The Last Nail

The Last Nail

One day I was working with a young kid, well younger than me anyway, on a job that required a ladder, and a nail gun that would shoot fasteners into concrete.  (Yes, it’s another one of those “wild” tools.)


We were using a straight ladder with round wooden rungs and had set it up leaning against a wall.  The kid had climbed up the ladder with his feet about head height off the ground.  He shot a nail from the gun into some concrete.


A short tangential diversion here: One time on a different job a homeowner wanted to know how a power nail gun worked.  I set a brick on the cement floor and shot a nail into it.


Any engineer could have anticipated the result.  At the shot, the brick split in half, each half scooting in a different direction; both halves traveling until they contacted the nearest wall.


In older concrete a nail shot from a power set gun may at times hit a rock or pebble in the concrete and “spall.”  This means that a wide, shallow portion of concrete will chip off and go flying to who knows where.  The nail will also travel elsewhere.  It is usually possible to know where the nail goes by its distinctive ring when it lands.


This is exactly what happened when the kid shot that first nail.  However, for some reason neither of us heard it land, and though we looked diligently neither of us could find it.  Well, no real problem there.  It was just an old bent nail by now.  We forgot about it.  The next shot was good and we went on with our work.


A couple of days later we were again using the ladder with the round rungs.  When we set it up we found the nail that had disappeared.  It had disappeared into one of the round rungs (about ¾” in diameter).  It was the rung the kid’s feet had been on when he shot the nail.


It was also the rung next to my head at the time the kid shot the nail.


The kid had barely missed getting a nail in his foot.  I had barely missed getting shot in the head with a wild nail.  Steel toed boots and hard hats are cumbersome and sometimes inflict difficult parameters to the normal ease of work flow.  But they can sure come in handy.


Safety measures are a good thing.  Safety measures are there for our protection.  I firmly believe it.  They have probably saved my life numerous times.


It is one aspect of the work that was difficult for me to get used to.