2 a-Penny, 4 a-Penny, 6 a-Penny Nails

NailsNails are a very common fastener in most any construction project. Over the years nails have become very specialized. As such, there are all kinds of words to describe nails such as: Box, Bright, Casing, Coated, Common, Duplex, Drywall, Finish, Galvanized, Head, Helix, Spike. The list of nail specific jargon goes on and on.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about nails is that they are refereed to by ‘penny’ which describes it’s size. For instance a two inch long nail will be refereed to as a 6d nail or a six-penny nail.

Here is a list of standard sizes:

  • 2d =1″
  • 3d = 1.25″
  • 4d = 1.5″
  • 5d =1.75″
  • 6d = 2″
  • 7d = 2.25″
  • 8d = 2.5″
  • 9d = 2.75″
  • 10d = 3″
  • 12d = 3.25″
  • 16d = 3.5″
  • 20d = 4″
  • 30d = 4.5″
  • 40d = 5″
  • 50d = 5.5″
  • 60d = 6″

Nails under 1.25″ are typically refered to as ‘brads’. These are generally sold with designations that refer to the length and wire gauge of the brad. So you might by a box of 1″, 18 gauge brads.

That is all well and good but why is it called a six-penny nail when it is written 6d? It turns out that 15th century England that is what it cost for a box of 100 2″ long nails – 6 pennies.

Now you are asking why use a ‘d’ when that isn’t in the word penny at all? It is a rotated ‘p’ but it actually goes further back to Rome. The Romans had a coin call the denarius which is similar to a penny so the British used that as the abbreviation.

The final bit of nail lore? The United States is just about the only country that still refers to nails in this way.


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1 thought on “2 a-Penny, 4 a-Penny, 6 a-Penny Nails”

  1. By the way that is what saved Thomas Jefferson’s bacon was that he had little nail factory on th plantation and when cash flow was low and a payroll hard too meet the nail venture always came through.
    Tom green

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