String art advice needed

My autistic teenage son wants to make a 4-H string art project for the second year in a row. Last year his nails were bent, crooked, and pointing in all directions. He hammered small nails into plywood. Is there something he can do differently to obtain better results? He wasn’t thrilled with his results, but he is also not a flexible enough thinker to come up with a better solution on his own. Thank you in advance for the advice.


Would he be ok with you helping with a bit of prep work? If you start with a very small nail or awl, you could create 1/2 holes. They might hold the nails in place & prevent bending…

Is that his work, the tree? It’s beautiful.

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Has he tried holding the nail with needlenose pliers vs with fingers? Maybe even pliers that are not tapered so he can lay them flat against the wood to aid in a 90 degree angle?

What about using a pine board… softer than plywood and easier to hammer nails into… less force = fewer bent nails!


Thank you both for your advice. No, this is not his photo. I got it from a Google search so rhe post would get more attention. I should have made that disclaimer. His doesn’t look nearly this good.


If he’s open to having you prep you can either drill a little pilot hole to help it start, or even use a thumbtack to get the hole started. Then, for keeping them straight and in place without endangering fingers, I like the bobbypin method (not my picture):

This is how I showed cub scouts how to hold nails. Then downgrade his hammer - too heavy and he’ll go too deep too fast and not have time to correct for bent/sideways nails. A small hammer and many gentle taps is a better bet.

And I agree with the different wood. Hammering into plywood can be tricky even for experienced folks. The different layers can hide defects that turn even a held straight nail. Try some pine project board.


Oh yes, I meant to suggest a smaller hammer!
Great idea to hold with pliers or Bobby pin, I’m going to remember the Bobby pin trick forever.


I saw a tip where you can use a comb to space out the nails evenly and nail them into place…tape the comb to the wood, put the nails evenly in the teeth, which holds them, then hammer gently.


Maybe try thumbtacks instead? The clear ones hide better, but the injected plastic are stronger.

Or you can make pilot holes and then it’s easier to hammer in?

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