There are times when you have just one hand free to both hold the nail in place and hammer. One hand nailing is easier than it sounds. Simply wedge the nail between the hammer's claw with the point facing forward and the nail head resting on the hammer head base. Swing the hammer with the nail/claw facing forward. The force should give the nail a start into the surface. Remove the claw from the nail, and finish the job with the hammer head side.
One way to help either screws and nails penetrate wood without splits is to use beeswax on the fastener. In fact, some carpenters will drill a hole in the end of a wood hammer handle to fill it with beeswax. An alternative is to buy a wax seal for a toilet. It's made of beeswax processed to stay soft, and costs much less.
You can avoid splitting or marring wood, such as hardwood molding, by using what is called a nail spinner. With this low-cost device chucked into your power drill, you just insert the nail and then "drill" it into position. The nail will penetrate to within 1/4 in. or so of the surface, then you can drive it home with a hammer and a nailset.
The plastic containers used for push-up deodorants can be recycled into excellent holders for items like nailsets, small drill bits or saw blades. The containers have easy-to-remove caps, and you can push up the bottoms to expose smaller items. Use a felt-tipped pen to mark what's stored inside.
When building a deck, always nail a thinner member to a thicker member. Hot-dipped zinc-coated nails are a good choice. For more holding power, consider using either ring- or spiral-shanked nails, or go with deck screws. If using screws, it's best to pre-drill pilot holes.
Toenailing styles can vary. Some pros like to drive three or four nails into a stud, toenailing from both sides at about a 30-degree angle. The job is easier if you first drive a holding nail on one side of the stud, then drive two nails on the opposite side. Remove the holding nail, then toenail the second side. You can also make up a 2x4 spacer to place between the studs.
Bent nails often result from poor hammering technique. However, they can also be caused by a dirty hammer face, especially when using cement-coated nails or working around adhesives. If you have problems, occasionally run a piece of fine sandpaper or emery cloth over the face. If you keep the face clean you will gain more solid contact with the nail and will avoid black marks on the wood caused by a dirty hammer.
Power drills come in 3 sizes; 1/4, 3/8, and 1/2-in. Size refers to the largest capacity of bit that will fit in the drill's chuck. 3/8-in. drills are the most versatile. They're powerful, yet light enough to easily hold and manage. Larger bits can drill bigger holes, so 1/2-in. drills are best for big, heavy-duty projects. Drills with higher RPM ratings (1200-rpm or more) are better for boring smaller holes into wood. Lower speed models are better at making larger holes into metal.
When you buy a drill bit set, it most likely will come in a storage case. This case will help you figure out which size bit you need to use. When drilling holes for a pilot or lead hole for a nail, find which slot in the bit case the nail will fit in. The next size down is the bit you should choose. When drilling a pilot hole for a screw, you need to choose two bits. One for the starter hole and one for the pilot hole. Find which slot in your bit storage case the screw will fit in. That is the size of bit you should use for the pilot hole. For the starter hold, use the next smaller sized bit.
To reduce wood splits, such as when building a deck, first drill pilot holes for the nails using a drill bit size about three-quarters the diameter of the nail. In a pinch, if you don't have a bit you can chuck in one of the nails being used. Blunting the nail point will also help prevent splits, since a blunt nail will tear, rather than spread the wood fibers. An alternate method to avoid splitting the ends of boards is to allow an extra length to hang beyond the edge of the deck, do the nailing, then use a circular saw to trim off the ends.