Most people are vaguely aware that the points of nails are diamond-shaped. However, few people know that split boards can often be eliminated by proper orientation of a nail before driving it. This trick, shown to me by an elderly shipwright, has saved me a lot of predrilling and split moldings.
When driving a nail close to the end of a board, keep the rows of marks left by the nail-forming machine perpendicular to the grain of the wood. This causes the nail point to cut the wood fibers rather than wedging them apart, thus preventing a split from developing. It’s easy to feel these ridges between your thumb and forefinger and then roll the nail to its proper orientation. This can be done so rapidly that you won’t lose any time, even when framing. Brads and small finish nails inserted in a brad driver can be aligned by eye, since the diamond shape of their points is even more pronounced than on a box or common nail.
Steve Harman, Okanogan, WA