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My wife purchased a wooden sign with our infant's name in a cursive font. The wood is 1/2" deep (front-to-back), and the letters are about 1" wide in most places. I've been tasked with hanging the name on a wall. I bought a kit containing sawtooth hangers for mounting pictures on the wall, only to discover that the tiny nails are also 1/2" long.

Is it reasonable to think I can chop the nails in half to prevent them from splitting the wood? Would this put the sawtooth hangers at risk of falling out due to insufficient friction once the sign is on the wall?

More generally, are there rules of thumb or data tables that tell mechanical engineers or carpenters, "for this type of wood, with these dimensions, it is safe/not safe to use this size of nail with/without predrilling"? Are there any such guidelines for how much weight, say, a collection of sawtooth hangers can hold when held in place by small nails of a given length and radius?

As long as I'm throwing out wishes, is there an introductory book on mechanical engineering that spells out the terminology and principles needed to do back-of-the-envelope calculations?

EDIT: This is not a rectangular sign with the name on it, it is a laser cut piece of plywood (baltic birch), so that the letters are the sign,and it is not possible to drill into any part of the sign without drilling into a letter. The entire sign weighs about 1 lb 2 oz.

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  • what exactly does cursive font and letters are about 1" wide have to do with the problem? ... please do not clutter up the question with irrelevant information
    – jsotola
    May 21 at 23:24
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    Usually the nicer the wood/object is, the more you might want to have pilot holes. Even more if wife buys the nice stuff.
    – crip659
    May 21 at 23:30
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    I would just hotglue or epoxy the sawtooth hanger onto the decoration, or use command hangers/sticky pads.
    – dandavis
    May 21 at 23:32
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    Use small screws instead of the nails and definitely make small pilot holes.
    – Barry
    May 22 at 0:31
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    @jsotola the cursive font was to establish that it's a single piece of wood rather than individual letters and so the weight is distributed over a handful of hangers., I thought 1" wide would be relevant since the form factor seems likely to contribute to the likelihood of splitting. In general, I think having a mental image of the use case is motivating. May 22 at 1:03
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I would also encourage the use of small screws to attach the sawtooth hangers to the back of the name board. You can easily get small diameter screws that are 3/8" long from below the head to the end of the tip.

Sawtooth brackets supplied with nails are going to have very small holes in the ends and so these will most probably need to be drilled out to the clearance diameter for the screws that you select. From personal experience the sawtooth brackets are usually very narrow light duty metal material. So you need to use extra care when drilling out the holes to the screw clearance size. This means clamping the part securely to a dummy wooden backer in the hopes that the drill does not grab and rip at the part as it breaks through the far side.

If it was me I would select screws similar to those shown below:

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Info Source

You should be able to find these screws at any decently stocked hardware store (or order online). With a proper pilot drill into the back of the wooden name board these "sheet metal screws" will work just fine in the wood (they will hold much better than the cut off nails.

For the clearance holes on the brackets you will want to drill with a bit size from the "Number Drills" of #41, #42 or #43. For the pilot drill size use a #48 sized drill bit. A tip is to put a tape flag on the drill bit at 3/8" from the tip to use as a depth gauge so that you do not drill all the way through front side of the name board.

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I would be using small screws - easily available in lengths less than 1/2" but you are also helped by the bracket thickness.

Also you should drill pilot holes for the screws - make sure you plan the positions so that you don’t coincide with any letters.

Messing this up will affect the stability of your home life so measure carefully twice then cut once.

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The "golden rule" for deciding if you should use a nail or a screw is…

"Bang a nail in & if the wood splits, you should have used a screw."

To be less flippant, if you're unsure use a screw; if you're still unsure, drill a pilot first.

Alternatively, on something of such little weight, glue it or use removable picture hanging stickies [a bit like velcro] that won't even damage the paintwork

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