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How to Remove Ring Shank Nails [5 Surefire Methods]

Ring shank nails are nearly impossible to pull out. So, the best way to remove ring shank nails is to use a reciprocating saw to cut through the nail where it holds two materials together. If you are removing ring shank nails from thin materials, such as plywood or sheet metal, use a nail punch to drive the nail head all the way through the thin material so you can remove it. Alternatively, you can use an angle grinder or nippers to cut the head off of ring shank nails. Finally, you can use a heavy-duty pry bar to force ring nails out of wood.

How to remove ring shank nails

What Do Ring Shank Nails Look Like?

Ring shank nails look like a cross between a nail and a screw. A ring shank nail will have a flat nail head, but the nail itself will have grooves, similar to the threads of a screw. These grooves in ring shank nails are designed for a better hold. They help the nail resist backing out. This makes ring shank nails great for building long-lasting structures, but disassembling anything built with ring shank nails is very difficult.

Do Ring Shank Nails Hold as Well as Screws?

Ring shank nails do not hold quite as well as screws, but they hold up to 40 percent better than smooth nails. The reason ring shank nails are used instead of screws is that you can quickly drive in ring shank nails with a nail gun. This is much faster than building with screws. So, ring shank nails have the similar holding power to screws, but can be driven in as quickly as common nails. This leads to fast, durable builds.

5 Ways to Remove Ring Shank Nails

Ring shank nails are great for permanent construction, but they cause headaches during demolition. They are nearly impossible to extract with a hammer or standard nail puller. To avoid a long battle with stubborn nails, use these tactics to remove ring shank nails:

Reciprocating Saw

The best way to disassemble something built with ring shank nails is to cut through the nails. A reciprocating saw is the tool for the job. Equip your saw with a metal-cutting blade, then slide the saw blade in between two materials nailed together with ring shank nails. For instance, if two 2x4s are nailed together with ring shank nails, slide the saw blade into the seam where the 2x4s meet. Then, cut through the nails to separate the materials.

  • Use a reciprocating saw, like this one, to cut through ring shank nails holding two materials together.
  • Equip your saw with a blade made to cut through metal.
  • Slide the saw blade in between two materials held together with ring shank nails.
  • Use the saw to cut through the nails holding the materials together.

The reciprocating saw method works best for cutting through ring shank nails used to build fences, decks, and other wood structures. It can also be used to cut through nails used to attach wood or metal siding to a building.

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Nail Punch

In some cases, it will be impossible to get a saw blade between the two materials held together by ring shank nails. In these situations, it’s a great idea to use a nail punch to drive the nail all the way through one material to free it. This is great if you are trying to remove a plywood subfloor held in place with ring shank nails. Here’s how to do it:

  • Position one of the nail punches from this set on top of the nail head.
  • Hammer the nail punch down onto the nail head until the nail passes completely through the top material.
  • Repeat for additional nails.
  • When all the nails are driven all the way through the top material, it will come free.

This method will not exactly “remove” ring shank nails, but it will separate two materials without excessive damage. Trying to pry ring shank nails out of thin material like plywood or sheet metal often destroys the material. So, you’ll salvage more building supplies by driving the nails all the way through.

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Angle Grinder

If ring shank nail heads are visible, you can use an angle grinder to cut the heads off. Then, two building materials can be much more easily pried apart with conventional tools. For this job, install a grinding wheel on your angle grinder. Then, work carefully to grind the heads off the ring shank nails you want to remove.

  • Attach a metal grinding wheel to this angle grinder.
  • Hold the grinder at a 45-degree angle, hold the trigger and press the blade to the ring shank nail to grind the head off.
  • Continue grinding until the head has been completely removed.
  • Repeat for additional nails
  • Wear work gloves, a face shield, long sleeves, and pants whenever you are operating an angle grinder.

Make sure to wear protective equipment whenever you are operating an angle grinder. A good grinder will make quick work of ring shank nails, but it will throw off a lot of sparks.

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Nippers

You can cut the heads off ring shank nails to make separating materials easy. Use a pair of heavy-duty nippers designed to cut nails. Simply grip the nail shank just below the head and use the nippers to cut the head off the nail. This will make it much simpler to disassemble something built with ring shank nails.

  • Use these 10-inch nippers to cut the heads off ring shank nails for easy disassembly.
  • Cut the head off each nail holding two materials together, then use a hammer or pry bar to separate the materials.
  • This accomplishes the same job as the angle grinder with a lot less sparks.

The best choice for this job are 10-inch nippers meant for shoeing horses. They are strong enough to cut through nails with ease. Smaller nippers may struggle or fail to cut through the nails.

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Pry Bar

If you really want to pull ring shank nails out the old-fashioned way, you’ll need a powerful pry bar or cat’s paw. Most small crowbars and pry bars won’t do the trick. They’re meant for regular nails. To pull out ring shank nails, you need a serious pry bar that provides a lot of leverage. This will make the job easier for you.

  • Use a hammer and this pry bar to pull out ring shank nails.
  • Hammer the pry bar so one of its forked ends is grasping the nail, just below the head.
  • Lever the pry bar to pull out the nail.
  • WARNING: Prying ring shank nails out of construction materials can cause significant damage to the wood or metal.

Beware that trying to extract ring shank nails by prying can cause serious damage to the materials you’re trying to separate. If you want to salvage lumber or metal, we recommend the earlier methods we described. But if you have to extract a ring shank nail, a good pry bar is your best bet.

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How Do You Remove Ring Shank Nails Without Damaging Wood?

To tear apart something built with ring shank nails, it’s best to use one of these methods:

  • Cut through the nails with a reciprocating saw.
  • Use a nail punch and hammer to drive the nails all the way through one material, so it comes free.
  • Cut off ring shank nail heads with an angle grinder to make separating materials easier.
  • Cut off ring shank nail heads with a set of 10-inch nippers.
  • Use a heavy-duty pry bar to force ring nails back out.

Unlike common nails, ring shank nails are not designed to be pulled out. So, it’s always best to cut the nails or remove the heads. Attempting to pull out ring nails with a claw hammer or small crowbar can be frustrating and destructive to your building materials. But, with the right methods, the job becomes far easier.

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