Even the best carpenters don’t always hit the nail on the head. A slip, or one too many hits can mar that nice trim finish wood. If you want to guarantee a perfect finish, try this. Lay a small piece of pegboard, a shim, or a piece of 1/8″ panelling or plywood on the piece you’re nailing. Drive the nail through here until the hammer’s hitting the protective insert. Then use your nail set to finish up, and remove the protective piece.
Drilling a pilot hole will prevent splitting wood when you’re nailing near the end of a piece. But splits can occur elsewhere, even when you didn’t think it necessary to drill a hole (and face it, it’s extra work you should avoid when you can). Sometimes splits appear when you’ve driven a couple of nails along the same grain line. Avoid this when you can by staggering the nails on different lines.
While driving straight and true sounds like a great practice, driving on an angle is often best. Alternating angles, or driving every second nail at an angle, will hold much better than a series of straight-driven nails.