Fasteners and Fixing

Fasteners are devices that join together two or more objects to keep them in a fixed place. The two main types of fasteners are screws and bolts, which have cylindrical threads and are attached by screwing on a nut, and nails, which are usually hammered into a piece of wood or masonry. Fixings may refer to screws and bolts, but also to items used to assemble or fix furniture, building material or equipment. These include products such as wall plugs, magnets, rawl plugs, plasterboard fixings and magnetic tape.

Other types of fasteners are used when fixing something permanently is not required. These include fasteners such as zippers and buttons for clothing, clasps for lids, or even simple ties like those used to keep air from bread wrapped in a bag.



Fasteners have been used since human beings began to develop clothing and textiles, and it is thought that the Greek philosopher and inventor Archimedes was responsible for the concept of the screw. His original invention drew water from a low level to a high level by means of a rotating spiral tube, and it is the screw’s cylindrical nature that allows nuts to be rotated up the shaft to make a permanent fixture.

In 1841, Sir Joseph Whitworth, a mechanical engineer from Britain, suggested that standard fastener sizes be introduced and developed a set of specifications to be used universally. These were specifically for the pitch and angle of screw threads, and the Whitworth thread then became the first standardised thread system.

Nails have been made by hand in forges for thousands of years, but wrought iron was a slow procedure so nails were relatively expensive. The advent of cut nails in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, made by machines, developed the market and these are still used for heavy-duty applications and historical renovations today. The development of wire nails, where machinery was able to produce nails in huge quantities, meant that nails became cheap and could be mass-produced.



Screws are made of metal and are generally used to fix pieces of wood together. They are also used to screw into rawl plugs on walls, to put up shelving or other support furniture, or to affix large pictures to a wall. Screws come in a wide range of sizes, and though most have pointed tips to screw easily into a drilled hole or a rawl plug, some have flat ends that fit with specific types of DIY furniture.

There are two main types of screw slots in the head, the traditional single slot where a standard flat screwdriver is used, and the cross slot. The latter was designed originally for the screwdrivers made by Phillips and this type of screwdriver should be used when fixing them. Screw heads can be designed to be countersunk, to screw down into the wood surface so nothing protrudes. Read the full article here. Other designs are raised, where the screws have flat tops and are often used in door furniture, and round, where holes are not countersunk.



Nails are considered to be the easiest way for fastening together two pieces of wood. They come in a range of sizes and shapes, and are made from a variety of metals. The most common metal for nails is steel, but they are also made of copper, bronze, aluminium, nickel, brass and stainless steel – the latter are used if there is a risk of corrosion. Read the full article here.

Nails are also generally manufactured with coatings to prevent rusting and to strengthen their holding power. They can be glued, galvanised or cemented to achieve this outcome. Different types of nails are used for particular jobs. Roofing nails, for example, have a large head and help in preventing damage to asphalt shingles, whereas finishing nails have a small head, are lighter than many others, and are frequently used for installing panelling where it is preferred that the nail head does not show.


Wall plugs

The term wall plug is synonymous with rawl plug. This is because the original wall plug was an invention by John Joseph Rawlings in the second decade of the 20th century. Read the full article here. Marketed as Rawlplug, they were originally fibre tubes with thick walls allowing them to be inserted into drill holes in masonry and for screws to be screwed in to fix furniture, electrical goods or other products that required stability.

Most of the wall plugs made today are plastic, and when the hole in a wall or other surface is drilled correctly and the plug is inserted, the screw slightly expands the plastic as it is tightened and provides a firm grip to diminish the possibility of movement.



Magnetism was first described some 2,500 years ago, with its discovery, in the form of lodestones, likely to be many years prior to this. Magnetism is a force that attracts or repels other materials, such as iron, cobalt and nickel. For those it attracts it can act as a fastener. In its simplest form it can be used to fasten a piece of paper onto a fridge door, or it can act as a link to make jewellery such as bracelets and necklaces.

Magnetic tape is an adjunct to the use of magnets and is often used in the sign industry for displays and exhibitions. Read the full article here. Flexibility is an important aspect of magnetic tape and it is important to understand the different polarities when using it.


Plasterboard fixing

Fixing onto plasterboard requires specific items to ensure that anything that is being fixed onto internal walls is safe. These could be radiators, boilers, cabinets or shelves, and a secure fix is essential. Fixings for plasterboard include items such as metal self-drill, spring toggles, cavity anchors and general purpose plastic. Read the full article here. All these fixings are designed to give the correct purchase for the items to be fixed, with a range of heavy to light duty pieces available.



The term fasteners has a variety of meanings and usually means fixing two or more pieces of wood or metal together so that they remain in place. Read the full article here. They can be used to build furniture, such as tables, sofas and beds, or to attach items to walls as part of a decorating process in a house.

Fasteners are also used for more temporary fixings, such as for clothing, or for keeping food in a secure environment. Fastenings used for clothing include Velcro, a simple way for many to put on and take off shoes securely, zips that are used for a large variety of clothing and bags, and buttons, which are also found in an assortment of garments and carryalls.


How fasteners and fixings are made

Fasteners and fixings are made from a variety of materials and it may depend on the end use that will determine what the best choice will be.

For screws and bolts the material is metal, as it gives strength and longevity to the fastener. Steel is the most usual material for screws, the base metal being coated with a finish that is oxidising resistant or may come with a cement coating. Screws that are galvanised are zinc plated, resisting corrosion, but they can also be painted, finished in brass, chrome or di-chromate. If made of aluminium they are often anodised, where an electrolytic process provides a protective coating and the metal provides the anode. The screws can also be painted. An important aspect of preparing screws is to ensure they do not rust; galvanised steel is a popular purchase to avoid this.

The manufacture of nails has developed since the early days of wrought iron in forges, through cut nails and then on to wire nails, rapidly becoming the nail of choice thanks to the speed with which they could be produced with new machinery. As thinner timbers were often used in construction, wire nails were an appropriate choice, seeing as holding power was not so essential. There were many other types of fastening that could be used when a strong fixing was required. Nails used in restoration projects are in demand and their shapes and styles reflect the various eras for buildings where projects are carried out.

When wall plugs, or as they have become known rawl plugs were first invented, they were made of fibre, inserted into holes in walls and would hold hung items that had screws inserted into them. The original invention by John Rawlings revolutionised the fittings for professional tradesmen and later the DIY industry. The rawl plug was not just designed for domestic use, it was important in factories where machinery could be securely attached to the floor or to walls. The well-known plastic rawl plug was introduced in the 1960s and is now a staple, both for professionals in the building trade and for those who do DIY in their own home.

Magnets attract or repel, and when they attract they are a useful method for fastening or fixing. In technical terms, magnets produce a magnetic field to attract other metals, with nickel, cobalt and iron the most common. There are forces that enter from its south pole and exit from its north pole, and they can be strong or weak attractors depending on how they are made.


Manufacturing fasteners

The manufacture of fasteners relies on what a client requires, so quality assurance and the appropriate testing is an essential element of delivery. Producers have a number of issues to consider when deciding on their requirements.

Fastener manufacture has to be flexible so that small orders can be catered to as well as bulk orders. Major industry sectors, such as automotive, aerospace, railways and construction need that flexibility so that fastener producers can provide what is required in an appropriate timescale.

Customer demand patterns vary considerably, so the ability to adapt to those demand fluctuations should be a key management issue in order to ensure manufacturing is geared up to both ordinary and exceptional demand.

Manufacturers will always be subject to market demands, so the ability to predict and then satisfy those demands is likely to determine the success of the business. In terms of gearing up for increased business, manufacturers should look to what markets are buoyant. One growth area may be the construction of housing, and the potential for supplying good quality fasteners and fixtures is an area for businesses to explore.

There will always be a demand for fasteners and fixings as house and commercial building will always require this. For manufacturers it will be important to adapt to the changing needs for clients. These needs may include reducing lead times, preparing small batch sizes or customising parts for particular requirements. Many manufacturers are organised to provide high levels of service and to do the manufacturing of specialised fasteners. They can provide competitive prices for smaller lot sizes, a boon in difficult economic times, and modify production schedules when customer demand patterns change.



The fastening and fixings industry is the bedrock of providing solutions both for professionals in the building trade and for those who wish to do their own building and repair work at home. There are many solutions for both areas, and easy access to fasteners and fittings is an important part of ensuring that the industry remains at the forefront of fitting solutions.

When screws, nails and other fastenings are used the right way, they will give many years of pleasure and security. When other types of good quality fastenings are used they will last much longer, meaning additional expense in buying new ones is unnecessary.

Choose good quality rawl plugs and ensure that surfaces to be drilled are well prepared. Diameters of screws should also be checked, and what head they have, so that there are no problems when using them. It’s always important to check everything: fasteners and fittings must be fit for purpose.