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When driving nails near edges or ends of hard, brittle, or knotty wood, you may have the misfortune of having a large crack appear, or even a piece of your lumber break out at the edge. Do not use wood which has excessive moisture, since it will shrink as it dries, and even wood that appears sound may crack as it shrinks. Choose wood with a good moisture content, softwoods are typically kiln dried to about 11-14% moisture for stability and minimal shrinkage. Refresh your knowledge of hammering and countersinking to improve your efficiency when nailing. When you're framing a wall, speed the job by upgrading to a 22-ounce hammer instead of the usual 16-ounce head. For especially hard woods like oak or maple, you may have better luck if you dip the nail in petroleum jelly, which reduces the friction of the driving process, and can decrease the probability of the wood splitting.

Where end nailing is necessary, angle the nail so that it can be started farther away from the end, but the nail will still get a bite into the other board it is being nailed to. Obviously, a 16d or 20d nail, with its larger diameter, will exert more force on the wood's grain, making the wood more likely to split. Very dry wood is more likely to split, since the drier the wood is, the less flexible it will be. A tiny crack is a sure indication the wood will split if you continue, possibly ruining a board if it is being used for trim work.
But you'll learn techniques that help you conquer splits, and you'll learn how a simple jig can virtually banish hammer tracks from your woodwork. You may have to look at choosing another location for your nail, further from the end or edge of the board, or pre-drill a hole for a wood screw or other fastening method.

You'll learn how to speed up the construction of wall framing, choose the right hammer for drywall, and handle a hammer with skill. You'll also see how countersinking is a gentle art that is made much more difficult and risky than it needs to be.

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