Toolipedia: Nail Set

Toolipedia: Everything you wanted to know about a nail set

What is Nail Set?  

A nail set, sometimes called a nail punch, is a tool used by trim carpenters, woodworkers and metalworkersThis tool is most often used to drive nails into the wood so that the nailhead is below the surface. When using hand nails, a carpenter will drive the nail within one or two strikes of being set, and then use the nail set to finish driving the nail. This prevents the carpenter from possibly leaving a hammer-shaped mark on the trim or woodworking project. Automatic nail guns can occasionally leave a fastener proud of the surface which can be pounded in (set) with a nail set. Nail sets are also used to create starter holes for screws and drill bits in wood and metal for 

Here are the basic parts of a nail set: 

  1. Head 
  2. Grip 
  3. Tip

How is nail set used?  

Operation basics: 

Drive the nail so that it is with in approximately 3/16 inches from being flush with the surface of the wood. Place the tip on the nail head. Grip the nail set firmly. Finally, tap the nail set’s blunt head with the hammer until the nail head is slightly recessed into the wood. Fill the hole with putty. 


  • Wear proper eye protection 
  • Hammer slowly and in a controlled manner to minimize impact to hands 

What are the different types of nail sets? 

  • Nail sets come in different sizes primarily based on the size of the tip 
  • Some nail sets have a silicone or rubber grip that may be more ergonomic 
  • Some nail sets/punches have a slide that is used to drive the nail flush – the nail sits inside the punch and is often used for siding and fascia 
  • The tip on some nail sets are concave, some are flat and some are convex or end in a sharp point 

What makes a good nail set?  

  • Strong 
  • Good Grip – either knurled or silicone 
  • Color helps prevent losing them 

Stanley makes highquality nail set.

Construction Pro Tips

Nail set advice 

Set small fasteners, like 18-gauge brads, with a nail set that has a concave tip. The set will be less likely to slip off and bend the brad. Here’s what you need to know about finish carpentry.


LeRoy Demarest
I have worked for over a decade as an environmental scientist working on an advanced bioremdiation clean up project. For the past six years I have also worked as an adjunct instructor for several colleges, both F2F and online, teaching a number of science courses. Finally, I have been freelance writing for a variety of publications on the topics of: gardening, environment, construction, science, science education, academics and technical work.