Twist & Pry

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A quick whack on Stiletto's Dimpler depresses the wood around embedded nails.

Credit: Photo: David Sharpe

Stanley's Fubar looks more like a cartoon character than a demolition tool –until you put it to use and see that it's all heart. The business end has double-throated jaws with teeth to grip lumber firmly. The wrenching torque of the 18-inch bar is enough to twist studs from walls and rafters from roofs without pounding them to pieces. I dismantled lumber from a roof and gable walls for reuse on another project and only split a few boards in the process. But when I did need to take a swing at something, I didn't have to reach for my hammer; there's a hammer face on the back of the Fubar's jaws. Just make sure your aim is good when you use the striking face, otherwise the 4-pound mass of the Fubar will take it right out of your hand. The handle is encased in rubberized plastic and has a pry end with a shallow-angled nail-pulling slot and groove that grip even decapitated nails. The Fubar isn't just for demo work, either: The same jaws that twist framing apart can gently rotate a warped joist or rafter straight into place.

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Twist & Pry: Vaughan 15" Superbar / Vaughan 18" Ripping Bar / Vaughan 21" Superbar XL / Stanley Fubar

Credit: Photo: David Sharpe

Vaughan's Superbar has been a regular in my truck's toolbox for years. The flat spring-steel blade scrapes, pries, and pulls, and I've done just about every demolition task you can imagine with this tool, from stripping shingles and siding to chiseling brick and tile. The 15-inch bar doesn't have the leverage advantage of the larger wrecking bars and demolition tools, and it's not practical for clearing off squares of roofing or siding, but it does offer more control for disengaging flashings, pulling errant nails, and stripping back small sections. The lobed curled end has tremendous prying force but flexes under the strain, so if I need more power I turn to the 18-inch Ripping Bar. The thick hex shaft on this tool doesn't flex and it exerts precise force. I use it when I have to use a hammer to pound the blade behind tile or brick. The heavier steel transmits the force with less vibration. And Vaughan recently introduced the Superbar XL, which at 21 inches has extra leverage and reach.

Both the flat- and hex-style bars have a slot at each end as well as a tapered groove at the flat end. I frequently carry a Superbar in the belt slot of my tool pouch, even when hanging drywall or doors. The flat blade works great as a foot-operated lift to boost a sheet of drywall or a door blank up an inch or two. And it's great for tweaking a window around within a rough opening until the shims are set.

Lighter Touch

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Lighter Touch: Vaughan Mini Bar / Vaughan Bear Claw Scraper Bar / Estwing ProClaw PryMaster RSC / Dalluge 4420

Credit: Photo: David Sharpe

I'm not much of a trim carpenter, but I know when I'm remodeling an old house that it's nearly impossible to match the antique moldings. So I take extra care removing and storing them for reuse. Pulling them gently off the walls is a task for wide-blade prying tools like the 16-inch Estwing ProClaw PryMaster RSC or the 9-3/4-inch Vaughan Bear Claw Scraper Bar. Even though the blades are ground to a fine edge, I file them a little sharper to split the paint joint cleanly on entry behind casing, base, and crown. Both the face and back of the prying blades on these tools are polished smooth so you won't bruise the wall finish or damage the wood. And the nail-pulling slots are keenly designed to grab small-shank finish nails and pins. The nail-pulling heads are also finished smooth to minimize wood damage. These tools are built to perform framing, roofing, and siding prying and nail-pulling duties, as well, so don't hide them in the finish box.

When you need leverage with a gentle hand, look to the Dalluge 4420. With 2-3/8-inch-wide blades at each end, you have options for getting just the right angle on the work, and at 24 inches long, it has the controlled power to pop trim without giving you a workout.

For lighter prying work, my favorite flat-style bar is Vaughan's Mini Bar, a 5-1/2-inch version of the Superbar. I've had one living in my tool pouch for more than 15 years. While it's not much good for demolition, it's handy for tweaking and small pry jobs. It also doubles as a screwdriver, crude chisel, finish-nail puller, paint-lid popper, and door-strike adjuster.

Strictly Nails

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The broad and sharp blade on the RSC bar slips behind trim or shingles with ease and has a bend that can pull nails up to 2-1/2 inches.

Credit: Photo: David Sharpe

Wrecking bars and pry bars can all pull nails provided they aren't embedded. I often recycle old timbers, planks, and dimensional lumber from my demo jobs, but re-sawing the wood is hazardous business and I like to minimize the risk to expensive saw blades by removing as many buried nails as I can. One of the first tools I bought when I began in construction was a cat's paw nail puller. It was crude, but it dug out errant framing nails pretty well.

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Select the angle of attack with the IPA bar's adjustable head.

Credit: Photo: David Sharpe

Today's thinner-head Japanese-style nail pullers like the Dalluge Tri-Claw 4000, the Estwing ProClaw PC 300, and the Stiletto Clawbar With Dimpler have in-line and 90-degree nail slots and are all about digging nails out of wood. Featuring streamlined heads with finely ground slots and a pounding surface opposite the claws, these tools are easy to drive deep into the wood to grab and extract even beheaded nails with ease. The Dalluge has two identical 90-degree heads, which moves its pounding point up the shaft a little.

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Strictly Nails: IPA Indexing Pry Bar / Dalluge Tri-Claw 4000 / Stiletto Clawbar With Dimpler /

Credit: Photo: David Sharpe

The Stiletto is made of ultra-strong, unbelievably light titanium –so light that I didn't notice it in my tool pouch. This tool's standout feature is the "Dimpler" cone on one side of the head, a great innovation that minimizes the amount of digging you have to do to expose the nail head. Just whack the Dimpler over a nail to depress the wood surrounding it just enough to engage the pulling slot.

The 20-inch IPA Indexing Pry Bar has a single, adjustable nail-pulling head that indexes over five detents from 80 degrees to 0 degrees (straight) so you can choose the optimum angle of attack for extracting. The Indexing Pry Bar is great for pulling headed nails but has a flat claw and no pounding point on the back of the head, so it's not effective at digging out embedded nails. The long handle grip has the leverage for all-day nail pulling without unnecessary effort.

–Mike Guertin is a builder and remodeler in East Greenwich, R.I., and is a member of Hanley Wood's JLCLive! and The Remodeling Show construction demonstration teams.