A strake nail

One of the smaller and more mundane objects in Market Lavington Museum is this rusty nail.

But all our artefacts have a story to tell about local life in the past. This is a strake nail, dating from the late nineteenth or early twentieth century. It was used to hold the metal rim on a wooden cart wheel. It reminds us of a time when the motive power for travel and farm work was the horse.

It also tells of the time when Charlie Burnett was employed as a wheelwright at Gye’s Yard on White Street in Market Lavington. (See Charlie Burnett.)

The Museum of English Rural Life at the University of Reading has a strake nail from Essex in its collection and provides the following information.

This strake nail is wedge shaped, and was probably hand-forged. It has a wide and thin leading edge, and was driven into wood with the grain.

A strake is an iron ‘shoe’ which is nailed over the junction of two felloes on a wheel; this was gradually replaced with ‘hoop tyres’, which covered the rim of a wheel with one continuous hoop of iron. ‘ Nails for strakes were made by hand and it usually required two men to perform the operation. While one forged the nail at the end of a heading tool, the other would be heating up a rod of metal for the next one. The nail was forged out to a thin end and then wedge shaped. The head was battered out… so the nail tapered sharply, so as to fit into the strake. As the strakes were thin, the tapering shape of the nail still held tight in the iron.

Seeing a hand made iron nail allows us to compare and contrast the provenance of this item with our experience of acquiring shiny, non rusty, mass produced nails from a hardware shop.

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