nail pullers
Photo: Francesco Mosto
When it takes a heavy, blunt object to drive a metal spike through solid wood, you definitely need something stronger than your fingers to pull it back out. That's why the tool gods invented the nail puller. (Well, actually, that's why the Romans invented it — right after they started using nails.) By forging a claw on the end of a fulcrum, early carpenters were able to increase their grasping and leveraging strength enough to undo their missteps with ease.

With the 19th-century advent of balloon framing, which replaced timbers joined by pegs with lumber held together by nails, the market for ways to extract those nails took off. Today you can find everything from flat bars, good for levering heavy objects as well as pulling nails without marring wood, to cat's paws, with sharp claws that dig deep to grab hold of a stubborn fastener. One or both should be on any renovator's tool belt, and another half-dozen specialized pullers, like the ones shown on the following pages, within easy reach.

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