Nails and nailing
It sounds so simple and small doesn't it?
I'm not only a home inspector, I'm also a finish carpenter. I hammered thousands of nails. Fat ones, skinny ones, tall and short. It's funny though how something so small can actually require a decent amount of skill to use. Back in the day before pneumatics became popular, a carpenter held a pouch full of nails and a trusty hammer. Now, you will only see nails in a carpenters pouch when he is doing pick-up or punch work (coming behind and fixing some minor errors).
Waffle head hammers are just what they sound like. A head that has the imprint of a waffle. These hammers are used primarily for pounding 16 penny nails for "rough framing" applications. It is intended to grip the nail head at different angles without ricochet. When framing a house, you're not worried about leaving a track behind because it will be covered up.
Smooth head hammers are usually smaller 14-20oz. and they are used for finish carpentry (interior carpentry). The smooth head is primarily designed to ensure that the track left (if any) is not noticeable. Nail sets are used to help a carpenter set the nail without leaving a track from the hammer.
The head design of a 16 penny nail can also look like a waffle while a 4-8d finish nail is concave to allow a center point for a nail set (also called a nail punch). The head on a finish nail is not much larger in diameter than the shank of the nail itself. This is for two reasons. (1) in finish carpentry, whatever your nailing is not "structural" and simply needs to be fastened to the wall. (2) The holes left from a finish nail are very small and considering the next phase of construction is painting or stain, the smaller the hole the better. As you can see, the choice of nails and nailing are important.
"Blunting" a nail refers to removing the sharp point on the tip of the nail. This is done by flipping the nail backwards and hammering gently on the pointed end. Harder woods such as Oak have very tight grains and are less forgiving when using a nail to fasten. "Blunting" a nail reduces the spread that occurs when the nail enters the wood. The spread causes stress against the tight grain and causes the wood to split, especially closer to the edge. By reducing the spread, you also reduce the chance of splitting.
So the next time a contractor gives you a bid to add or replace some interior trim. Ask him what kind of hammer he uses, it might give you an idea of his quality.
Nails and nailing.. it's not so simple