Terms of the Trade: What Is a Nail Set?

A hammer and nail set punching a nail into a wood floor.

You would think all that's needed for pounding a nail into wood is, well, a hammer and nails. But a nail set can lend a bit of finesse when working in delicate areas.

Nail sets come in handy in two instances.

The first is when you need to set the nail below the surface of the wood to putty over it, as with baseboards or molding. The tapered end allows the hammer to exert force in the concentrated area of the nail head, lowering the nail below the wood’s surface.

The second instance where nail sets come in handy is when you want a finish nail to lay at the surface of the wood. The tapered end of the nail set protects the surrounding wood from damage that a hammer would otherwise cause.

To use a nail set, position it over the nail head, holding it with one hand and tapping the top of the nail set with the hammer held in the other hand.