Simple Solutions

How to Remove Headless Nails

By: Joe Truini

To remove finishing nails or nails that have the head broken off:

  1. Place a block of wood next to the nail to provide leverage for the hammer and protect the board.
  2. Position a pry bar or hammer around the nail.
  3. Clamp locking pliers on the nail to keep the hammer or pry bar from slipping.
  4. Pull back on the hammer or pry bar to remove the nail.

Watch this video to find out more.

Further Information

Print   Video Transcript

You know professional carpenters have to yank out nails occasionally, because either they’ve driven them in the wrong place, or maybe the nail bent over, or when they’re salvaging a piece of lumber and they want to remove the nail. Now you’ve probably seen this technique before where you use a couple of wood blocks as leverage which helps you pull out a nail. Or this is a technique I like to use sometimes, just rock the head of the hammer back and forth; and little by little, you’ll have to reposition, but little by little it will pull out the nail. Now the problem with that is that it can mess up the board.

Now, here’s a technique – well first of all, neither of these techniques will work in a situation like this where you have a headless nail, the nailhead broke off, or you’re using finishing nails which have tiny heads. So here’s the trick. Take a block of wood, so you can protect the work piece, and get a pair of self locking pliers. What you want to do is slip the claw over the nail shaft, then clamp on the pliers. What you’re effectively doing is just pulling on the pliers, and you’ll yank the nail right out.


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5 Comments on “How to Remove Headless Nails”

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  • Allison Says:
    November 5th, 2017 at 4:09 pm

    Thank you for your tip on finishing nails! It helped me spare some trim and the whole process went so much faster!



  • Doug Says:
    September 23rd, 2017 at 12:41 am

    I have an old cabinet from Mexico. I would like to refurbish it. The hinges look like they have been made by a blacksmith. Square nails are used to attach the hinges to the cabinet. I need to remove some square nails so I can move the hinges from the bottom cabinet to complete the look of the top part of the cabinet doors. What is the best way to remove these very secured nails from the wood without causing damage?



  • Jim Says:
    September 21st, 2017 at 10:07 am

    how to best remove staples that were installed with a gun?



  • Paige McConnell Says:
    June 10th, 2017 at 8:12 pm

    Genius! Saved the day with your tutorial on how to remove a headless nail! Thank you!



  • Casey Says:
    October 26th, 2016 at 10:31 am

    But what if the headless nail is like right in the wood? or any nail… Then what do I do!


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How to Remove Headless Nails