Newsletter extracts

Newsletter 78 October 2019

 The Humble Horseshoe Nail

“For want of a nail, the shoe was lost,
For want of a shoe, the horse was lost,
For want of a horse, the rider was lost,
For want of a rider, the battle was lost,
For want of the battle, the Kingdom was lost,
and all for the want of a horseshoe nail.”

So went the cautionary verse first recorded in 1230 by the Swabian didactic poet Freidark.







The first record of a horseshoe with nails was an archaeological find in 1897 in an Etruscan Tomb and consisted of four horseshoes with evidence of nails. However the first documentary evidence was in an inventory of horse furniture belonging to Emperor Leo of Constantinople in 900AD. The horseshoe nail is a gem of a design. It is square or rectangular in cross-section and so resists rotation. The crown is so shaped as to fit tightly into the groove of the horseshoe (Called fullers in UK and V-crease in USA) which again resists rotation and the beveled tip directs the nail towards the outside of the hoof avoiding the sensitive lamina. The tip is then nipped off and the remaining projection is clinched and turned down to lie in a prepared groove. These two latter steps anchor the nail and avoid snagging.
Stained glass artists also use the horseshoe nail to hold pieces of glass in place on the assembly table when leading. This type of nail is favoured because of the sharp tip which enters the table accurately but can also be withdrawn easily without disturbing the piece of glass. The piece of glass rests against the flat side of the shank and so less likely to cause chipping.

    (Left) Stained glass being held in position using horseshoe nails.

(Right) Banner of the Worshipful Company of Glaziers and Painters of Glass showing two grozing irons (for chipping off small pieces of glass to get a good fit) and four horseshoe nails with the bevelled tip clearly showing.

Horseshoe nail jewellery: The nail is a popular object to make jewellery as the shank is thin and malleable and the head a striking inverted trapezoid shape which can be fashioned into attractive pendants or, as with this image of a steer, into more complex shapes
A steer made of Horseshoe Nails Wolfguy in Craft Wirestorm creations





 A steer made of Horseshoe Nails Wolfguy in Craft                     Wirestorm creations  

 What a versatile object is the simple horseshoe nail!