How to Use a Nail Puller?

by Joost Nusselder | Updated on:  March 19, 2022
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You can use a nail puller with a handle or without a handle to pull out nails from wood. We will discuss both methods in this article. Yeah, you can use a hammer for this job too but I think you prefer using a nail puller and that’s why you are here.


When you use a nail puller for pulling nails out of wood it damages the surface of the wood. Don’t worry – we will give some effective tips to reduce the damage caused by a nail puller.

Working Mechnism of a Nail Puller

You can understand how to use a nail puller easily if you know the working mechanism of a nail puller. So, we will discuss the working mechanism of a nail puller before going to the main part of this article.

A conventional nail puller has a pair of sharp jaws with strong base heels. The jaws are hit into the wood to grip the nail underneath the nail head by bringing the base heel closer to each other. If you apply force on the pivot point it will grip the nail more tightly.

Then pull out the nail by leveraging over the nail puller on the pivot point. Finally, release the nail by losing the tension on the pivot point and the nail puller is ready for pulling out the second nail. You won’t need more than half of a minute to pull out one nail.

Pulling Out Nails Using a Nail Puller With a Handle

Step 1- Determine the Jaw Position

The closer you will set the jaw of the nailhead less damage it will make to the wood. So it is better to position the jaw a millimeter or so away from the nailhead. If you place the jaw at a millimeter distance there will be space to grip under the wood surface as it is knocked down.

If the jaw is not attached to the pivot point then you have to apply pressure on it first and then pivot on the base heel and the jaws and finally push together into the wood.

Step 2- Penetrate the Jaws into the Wood

It’s not possible to dig the nail puller inside the wood applying pressure only by your hand. So, you need a hammer (like these types) now. Just a few hit is enough to press the jaws inside the wood.

During hammering hold the nail puller with the other hand so that it cannot slip. And also be careful so that your fingers are not hurt by accidentally hitting with the hammer.

Step 3- Pull the Nail Out of the Wood

Extend the handle when the jaws are gripping the nail. It will give you extra leverage. Then pivot the nail puller on the base heel so that the jaws grip together onto the nail as you pull it out.

Sometimes the longer nails don’t come out with the first attempt as the jaws grip onto the shaft of the nail. Then you should reposition the jaws around the shaft of the nail to pull it out. Longer nails may take a bit more time than smaller nails.

Pulling Out Nails Using a Nail Puller Without a Handle

Step 1- Determine the Jaw Position

This step is not different from the previous one. You have to place the nail puller on either side of the nailhead at about a 1-millimeter distance. Don’t place the jaws further from the nailhead as it will cause more damage to the wood.

Step 2- Penetrate the Jaws into the Wood

Take a hammer and hit the jaws into the wood. Be careful while hammering so that you are not hurt. When the jaws are kicked inside the wood the nail puller can be pivoted to the base heel. It will close the jaws and grip the nail.

Step 3- Pull Out the Nail

Nail pullers without a handle have two striking areas where you can strike with the claw of the hammer to get extra leverage. When the jaws have a grip on the nail strike on one of the two points of the striking area with the claw of the hammer and finally pull the nail out.

Final Word

Pulling out nails from the wood using a good-quality nail puller is super easy if you understand the technique. After going through this article I hope you understand the technique very well.

That’s all for today. Have a good day.

I'm Joost Nusselder, the founder of Tools Doctor, content marketer, and dad. I love trying out new equipment, and together with my team I've been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with tools & crafting tips.