Clemson alumnus 'nails' top innovation honor

December 12, 2006

CLEMSON -- Clemson University civil engineering alumnus Ed Sutt, a fastening engineer with Bostitch, has designed a nail that could save thousands of lives and homes in the event of a hurricane or earthquake. For that, "Popular Science" magazine has named the HurriQuake nail its 2006 Innovation of the Year, beating out 100 new technologies from around the world. (See December issue:

Sutt, an alumnus of Clemson's civil engineering graduate program, receiving both his master's and Ph.D. degrees, took notice of a hurricane's devastating effects when, as a student, he visited the Caribbean following Hurricane Marilyn in 1995.

"I couldn't help but notice it was the fasteners that failed in house after house after house, not the wood," said Sutt. "It occurred to me that breaks were occurring around the fastener or nail, so we needed to come up with a better fastener to hold the house together."

Because nail design has not changed much in the last 200 years, Sutt went to work creating a prototype that would: The HurriQuake nail is made of carbon-steel alloy and adds about $15 to the cost of a house. Its design took six years to perfect, with the bottom section of the nail having angled barbs that resist pulling out in wind gusts of up to 170 mph. The shank at the top of the nail is twisted to keep boards from wobbling and weakening a joint. The head of the nail is up to 25 percent larger than average to resist sinking into wood or pulling through.

Civil engineering professor Scott Schiff, one of Sutt's former instructors, conducted independent testing on the nail for Popular Science at the Clemson University Wind Load Test Facility.

"I was amazed at the resistance the nail puts up. In one test on the HurriQuake 2 (a thicker version of the original nail), with 20,000 pounds of load on an 8-foot shear wall mimicking what a house goes through in the course of several storms or an earthquake, the nail held. Normally that's what would give first," says Schiff. "This potentially could make a huge difference on insurance premiums and housing codes."

Hurricane and earthquake damage in the United States in the last 15 years is in the billions of dollars.

Other independent testing around the country showed the HurriQuake has up to twice the uplift capacity of standard nails, which includes the nail shank's withdrawal from framing and the nail head's pull through the sheathing, the nail can double a house's resistance in high winds and can provide up to 50 percent more resistance to earthquake-type forces.
The nail is available only in the coastal region from Texas to North Carolina at construction supply stores. Bostitch is adding new production lines to meet nationwide consumer demand. Bostitch (, headquartered in East Greenwich, R.I. is a subsidiary of The Stanley Works, a leading manufacturer of tools.

Clemson's civil engineering department is ranked 48th among the nation's 50 best graduate programs in the discipline, according to the 2007 edition of U.S.News & World Report's guidebook of graduate programs. Each program was ranked against similar programs at all national doctoral-granting universities, public or private.

Editor's Note: Digital photographs of Sutt and the HurriQuake nail are available online. To download the photographs, go to

Clemson University

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