and was tough to cut to size. I am not looking forward to the whole drill routine, but I'm worried the boxes will come loose/fall apart short of their life expectancy, if I try to nail them.

Any advice would be appreciated. Thank you.

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Re: SFG box construction: Screws vs. Nails. Help!

Post  Glendale-gardener on 3/28/2011, 9:42 pm

It kind of depends. Do you know what kind of nailer you have? There are several types and most people tend to have brad or finish nailers rather than framing nailers. I'm not sure the size nails the first 2 can nail would be large enough to adequately hold the box together for a long period, definitely not the brad nailer.

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Re: SFG box construction: Screws vs. Nails. Help!

Post  boffer on 3/28/2011, 9:48 pm

My preference is screws. Second choice: 16d nailgun (framing nailer)

Hubby could have them screwed together for you in 60 minutes.???


Last edited by boffer on 3/28/2011, 9:49 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: SFG box construction: Screws vs. Nails. Help!

Post  Megan on 3/28/2011, 9:49 pm

DH says it is a framing nailer. (I had to wake the poor guy up to ask him that one.)

The potato box will have to be screwed together, at least most of it, since it's the NY Times style design where you unscrew the boards at the bottom up to harvest as you need to. The rest is just basic boxes.

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Re: SFG box construction: Screws vs. Nails. Help!

Post  camprn on 3/28/2011, 9:52 pm

I am not a professional, but I would go with the nail gun, just to keep on the garden schedule. If the wood starts splitting, you could stop. OR, maybe you could hire a young person who could use a few extra bucks to put them together with the screws. That may be cheaper than buying a new attachment for the nail gun. Wink

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Re: SFG box construction: Screws vs. Nails. Help!

Post  Glendale-gardener on 3/28/2011, 9:55 pm

If you do go with the nailer, definitely practice on some scrap wood for a bit! I was a bit surprised the first time I used one, my Dad always made it look so easy!

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Re: SFG box construction: Screws vs. Nails. Help!

Post  Megan on 3/28/2011, 9:58 pm

@camprn wrote:OR, maybe you could hire a young person who could use a few extra bucks to put them together with the screws. That may be cheaper than buying a new attachment for the nail gun. Wink

It would be just my luck that they would not be insured and put an eye out or something.... so, no, I need to do it right, however that might be. But thank you, camprn. I love you

And boffer, he probably could, but I sort of want to do this myself. Smile

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Re: SFG box construction: Screws vs. Nails. Help!

Post  camprn on 3/28/2011, 10:04 pm

@Glendale-gardener wrote:If you do go with the nailer, definitely practice on some scrap wood for a bit! I was a bit surprised the first time I used one, my Dad always made it look so easy!
Dad's do have a way of doing that! Very Happy

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Re: SFG box construction: Screws vs. Nails. Help!

Post  boffer on 3/28/2011, 10:20 pm

Since the drift is toward the nail gun...a gun is exactly what it is and can do more harm than a .22 cal

respect practice respect practice respect practice


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Re: SFG box construction: Screws vs. Nails. Help!

Post  Megan on 3/28/2011, 10:25 pm

@boffer wrote:Since the drift is toward the nail gun...a gun is exactly what it is and can do more harm than a .22 cal

respect practice respect practice respect practice

Understood. I once took a gun handling and safety course from the government facility I was working for at the time, and as a result of my performance there was invited to join their pistol team. I declined at the time for various reasons, but I like me things that go bang. Practice is the way to go, and safety at all times.

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Re: SFG box construction: Screws vs. Nails. Help!

Post  Patty from Yorktown on 3/28/2011, 10:30 pm

Hi,

If you have any concerns about nailing together your boxes, just shoot an extra nail into a piece of scrap and see if you can easily remove it. I have worked with framing nail guns and the nails are not easy to remove. Or you can use glue, then the nails are only needed until the glue dries. Be aware that the gun is probably heavy and it will give a small kick. You may want an extra pair of hands to hold things for you. Have fun and enjoy your carpentry time.

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Re: SFG box construction: Screws vs. Nails. Help!

Post  dianamarie03 on 3/28/2011, 10:32 pm

You could always use the nailer and if/when your hands are better or you can get someone to help out, go back and add a few screws. Smile

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Re: SFG box construction: Screws vs. Nails. Help!

Post  Megan on 3/28/2011, 10:37 pm

@Patty from Yorktown wrote:Hi,

If you have any concerns about nailing together your boxes, just shoot an extra nail into a piece of scrap and see if you can easily remove it. I have worked with framing nail guns and the nails are not easy to remove. Or you can use glue, then the nails are only needed until the glue dries. Be aware that the gun is probably heavy and it will give a small kick. You may want an extra pair of hands to hold things for you. Have fun and enjoy your carpentry time.

Patty in Yorktown

Thanks Patty! The weight and kick probably won't be an issue at all, but I'll definitely try it on some scrap to make sure.

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Re: SFG box construction: Screws vs. Nails. Help!

Post  fiddleman on 3/28/2011, 10:56 pm

I have to firmly weigh in on the side of the "screw it" camp. Very Happy

Even with the glue which is now-a-days put on the nails, the biting surface area on a screw is so much more, it holds much better - especially since the wood is exposed to the elements outside and will swell and contract a great deal more than wood protected from the elements. Take a look at peoples decks for popped nails for proof of what will happen. If a screw comes loose a bit you can always screw it in again, if it strips, use a wider screw or use some gorilla glue and a dowel to plug the hole, and you can put a new screw in the same location. I read somewhere for this application screws have 300 times more holding power than nails because the threads cut and deform the wood whereas nails simply use friction.

If you want proof of the stronger bond screws have, get a hammer and pry out a nail out of wood... then try to do the same thing with a screw... you will quickly get your answer.

Nails have a great deal of tensile stress - if you Nail a 2x4 into a stud and hang a weight on it, the load puts a shear stress on the nail. Nails work very well for this application.

Nail a 2x4 into into an overhead beam and hang a weight on it. The load puts a withdrawl (tensile) stress on the nail. Screws work much better in this application. The outward forces placed on the fastening device comes from the swelling of wood when it gets wet. It won't happen overnight, but over a couple of years, the swelling / contraction cycles will likely loosen the nail.

Pre-drilling is a good idea providing you use a proper sized bit for the screw you are using. Don't use drywall screws... decking screws are much better for this application.

All the best,
Mark

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Re: SFG box construction: Screws vs. Nails. Help!

Post  model a man on 3/28/2011, 11:25 pm

I vote for screws. If you have an electric drill you can put the screw bit in the drill chuck and will get the job done in no time.

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Re: SFG box construction: Screws vs. Nails. Help!

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 3/29/2011, 12:23 am

I would also vote for screws, but Megan made mention that there is an issue with her hands that makes using the screwdriver problematic....I assumed she had an electric on hand, and thought she mentioned so.

Either way, screws would bite better and hold better, but you do what you can do. If it's using the nailer, use the nailer. Maybe 3 nails per corner, or nailing at an angle (once comfortable) to give a little extra leverage over a straight pull out.

And, aren't there nails now with grooves designed to bite better? I know it's not a screw, but it's better than some slick-sided nail. The MM in a box will but a very constant force on those nails.

Finally, I guess you could nail them in place for now and come back with screws when your hands are better?

Good luck whatever you choose.

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Re: SFG box construction: Screws vs. Nails. Help!

Post  Chopper on 3/29/2011, 12:58 am

SCREWS!!! Take it from one who had to add stakes to the outside of her boxes because they were coming apart.

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box construction

Post  westie42 on 3/29/2011, 1:33 am

I own a compressor a framing gun and three that are somewhat smaller. They have zero chance of being used for building my boxes. It will be screws all the way including the corner interior brackets. Anything less than that will surely begin to work loose in a year or so. For my 2" planks the screws will be at a minimum 3 1/2" long. 2X6 or 2X8 would get three screws one at least 1" from the top and bottom so as to not split the wood the third at center. Of corse it is essential to pre drill a pilot hole that is slightly smaller diameter than the screw for a snug fit to avoid splitting and ensure straight solid construction. Depending on the lumber you use it is better to make the pre drill pilot hole go a short distance ( about 1/3 of the remaining depth) into the second piece. I would not counter sink with a bit or reamer but let the screw do it thereby realizing a good tight joint just don't sink it much past flush and you will have perfection. Don't make the pilot hole too deep or drive the screws too tight or stripping out will be a problem requiring you to get a longer screw to continue. Soil pressure even from MM due to water plus freezing will put pressure on the corners and will cause nails to loosen then soil and water will be able to attack the end grain of the other piece. That may not be the end of the world but I would like mine to remain solid and nice looking for many years considering the investment just spent. On 2" lumber some mite even consider galvanized lag screws and washers for a tight fit. Deck screws are pricy if stainless steel or you could use some special coated construction screws. I like to use either square or torx head drive because they are much better than phillips head to work with even though they require a special bit to drive them, another $2-$4 for the bit. Thats how mine will all be done because anything less would be short changing myself and lead to disappointment down the road.

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Re: SFG box construction: Screws vs. Nails. Help!

Post  boffer on 3/29/2011, 1:35 am

This has become an interesting thread, thanks!
I use 3 three inch coated deck screws on each corner.
Hem/Fir doesn't need pre-drilled. :nail:

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Re: SFG box construction: Screws vs. Nails. Help!

Post  Miss M on 3/29/2011, 3:04 am

Screws would be far, far better.

If you can't do screws, then try to get ribbed coated nails. They're as close as you can get. The ribs help the nails hold, but still not nearly as well as screws. The coating is a kind of glue that melts with the heat generated by the friction caused by the nail being pounded into the wood. It cools and dries, and helps the nail hold.

Still, eventually, those nails will start to pop. Screws are far superior for this application. Cool

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Re: SFG box construction: Screws vs. Nails. Help!

Post  walshevak on 3/29/2011, 6:00 am

My deck screws came packed with the proper drill bit. I just have to remember to put it back in the screw box so I'll always have it handy.

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Re: SFG box construction: Screws vs. Nails. Help!

Post  ashort on 3/29/2011, 8:58 am

Go with the screws. The boxes are going to want to warp and deform since it will hold damp or wet soil on one side and be dried by the sun on the other. If you use the nails, they are going to pop loose when the warping pressure gets too high and your boxes will come apart. I use some galvanized deck screws. I pre dill three holes on the ends and then put the screws in so that they don't quite go all the way through the board. Then when assembling, they are quick to fasten together.

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Re: SFG box construction: Screws vs. Nails. Help!

Post  dizzygardener on 3/29/2011, 10:23 am

@boffer wrote:This has become an interesting thread, thanks!
I use 3 three inch coated deck screws on each corner.
Hem/Fir doesn't need pre-drilled.

+1

But I did pre-drill anyway because it is easier for me to drive the screws in straight if I've pre-drilled the holes.

Megan, if you've got a good electric drill it will not require much more of a firm grip than using the nail gun, you won't split the wood, and your boxes will stay together better for longer.

Oh and +1 for ladies with guns! I'm working on my getting my CCP right now! afro

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Re: SFG box construction: Screws vs. Nails. Help!

Post  boog1 on 3/29/2011, 5:34 pm

well sence i'm using an old wooden crate i brought home from an old job. i'm more inclined to use screws ,as i had to reinforce the bottom to use them as rasised beds. other than them being 2X4 and 2X6 the sides are an odd hight and the sides and ends are only 1/2 inch thick boards so i used some 2X2 i had laying around to reinforce things and used 1 1x2 drywall screws bout every 6-8 inch along the sides and ends into the 2by's as far as the 2bys along the sides impeading root groth dont think it should b that much of a deal. we shall see Shocked but i'd go with screws tighter joints, wont work loose either, less damage if u take them apart down the road



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Re: SFG box construction: Screws vs. Nails. Help!

Post  Icemaiden on 3/30/2011, 8:27 am

Hi!
I have gripping issues too and I managed the pilot holes plus screws just fine.
I made the boxes on the living room floor (when my husband was out Very Happy ) and my main problem was keeping the corners square. I found it helped to put a spare ceramic floor tile down on the floor, and line the two bits of wood up against the edges after drilling the pilot holes. If you can find a helper to brace the wood that you are screwing into then it is much easier, otherwise I guess you could set the free end against a wall.

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Re: SFG box construction: Screws vs. Nails. Help!

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