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Topic: Pound a nail with my palm
Message: Posted by: scaress (Nov 3, 2006 11:06PM)
Hi all,
I saw David Blain drive a nail into a board with the palm of his hand on TV.
that trick would go well with some of my other tricks.
any idea about where to find a method?
Message: Posted by: Todd Robbins (Nov 4, 2006 06:50AM)
This is what you are looking for:

Message: Posted by: aggieman (Nov 4, 2006 03:45PM)
Ican help you, I do it for a few of my shows. I just watched him do it a few times, and with some physics, I found a way to do it. And I found that the atlas book teaches it.
Message: Posted by: scaress (Nov 5, 2006 06:56PM)
Which atlas book?
Message: Posted by: aggieman (Nov 5, 2006 08:07PM)
I will have to go back and look it up.
Message: Posted by: rossmacrae (Nov 5, 2006 08:25PM)
I cannot vouch for the safety or truth of the method, but it is claimed in Ottley Coulter's SECRETS OF STONG MAN FEATS:

How To Drive A Spike Through A Board or Sheet of Metal

This really is an easy stunt, but it sure makes your watchers' eyes pop out. It is done so quickly, the combination of speed and strength amazes them.

You need a good sized spike for this. Start off with an 8 or 10 Penny sized nail Again, as in all spike stunts, it is the way you apply the wrapping that does most of the trick. Wrap your handkerchief heavily around the head of the nail so that the head of the nail is always in the center of the cloth which should fit like a ball in your hand.

Grasp the wrapped end firmly in your hand, and allow the spike to pass between the middle of the two fingers of your hand. This not only allows you to get a firmer grip on the nail, but gives it the necessary control in driving it through the wood. This done, place a piece of board between two chairs. Allow your free hand to hold the board down to steady it. Now, raise high the hand grasping the nail, and with all your force bring the nail STRAIGHT down upon the board. It must come straight down otherwise it will strike the board a glancing blow and spoil the stunt, so you must practice in order to be sure each time you strike, the nail descends in a straight line upon the board.

To begin with select a rather thin board, and as you improve select a thicker board, but always be sure that you use soft wood. Your watchers do not know the difference between soft and hard wood. Also be sure to wrap the head of the nail heavily with the cloth. The larger the ball of wrapping in your hand over the head of the nail, the easier will the stunt be to perform. The wrapping acts as a surface for greater striking power as well as to absorb the concussion of the blow when the spike hits the wood.

Later on, you can improve the effect of the Stunt by placing a thin sheet of tin on the board. The spike will go through both metal and wood, and further dramatize the stunt.


Attempt at your own risk, vet this with experienced perforemers before you even think about it.
Message: Posted by: aggieman (Nov 5, 2006 08:44PM)
That's basically how I do it. ^^^^
Message: Posted by: thegreatnippulini (Nov 7, 2006 08:32AM)
Before the Vince Pappali movie, there was a movie called "Invincable" about a pre-WWII Jewish German strongman performer and his dealings in show business. He was a blacksmith (grin) who started out doing the acts for his villagers. He was done with showbiz and the war was about to come. One night he showed some folks the nail-through-board-with-open palm act (it is NOT a trick, please refrain from using the word "trick" to describe a true strongman act). He placed the board across his knee and whacked it through the wood. When he lifted the board everyone realized the nail went through the wood and into his leg. This wasn't modern times, and the wound developed into a nasty infection. Weeks later he died.

Chcek out the movie, it is excellent and historically accurate, both for WWII buffs and sideshow history.

Another hint about this act; the nails are NOT store bought. Remember, most old time strongmen were factory workers or blacksmiths. They had the luxury of being able to make their own props, so more than less the nails they used had oversized heads. I wonder if there's a retired sideshow performer/body piercer/blacksmith around today that could fashion a custom wide head nail? Hmmmmm.
Message: Posted by: aggieman (Nov 7, 2006 08:56AM)
Go to silver dolar city, there they have black smiths and will custom make stuff.

but this effect can be acheived with a regualr nail, you just have to use special wood.
Message: Posted by: thegreatnippulini (Nov 7, 2006 10:01AM)
Thanks Aggie.... um.... I happen to be a blacksmith. That's kinda why I brought it up. I've been beating steel for years and my work is quite good and prices VERY GOOD!! See, I hobby smith, which means my overhead costs are almost zero. In addition, I handcraft everything myself, from start to finish so you get a better quality product than assmebly line type smiths.

Oh, I also used to be a sideshow performer for over 8 years, but I guess that means nothing as well.
Message: Posted by: aggieman (Nov 7, 2006 01:07PM)
Well I didn't know that, if I did I wouldnt have posted it.

there was no offense ment.
Message: Posted by: scaress (Nov 7, 2006 02:57PM)
I just tried Rossmacrae's method. not too impressive yet, but maybe with some practice...
thanks, if you're ever in SLC I'll buy you a coke!

thegreatnippulini, would you consider selling nails in the mail to your fellow performers? I need iron nails for a stunt in the Swami/Mantra book.
Message: Posted by: thegreatnippulini (Nov 8, 2006 08:14AM)
Hey Ag, it's cool!

Yes, Scaress I do fabricate and sell my work to fellow performers. Most of my work is blockhead nails made from implant grade surgical stainless steel (no rust). Shoot me a PM and we'll discuss details!

Message: Posted by: Addy (Nov 9, 2006 11:03AM)
Let's not forget the Mighty Atom, Joseph Greenstein. His biography is amazing, but hard to find. He was, at the time, the world's most famous strong man. Bending steel rods, driving nails with his hands and holding back an airplane with his HAIR. Supposedly, there was going to be a movie made about him but I haven't heard anything about that project. When was Invincable made?
Message: Posted by: ns (Nov 9, 2006 11:25AM)
Strange Secrets from abbotts also has this mentioned in the first book, "Thrilling Magic". I learned it from that source with little problem
Message: Posted by: thegreatnippulini (Nov 9, 2006 05:46PM)
'Invincible' came out in 2001, here's a copy of a write up:

The film is based on the true story of Zishe Breitbart, a Jewish blacksmith's son from Poland who becomes a sensation in Weimar, Berlin as a mythical strongman. His employer Hanussen dreams of establishing an all-powerful Ministry of the Occult in Hitler's government. Yet as Hitler's hold on power grows more sure, and Berlin erupts in a ferment of anti-Semitism, Zishe must decide how he will use his strength. Plagued by nightmares, he takes counsel from a local rabbi. He becomes convinced that he has been chosen by God to warn his people of the grave danger they face.
Message: Posted by: Addy (Nov 10, 2006 07:54PM)
For all who care to see Invincible, it'll be on IFC on Sunday 11/19 at 10:25am. Ahh, the wonder of TIVO.
Message: Posted by: NippleKing (Nov 11, 2006 12:11PM)
Dang,I wish I had cable...

I've been wondering about this stunt as well. I'm not sure how to pull off the performance especially with the cloth. It would definately be more impressive (in my opinion) to perform if one had one of the afforementioned oversized head nails. For those who know this stunt, my understanding is that it is done in a single blow. Is this correct? I imagine that it could be done either way and would be just as impressive if performed well.

On another note:

What's the deal with the paralells in nipple performers...?

For years, I have had an interest in blacksmithing as well as a fascination with piercing. All this before I ever started communicating with other sideshow performers and eventually The Great Nippulini. I can't help but wonder what other things we may have in common... Do you have a passion for coffee, beer, or baked goods? Eventually, I'll be in PA or you'll be in Alabama or possibly we will meet somewhere in between. Until then...greetings from Dixie.
Message: Posted by: Stephon (Nov 11, 2006 01:06PM)
You are correct about the nail being put thru the board in a single blow.

The cloth bothered me at first, too, but we just focus on the act as a feat of strength, and not imperviousness of your hand (ie, if the force of the blow would drive the nail thru wood, it'd drive the other end thru your hand).
Message: Posted by: thegreatnippulini (Nov 11, 2006 10:55PM)
Andy, I actually got into blacksmithing due to the influence of Rasmus Nielsen. It was him who got me into lifting anvils. When I had my accident, I had little spare time on my hands and put my anvils into good use. I've been bitten by the smithing bug as they say. I've been piercing for over 13 years, but that's how I make a living, not how I live my life.

As for this stunt, the same rings true with any achieved goal.... aim low and build up to the real thing. Go for 1/4" board, then get confident and go thicker. Keep going until you get there.
Message: Posted by: thegreatnippulini (Nov 12, 2006 10:31AM)

Some of my work.... the page needs to be updated.
Message: Posted by: jeremysweiss (Nov 14, 2006 02:10PM)
I always heard that if you pound your nail with your palm, you go blind....
Message: Posted by: Harley Newman (Nov 14, 2006 04:31PM)
Jeremy's the doctor. Better listen!

But isn't that only if you're pounding the nail into your eye?
Message: Posted by: chrusa (Oct 11, 2008 06:49PM)
In researching this that first link that was posted is no longer active. I heard there is some gimmick to drive a nail with your palm as well. Anyone know?
Message: Posted by: critter (Oct 13, 2008 10:43PM)
Wait so my saying to ask a martial arts instructor got deleted but it was perfectly ok to post that entire method up there? I mean, really?
Message: Posted by: thegreatnippulini (Oct 14, 2008 07:46AM)
Chrusa, way to bring an old thread back, man. PM me about ordering a specially made nail guaranteed to go through wood easy and not destroy your palm.

Critter, I have no idea what happened, or what martial arts thing you're talking about but the method listed here was an excerpt from a book.
Message: Posted by: critter (Oct 14, 2008 01:44PM)
Not a big deal. I just can't figure out what happened. I was just mentioning that there are a couple of martial artists that teach it. I believe Teruo Chinen is one.
Message: Posted by: Leland Stone (Oct 14, 2008 01:55PM)
On 2006-11-07 09:32, thegreatnippulini wrote:
They had the luxury of being able to make their own props, so more than less the nails they used had oversized heads. I wonder if there's a retired sideshow performer/body piercer/blacksmith around today that could fashion a custom wide head nail? Hmmmmm.

Retired blacksmiths, I don't know about. But I am an active blacksmith, and the nail head described is not difficult to achieve. HOWEVER...

Any welding shop can easily weld a large washer onto an appropriately-sized nail of your choice. A bit of judicious grinding and...VOILA! A nail with a large striking surface!
Message: Posted by: thegreatnippulini (Oct 14, 2008 04:08PM)
Hey Leland... shooosh!!!

I am a working smith, retired performer... I supplement my income by forging 316L stainless nails for blockhead, fire tools and iron palm nails (made pretty much how you described). Did you smith for the Navy? Where do you live? ABANA member? Check my page http://greatnippulini.com/sideshow.html and/or http://greatnippulini.com/smithin.html
Message: Posted by: Leland Stone (Oct 14, 2008 08:43PM)
Whoa...didn't mean to tip any trade secrets here, but I thought maybe for the Magi I could cut 'em a break :lol:

I was 4F for the Navy...signature's a memorial to my Dad. Current member Orange County Blacksmiths Guild, CalABANA this January; former shoer and still take metalworking commissions. Proud heir of my Great-Grandpa's "Trenton" anvil.

You anywhere near the Yellin museum?
Message: Posted by: Chance (Oct 15, 2008 03:33AM)
Over the years I've had the honor of meeting some notable martial arts masters.

Sensei Randy Harvel is my jiujitsu master, known for strongman stunts. Along with allowing ANY stranger out of a demo audience to smash his neck or stomach with a baseball bat or golf club, he would also hammer spike nails with the back of his bare hand. He would drive a spike 80% thru a plank in 3 or 4 blows, and would do 6 or more at a time.

No gimmicks or safetys of any kind were used.
Message: Posted by: Kondini (Oct 15, 2008 11:02AM)
Samson (UK) complete spec act consisted of pounding nails through various thickness planks and then pulling them out again with his teeth.

On the same bill as him at the Arno In Bristol doing Old Tyme Music Hall,he completely stoll the show.
Message: Posted by: critter (Oct 15, 2008 04:23PM)
Sweet! Them's some strong chompers!
Message: Posted by: thegreatnippulini (Oct 16, 2008 06:53AM)
Leland, the Yellin Museum was closed down in the mid nineties, it's a shame... Yellin's work is a shining example of neo and art deco American smithing. Arguably the best smith in the US. I like to beat down on my Wilkinson (100 lb) a lot, but for stock thicker than 5/8" I use my 250 pound Moushole.
Message: Posted by: critter (Oct 16, 2008 01:40PM)
Since we're talking smiths,
My favorite Jess Ro piece was his POW knife. The handle was a bullet casing and he did some beautiful etching on the blade.
He also made a really nice and simple cane sword for my buddy who teaches ninjutsu.
His work is always elegant and understated. If I could figure out where he went I would so get his POW knife.
Message: Posted by: thegreatnippulini (Oct 16, 2008 02:37PM)
Couldn't find him in the ABANA database. Not that I'm listed either. I have a dozen or so blacksmithing books from the 1930's all the way up to 2005 (New Edge of the Anvil) with spec sheets for most steels and heat treatment graphs. Very high tech.
Message: Posted by: chrusa (Oct 16, 2008 03:25PM)
There is some gimmick I remember being mentioned during Blaines Vertigo where I think it was a steel cube on a pull or something?
Message: Posted by: critter (Oct 16, 2008 04:17PM)
I got news that Jess' shop burned down and he needs to replace a few grand in equipment and inventory. Hopefully we'll see him this summer.
Message: Posted by: thegreatnippulini (Oct 17, 2008 03:39PM)
On 2008-10-15 04:33, Chance wrote:
Over the years I've had the honor of meeting some notable martial arts masters.

Sensei Randy Harvel is my jiujitsu master, known for strongman stunts. Along with allowing ANY stranger out of a demo audience to smash his neck or stomach with a baseball bat or golf club, he would also hammer spike nails with the back of his bare hand. He would drive a spike 80% thru a plank in 3 or 4 blows, and would do 6 or more at a time.

No gimmicks or safetys of any kind were used.
The nails I make aren't gimmicked, they just are kinder to the palm. In this instance the only thing to gaff would be the wood. I've done this (for a radio stunt), get two layers of thin pine and make a balsa wood sandwich. Also, the nail is driven in hit hammering with the palm 2 to 4 times, not all in one shot. You have to be real good to get to that point (pun intended).
Message: Posted by: x-treem (Oct 21, 2008 07:14PM)
I just received two of Nipp’s nails and they are wonderful! Great, solid workmanship over all!

To start out I took a bandana and cut it in half diagonally then wrapped one half over the oversized head as stated in the above post.

The board I started with was a 1 foot by 4 inch - 1/4 inch thick plywood. Draped the board across two chairs and turned it into a buck shot pocked board. On the second board I was able to get it with one whack on the second try. After that I was “nailing” it ever single time, following the above posts instructions. One thing that I learned is that I seem to lose some momentum holding the board with my free hand so I forgo that step. That seemed to be the key in succeeding for me.

I highly suggest using Nipp-nails they are very comfortable and designed in such a way that, once you get it down, the nail goes through the board like butter. The price was more than reasonable they were well packaged and shipping was fast.

When I am confident I will move to ½ inch board and maybe try without the bandana wrap as the heads on the nails are designed for better grip and are kinder to the palm (stealing Nipps line above).
Message: Posted by: Cindi (Oct 22, 2008 07:35PM)
I got mine today also. It is much more comfortable than what I have been using. Definately a Thumbs up! :ohyes:

Thanks Nipps
Message: Posted by: x-treem (Oct 23, 2008 07:32AM)
Why does it not surprise me that my favorite gal (next to mom, wife and daughter) would be doing something like this. Are alligators, boulders and tree trunks not enough for you or do you drive the nail through the tree trunk? I would not put it past you. :)

It is really crazy how easy Nipp’s nails work, eh?

I’m rethinking the ½ inch board and will, over time, keep with the ¼ inch plus tin on both sides. To me it would seem more effective then just wood.

Take care Lady!
Message: Posted by: Cindi (Oct 23, 2008 01:43PM)
Shawwwwwwn, Yer mak'in me Blush :blush:
Well seeing that I usually do things the hard way I have been using a 2 X 4 and slamming it into that . Never all the way through. I will now go to a thinner piece of wood using Nipps Nail. Yesterday was easy slamm'in it through a wood roofing shingle.
Happy slamm'in and a Hug OOOOOOOO
Message: Posted by: Cindi (Oct 23, 2008 02:24PM)
I have a Photo somewhere (God only knows) of me tearing my first Telephone directory. It was about 15 years ago at the Downtown athletic club Manhattan and standing in front of the Heisman Trophy. If I find it I'll send a scan on to you. It was the same time I learned Nail driving. Oh Boy,
have you stirred up some great memories :)

Matron to the Spirit of Ecstacy
Message: Posted by: thegreatnippulini (Oct 23, 2008 02:58PM)
You guys are makin ME blush! Glad to hear they're working out for you.

And a big thanks the Chrusa for bringing this thread back to life... it was almost two years ago!! Anyway, thanks again. Now I have to make another one so I can take a picture for my merchandise page!

Message: Posted by: dave_matkin (Oct 23, 2008 03:40PM)
Mmm would be interested in this nipps......

Message: Posted by: x-treem (Oct 23, 2008 03:50PM)

I believe you would be able to do 1/2 to 3/4" plywood in your sleep. Your ablility to do a 2x4 does not surprise me, how far do you usually get the nail in, that is some crazy skills!

If you find the pic please scan and email it, I have a whole folder dedicated to you and one for Norm and one for Steve. Funny but I was digging through your folder just yesterday.

Back on track, Nipps if anything thing I've posted about your nails is helpful please feel free to use it.

I'll be ordering more in the future.
Message: Posted by: gsidhe (Oct 23, 2008 04:02PM)
Me too...
Message: Posted by: Cindi (Oct 24, 2008 09:37AM)
I never measured how far it went before. I just drove it in then presented it to the crowd as it was self standing in the wood. Put it aside and carried on with the next phase. Last night I drove Nipps Nail thru 1/2 inch like a breeze. I am sure you do also. and Oh, I was'nt asleep :napping:

Message: Posted by: Cindi (Oct 24, 2008 09:51AM)
BTW, Although I find it more comfortable with the nail situated between the index and middle finger , I get much better results and power/ depth with it between the middle and ring finger. Anyone find this to be the case or different?

Message: Posted by: thegreatnippulini (Oct 24, 2008 01:40PM)
Gwyd... PM me to order nails and pricing.

Cindi, it makes perfect sense that it's easier between middle and ring minger... that's pretty much dead center of your hand, so you'll get a more focused strike when positioned there. Kudos to you for figuring THAT one out!! Love to see you pound a nail while sleeping.... good way to hit the snooze button!
Message: Posted by: x-treem (Oct 24, 2008 06:39PM)
*Groan* to Nipps but a 10 on the originality scale for that joke.

Cin - I'm only at 1/4 inch, have not worked my way up yet.
Message: Posted by: Doug Higley (Jul 19, 2009 06:19AM)
I'm weak as a kitten but I want one!!! Nips, see your PM.

I'm curious about pulling them out for the next show. Is there a way to avoid the risk of bending them? Do you use a claw hammer? (assumming you have advanced to a harder wood.)
Message: Posted by: Stephon (Jul 19, 2009 10:14AM)
Nips, I sent you a related email thru your website; don't know if PMing would have been better. Thanks.
Message: Posted by: thegreatnippulini (Jul 19, 2009 10:37AM)
Got the e-mail, bounced you back a reply (same to you Doug). The nail shank is a very high carbon steel (similar for use in masonry nails), so the likelyhood of a bent nail is slim. As far as removal, I'll say what it says at most steel mills about pulling iron bars from stock "If you're not man enough to put it back, don't pull it out!".... meaning use your hands, otherwise the entire effect is lost.
Message: Posted by: Stephon (Jul 19, 2009 10:48PM)
Got it. Thanks.
Message: Posted by: Stephon (Jul 29, 2009 12:52PM)
Got my Nipps blockhead nail yesterday; beautiful work, exactly what I asked for.