A nail puller is a hand tool specifically designed for pulling out nails, even if they are sunken into the wood. Nail puller is also a general name given to any tool that is designed to help extract nails that have been fixed in place.
Traditional nail pullers
A traditional nail puller has a pair of hinged jaws which grip nails in order to pull them out. The sharp jaws allow the tool to be hit into the wood, with either its handle or a separate hammer. The jaws then grip the nail before being pivoted over to remove it.
Some nail pullers will cause a lot of damage to the material the nail is being pulled from, while others have been designed to minimise this damage.Traditional nail pullers aim to minimise damage to the wood but they are all likely to leave some surface damage and are not intended to be used for fine finishing work. For removing finishing nails, with minimum damage to the surface, it is usually recommended to pull them from the back of the wood with a plier tool.
The basic design of this nail puller has not changed much in well over a hundred years, and antique versions of the tool are still available to buy.
Other nail pullers
There are many types of nails, brads and tacks, which can come in various sizes, shapes and styles, depending on their uses. Because of this huge range of nail types, you will find there are several types of nail puller, or remover, and they can be referred to with names; nail lifter, denailer, nail claw and cat’s paw are all common names used for nail removers, and they are often interchangeable.
A lot of tools designed to pull nails can also be used for prying, lifting and generally dismantling timber structures. Similarly, a lot of prying tools can be used to pry nails out.For more information, see: Are there any alternatives to nail pullers?