The Nail Script was created by Matthew DeBlock and is
designed to be written with nails and a hammer as opposed
to pen, pencil or engraving. The script can also be written
with standard writing tools, but the true efficiency and
unique characteristics of the script don't come into play
unless it is written with nails. It is meant for special
application and novelty.
The main advantages specific to writing with nails are:
Depth Layers - Unlike writing with a pen or pencil, when you lay one nail on top of another nail you can see which is above and which is below. This means the actual sequence in which the "lines" were drawn is available. Unlike with a pen, if you were to draw an X for example you would not know which line was drawn first and which second. With nails it would be obvious because the first nail would be underneath the second nail.
Directional - The head of a bent nail is very distinct from the entry point without a head, making the direction of "line" also visible. Something very hard to identify with lines drawn by pen or pencil.
Durable - Iron nails are strong, and will last significant weathering, unlike inks and paints. Lower quality nails will rust if exposed to the elements, but even this will likely outlast any form of ink/paint based writing.
Readily available. Nails and hammers are universally available and cheap. If you wanted to leave text of a similar "permanence" special tools and materials would be required for standard scripts.
- Type of writing system: alphabet
- Direction of writing: left to right in horizontal lines.
- Used to write: English
NailScript for English - Single Row Version
Nails are set in the wood then bent down, there are 8 possible orientations, and an
extra nail can be pounded fully down to act as a "dot" which can be placed at the
nail head or at the "base" (where the nail enters the wood).
Sample texts in Nail Script - Single Row Version
This example spaces each letter individually.
Letters can be "sucked together tightly" to save space in many places.
The real fun begins when you start to allow nails to be laid over top of other nails.
In this example some nails are overlapped. There are white outlines around each nail so
if you look closely you can see which is below and which is above. Not all nails can
overlap all other nails of course, 2 vertical nails of course are difficult, if not impossible,
to overlap. In this example overlaps are only used when it preserves the left-right order (the
lower nail is also always the left-most nail.)
Rats Nest style
In this example the nails are overlapped almost as much as possible. The sequence of
letters is primarily preserved by the layers. Previous letters are underneath following
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.
NailScript for English - Double Row Version
In this version of NailScript there is an imaginary line dividing the board horizontally
into 2 rows. If you find it difficult to read or write without seeing the line, you can easily
grab something long and straight and score a line down the board, using a nail or
anything sharp, so you can see the mid-line as you hammer in the nail.
The mid-line crosses through the middle of the circles. Unlike the Single row version, the double row version splits letters between the 2 rows.
The "dot" on the center line is used as a "space character", which allows the words to be
drawn slightly tighter together (space between words is smaller) than the single row
version. Dots are not used in the middle because there are more possibilities available in
the double row version, and by omitting dotted horizontal lines the letters can be
tightened up together more without risk of ambiguity. It would be hard to draw multiple
horizontal stokes together and still be clear which a dot belongs to.
Sample texts in Nail Script - Double Row Version
This example spaces each letter individually.
Next you can allow letters to exist sharing space vertically. To do this I prefer to use the
rule "read left to right, and when there are letters in both the top and bottom rows, read
top first, then read bottom, then move again to the right."
This means you can only "piled up", using both rows simultaneously, roughly one
quarter of the time (on average). "Left Top + Right bottom" can be merged, but "Left
Bottom + Right Top Cannot", needless to say "Top+Top" and "Bottom+Bottom" cannot
be merged in this way either
In the next picture you will see the above text again using this simple "pile-up" rule.
Further information about Nail Script can also be found at:
Also by Matthew DeBlock
Other writing systems invented by visitors to this site