How to Remove Headless Nails

To remove finishing nails or nails that have the head broken off:

    1. Place a block of wood next to the nail to provide leverage for the hammer and protect the board.
    1. Position a pry bar or hammer around the nail.
    1. Clamp locking pliers on the nail to keep the hammer or pry bar from slipping.
  1. Pull back on the hammer or pry bar to remove the nail.

Watch this video to find out more.

Further Information


You know professional carpenters have to yank out nails occasionally, because either they’ve driven them in the wrong place, or maybe the nail bent over, or when they’re salvaging a piece of lumber and they want to remove the nail. Now you’ve probably seen this technique before where you use a couple of wood blocks as leverage which helps you pull out a nail. Or this is a technique I like to use sometimes, just rock the head of the hammer back and forth; and little by little, you’ll have to reposition, but little by little it will pull out the nail. Now the problem with that is that it can mess up the board.

Now, here’s a technique – well first of all, neither of these techniques will work in a situation like this where you have a headless nail, the nailhead broke off, or you’re using finishing nails which have tiny heads. So here’s the trick. Take a block of wood, so you can protect the work piece, and get a pair of self locking pliers. What you want to do is slip the claw over the nail shaft, then clamp on the pliers. What you’re effectively doing is just pulling on the pliers, and you’ll yank the nail right out.


  1. I have an old cabinet from Mexico. I would like to refurbish it. The hinges look like they have been made by a blacksmith. Square nails are used to attach the hinges to the cabinet. I need to remove some square nails so I can move the hinges from the bottom cabinet to complete the look of the top part of the cabinet doors. What is the best way to remove these very secured nails from the wood without causing damage?

  2. Seem like the side to side would also work with headless. After all you pulled the one up in the video without being right under the head. For headless right near the wood some needle nose locking can sometimes grab on enough then use a flat metal pry bar to push up against the pliers.

  3. I have a coffee table very heavy wood solid l am having a hard time trying to fix the leg that is broken off the wood is so hard nails are bending got heavy duty nails still the same wood is so solid what is wrong table is good just can’t fix the leg.


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