You may have walked into your nail puller search with confidence, ease, maybe even a coy spring in your step. But a couple of Google searches or Lowe’s trips later, you feel defeated. How the heck have people reinvented something as simple as a nail puller in so many different ways? Why? What kind of sense does that make?
We’ve all been there. This is why we’re going to help you sort through your options and give you a better idea of what to expect from a nail puller.
What is a Nail Puller?
A nail puller is a simple tool specially designed to pull nails from wood (or sometimes other types of material). There are several different types and designs available, but most pullers consist of a handle with one or both ends having a notched head. The notch is used to grip and remove the nail, while the handle is used to apply pressure. You can also find other varieties that have no handle and still others that are machine-powered rather than manual.
If you have a big woodworking project coming up, a major home reno, or work in a field like carpentry, you should absolutely have a nail puller in your tool kit.
Why Would I Need a Nail Puller?
This type of tool can be used to remove nails that are incorrectly placed, bent, or driven too far into the wood. Being able to remove nails with as little damage to the wood as possible is essential in any woodworking project, whether you’re building a new shed or demolishing an old wooden porch.
In short: You will need a nail remover anytime you have to remove nails with little to no wood damage.
Nail Puller VS the Back of a Hammer
You may be wondering whether you even need to purchase a separate nail puller when you already have a perfectly good claw hammer. While what you put in your tool box is up to you, it’s a great idea to have a dedicated nail puller (or two!) in addition to your hammer. This is because the back of your hammer is suited to a different type of nail pulling than other types of nail removers are.
Using the back of your hammer is:
- a convenient way to remove nails at a moment’s notice while working.
- ideal for “rough” work where a nice appearance isn’t necessary.
Now, there are several (and we mean several) types of nail pullers out there. We’ll discuss this in more detail later, but for now let’s cover two very basic types: the cat’s paw and nippers.
A cat’s paw is good for removing tough “buried” nails, though it may cause damage to the wood underneath if you aren’t cautious. Nippers are best for “finish work,” or work that requires a clean appearance; this type of nail remover pulls nails through the back end of the wood to keep the front side looking good.
Depending on how frequently you plan to pull nails, it may be wise to keep a couple different types on hand. No one nail puller can tackle every single job and using the wrong type can cause damage (not to mention lots of frustration on your end).
What to Look for in a Nail Puller
You don’t want just any nail remover in your toolbox, especially if you’ll be using it often or need it for your workplace. Purchasing the wrong tool for the job can cause a range of issues, from damaging the wood to not being able to remove the nails in the first place. Due to the sheer number of nail removers on the market today, as well as the wide variety of types and designs, shopping for one can be a daunting task. To give you a hand, we’ve outlined a few basic features you should look for in a nail puller before making a final decision.
“Type” is difficult to define when talking about something as versatile as a nail puller. There are several ways one could categorize them:
- Jaw vs. Claw
- Manual vs. Machine-Powered
- Handle vs. No Handle
Jaw vs. Claw
The difference between jaw nail pullers and claw ones is subtle.
Jaw pullers feature a pair of jaws that are parallel to each other; you use the handle to close them around the nail and pull to remove. They’re best used when you have plenty of working space or are lacking in the strength required to pull nails with the claw variety.
Claw pullers, on the other hand, have a pair of teeth. They do not open and close like their jaw counterparts do but are ideal for situations where you have limited working space.
Manual vs. Machine-Powered
When it comes to manual vs. machine-powered pullers, you’ll find both varieties readily available on the market.
As you can imagine, manual pullers require more effort on your part but are generally more versatile and convenient for a variety of nail pulling needs, especially in tighter spaces.
Machine-powered pullers don’t require as much physical exertion on your part and do a much more efficient job of removing nails, especially for larger-scale projects or nails that are particularly difficult to remove. However, this type is more expensive, damages more easily, and isn’t ideal for small workspaces.
Handle vs. No Handle
Some pullers come with a handle while others do not.
Those with a handle are used by applying pressure to the handle in order to pull the nail free.
Those without a handle are used in conjunction with a hammer, where one drives the puller’s jaws closer toward the nail head using the hammer.
In addition to these broad distinctions, there are six subcategories of nail removers:
- Uses hinged jaws to grip and pull nails.
- Pincer Plier. A type of first-class lever used for cutting, pinching, and pulling things (such as nails).
- Puller Plier. Designed for the purpose of pulling nails (especially flush or sunken) from wood.
- Cat’s Paw. Features a V-shaped, curved head at one end; sometimes a pry bar is located at the other end. Best used for “rough” work due to its tendency to damage wood.
- Another name for a crowbar. Features one curved end and one pointed end, both of which have nail puller slots.
- Air Punch. A machine-powered nail puller typically used for larger-scale projects or particularly difficult nails.
What could be worse than having your brand-new nail puller break during its first or second use? Talk about a bad freaking day at the office.
To avoid a situation like this, ensure that the puller you purchase is constructed of the best possible materials. Most pullers are made using some type of heavy-duty metal, such as steel, aluminum, or even titanium. Each type of metal has its pros and cons, but they all make for a strong and durable tool that you can rely on.
The power behind your tool is a key determiner in how able it is to pull nails, particularly those that are sunken in the wood.
When considering manual pullers, you should look at the length of the handle. The longer the handle, the more force you’ll be able to exert and the more leverage you’ll have. This equates to more overall power and a more efficient nail pulling experience.
For machine-powered pullers, the power is measured in watts. Those with more power are likely to hit the wallet a little harder—but if you can afford to splurge a little, it’s absolutely the way to go.
When shopping for a nail remover with a handle, there are two major considerations:
- Handle Material
Like the rest of the puller, the handle should be constructed of a strong, durable material such as steel or titanium.
- Handle Construction
You should opt for a puller featuring an ergonomic handle with a rubberized grip. This will make the tool easier to hold, more comfortable in your hand, and less likely to cause blisters. Remember: You’re pulling nails, not teeth. It shouldn’t have to be painful.
Size & Weight
Before purchasing a nail puller, ask yourself where and how you plan on using it. The size and weight of the tool you opt for should complement the circumstances under which you’ll be using it.
For example, long-handled pullers are the ideal choice but will only get the job done if there’s ample room to use it. In environments with less room available (such as when removing nails from a tight space, like the kitchen cupboard), short-handled pullers are better-suited.
In addition to these factors, consider whether or not you’ll be carrying this tool around from job to job or keeping it in the garage until a project comes up. Lightweight pullers tend to be the best in terms of portability, regardless of handle length.
If you opt for a machine-powered puller, make sure it’s light enough for you to use with ease and small enough to transport when required.
Do you consider yourself the thrifty type? The buy-one-item-instead-of-two-whenever-possible type? Then you should consider purchasing a nail remover that doubles as another tool. For example, you can find tools that have a nail puller on one end and a crow bar or pry bar on the other!
The Best Nail Pullers You Can Get
With your newfound nail puller knowledge, you’re well-equipped to make an informed decision regarding your next purchase. To give you a hand, we’ve compiled a list of our favorites—feel free to skim through and see if any catch your eye!
Estwing has long been a well-respected player in the tool industry, and with products like this nail puller/pry bar combo, it’s not hard to see why. Though it may appear simple on the outside, within its frame lies the power and durability you need to remove those stubborn headless nails. Its one-piece construction of forged steel is both strong and attractive, and its two-in-one functionality makes it a nifty tool to have at any jobsite. You’ll also appreciate its vinyl handle cover, which gives you a firmer and more comfortable grip for any project. Order yours today in one of five sizes: 9”, 10.6”, 11”, 12.5”, and 14”.
This one is a real beauty. Like its aforementioned cousin, this Double-Ended Nail Puller and Pry Bar feature a one-piece construction of forged steel which lends it incredible strength and grace. This one is painted with contrasting blue and yellow, one color for each of its nail puller ends. This puller serves double-duty, with one end ideal for loosening the nail and the other for fully removing it—no more switching between tools when you’re short on time (or patience). Further, its relatively lightweight design makes it perfect for frequent jobsite transportation. Strong, bold, convenient, portable…what more could you ask for?
Sorry, claw hammer—nail puller has found a new beau, and we have a feeling it’s going to last. Yes, you heard that right. Two of the most useful and versatile tools in the world—the pry bar and the nail puller—have wed. They were just made for each other.
As a pry bar, this gorgeous cherry red tool boasts two heads: a curved head on one end and a flat head on the other. This makes it ideal for a range of prying jobs, allowing you to use one tool for two purposes.
As a nail puller, it features three nail puller slots: one on each end, as well as one along the shaft. This means you can remove nails from different angles—no more frustration or constant maneuvering as you try to get your angling just right.
As a complete unit, you’ll love its durable steel build and enamel coating. This tool is not only strong and built to last, but also resistant to rust and corrosion. And trust us, you’ll be glad to have this at your side over the years.
Are you afraid of buying the wrong tool for the job? Then why not get three at a super-affordable price? This 3-piece kit includes a steel set of durable cutting pliers with an easy-to-grip handle, and two tack lifters (one with a V tip and another with a U tip) with PVC handles. Because each tool has a different design, this kit gives you the flexibility to take on any number of nail-pulling or tack-lifting jobs. They’re so convenient and easy to use that you’ll wish you’d gotten this set sooner!
Sturdy, slender, and oh-so-versatile…these Nail Puller Pliers from Crescent boast these attributes and more! While you’re going to love its smooth dual-handle operation, forged steel construction, and superb aesthetic design, its most commendable feature is its teeth. They’re specially designed to grip a large variety of nails and fasteners—including headless nails and floor staples—to make any nail-pulling job that much easier for you. To ensure a long product life, these pliers have been given a black-oxide finish that protects the item from corrosion. You’ll be using these things for years to come and loving every minute of it.
It should come as no surprise that a brand by the name of Stiletto would create such an alluring tool to look at. But behind its captivating appearance, this cat’s paw is…well…even more perfect! Its titanium construction endows this nail puller with unmatched strength and durability, while its open truss handle design makes it incredibly lightweight. We’ll admit this one comes at a pretty steep price, but if you’re searching for a tool that’s both elegant and efficient, we think you’ll agree that it’s absolutely worth it!
About the elephant in the room…yes, the handles on these pincers are very yellow. Like wow. But at least they’re designed with your comfort in mind, right? Now onto the important stuff: These are made of high-quality carbon and polished steel for longevity and strength, feature sharp edges that are equally adequate for cutting and pulling, and have almost an inch-worth of jaw clearance so you can use them to grip a number of nail sizes and other objects. If you need an affordable set of cutting and pulling pincers—and don’t mind the color yellow—then you need to give these a go!
Boy howdy! Would you look at that aluminum construction and attractive black finish? And do you feel how lightweight it is in your hands, and how easy the rubber handle is to grip? Its straightforward design and ease of use might make you forget that it’s really one heck of a machine. This device boasts a PSI level of 80 to 120, runs on 700 volts, and can be used to punch or remove nails from a wide variety of materials—not just wood! If Santa forgot to bring you a toy—ahem, work tool—over Christmas, why not go out and remedy that yourself?
This 19” Nail Puller from Crescent was designed with longevity in mind, featuring a box-joint design, a forged alloy steel construction, and a black enamel finish. Its long 19” length make it perfect for removing those pesky flush nails and its straightforward design makes it a breeze to use. Whether you plan to employ it around the house or at your jobsite, know that this is a product you can count on!
Is it a tool? Or, perchance, a work of art? The answer is yes, friends. This futuristic-looking combo tool is just as practical as it is stylish. It’s constructed of carbon-steel, employs a skeleton design to make it more lightweight, features two strike zones, and is equipped with some of the most precise claws you can find. And in case that’s not enough reason to get you digging for your credit card, this product also comes with a limited lifetime warranty—and three percent of Spec Ops proceeds go toward charitable causes for veterans and first responders!
We hope you walk away from this article with a clearer picture of what type of nail puller you need—and if you’ve taken a shining toward one of our featured products, even better! Just remember that the best nail puller is the one that checks all your boxes and gets the job done the way you need it to. This article is just here to help you sift through your options.