E is for Explosive
Conceived and patented by the prolific inventor Arthur Paul Pedrick, the Internally Explosive Nail is a display of lateral thinking that pervades Pedrick’s work. Whereas so many people mutter “I could have done that” after the event, here is a man who charges forward and seizes the moment.
In 2000, I published this article as part of the h2g2 collaborative writing project / encyclopedia, originally launched by Douglas Adams himself on Tomorrow’s World in the late 90s. Indeed, I had more than fifty fairly random articles published – and this is one that happens to fit today’s letter.
The Way It Works
A common problem in do-it-yourself is the pulsing red fingers caused by inaccurate aiming with hammers at nail heads. Tough materials can make driving a nail home very difficult to achieve without repeated screams and howls as high-speed metal comes into contact with soft flesh and bone. The dilemma is how to hold the nail steady without exposing oneself to the potential for injury – and the Internally Explosive Nail proposes to cope with this.
The nail is composed of a standard outer body with a cavity at the centre and a thin channel that runs from the point at the front to the round, flat head at the back. In the head of the nail is a secondary, smaller head attached to a thin pin that fits in the channel. The head of this secondary pin is slightly raised above the level of the primary head. In the core of the nail is a small explosive charge attached, by the head, to another pin. This pin, with a sharp end sticking outward away from the explosive, fits within the channel running from the cavity to the point of the nail.
To use the nail it needs to be held with the fingers, preferably close to the head, with the point pressed against the surface into which it needs to be driven. A hammer is used to tap firmly upon the head of the nail, striking the raised secondary head. The impact against the head in turn sets off the small explosive charge which forces the sharpened pin below it into the surface of the material. This pin serves as an anchor holding the nail upright ready for further strikes from the hammer to complete the job without the continued need for fingers to hold it steady.
Ahead Of Its Time
The Internally Explosive Nail is a simple and elegant idea providing a means to complete the job in hand without causing grievous injury to the hammer-bearer. Of course, the thought of having hardware stored around the house that contains an explosive charge, that needs to be gripped between the fingers to use, is something that might put potential users off. Then again a firework is a form of explosive and many people worldwide think nothing of it to wander around with them in-hand within dangerous proximity of naked flames.
Only time will tell whether the Internally Explosive Nail has a place in our homes.
(I think given the Patent Office accepted registration of this idea in 1973 and we’re not yet using explosive nails day-to-day might suggest that Arthur remains ahead of his time.)
The patent can be viewed via The Patent Office.