Gateway Object: Coffin Nails

Sample book displaying rows of decorative nail head designs


This Victorian sample book is from A J Harrison Ltd, a brass foundry once located on Bradford Street, Birmingham that produced decorative screws for both coffins and chairs. The coffin furniture industry has always been closely linked to the cabinet and carpentry trades and these trades often used the same brass fittings.


The main function of a coffin screw was to hold the various structural elements of the coffin together. Unlike conventional screws, coffin screws have decorative heads. They come in a variety of metals, more expensive brass but also brass plated or lacquered base metals. The decorative heads help present the coffin as a decorative object rather than a box that is nailed shut.

This sample book offered a range of nails of various qualities, including high-class finishes. It would have been used by salesmen at A J Harrison Ltd. The nails were mostly either solid brass Registered Designs or brass plated, medium quality items.

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