How to Install T Nuts (Different Methods)

Understand the different methods and learn how to install T nuts in a professional and elegant way.

While working on my projects, I often found myself needing to install T-nuts. Although installing T-nuts isn’t overly complicated, I’ve come to prefer one method over the others. Let me share why.

If you’ve been looking up “how to install T nuts,” you’ve likely come across several methods. One of the simplest approaches is to hammer the T nut into a pre-drilled hole until it’s firmly in place. Sure, this method works and gets the job done, but let’s just say it’s not the most refined or professional technique out there.

Let’s explore all the different ways you can go about installing T nuts.


Table of Contents

  1. What is a T nut and how to use it?
  2. 3 Ways How to Install T nuts
    1. Hammer the T nut
    2. Install the T nut using clamps
    3. Install the T nut using a bolt and a wrench

Always be cautious and careful when using any power tool. Make sure you know what you’re doing and take all necessary safety precautions while working with power tools. Safety comes first!

What is a T nut and How to use it?

You can come across multiple names while looking for a T nut – e.g. a tee nut, claw nut, rivet nut, hammer nut, insert nut, and more. And they all can refer to the same type of nut. A T nut is a nut with a prolonged body ending in a flange that often has prongs that dig into the wood piece as the T nut is being tightened down from the opposite side.

T-nuts provide an incredibly strong connection. They will not vibrate loose and the connected pieces are less likely to crack. Given their shape, they are more suitable for perpendicular joints.

A T-nut is a perfect accessory and a great choice for all sorts of assembly projects, furniture construction as well as DIY projects. I have been using those very often while building machines and jigs for my workshop, and I am really happy with the results.

T-nut Installation - Bolt and T nut
T-nut and Bolt

What are the benefits of T nuts?

T-nuts are widely used in various applications due to their unique design and numerous benefits. Their cylindrical body with a flange resembling the letter “T” makes them particularly advantageous in specific situations.

  • Versatile Fastening: T-nuts are compatible with a range of materials, including wood, metal, and plastic. Their design allows for secure attachment in a variety of materials.
  • Strong Hold: They create a strong and reliable connection by embedding themselves firmly into the workpiece. They resist loosening, making them ideal for applications subject or frequent assembly and disassembly.
  • Reusability: T-nuts can be reused many times. Once the fastening point wears out, it can be removed and reinstalled again.
  • Easy Installation: Installing T-nuts is an easy and straightforward process that requires only a drilled hole or slot in the workpiece.
  • Flush with Surface: Installed T-nuts sit flush with the surface of the workpiece. They create a clean appearance reducing the risk of injury.
How to install T nuts
T-nuts installed in plywood - flush with the surface

What is the difference between a T-nut and Threaded Insert?

T-nuts and threaded inserts are both handy fasteners, but they serve distinct purposes.

T-nuts have a T-shaped top, often used in wood or softer materials. You install them by drilling a hole and tapping them in. They create a solid spot for bolts or screws, making them great for attaching different materials together.

Threaded inserts, on the other hand, are small metal sleeves with threads inside. They excel in tougher materials like metal, plastic, or even wood when you need a robust threaded connection. To install a threaded insert you drill a hole and then screw or press them in. The main benefit of threaded inserts is their ability to endure repeated screwing and unscrewing without damaging the hole.

T-nut vs Threaded Insert
Threaded Insert vs T Nut

T-nut and Threaded Insert - Table Comparison

Nut Type Shape Strength/Clamping Force Use Reusability Installation Method Material Compatibility
T-nut Cylindrical body, T-shaped top Very Strong Wood or Softer Material Yes Hammered or pressed into place Soft materials like wood, particle board
Threaded Insert Sleeves with internal threads Very Strong Tougher Materials - plastic, metal, hardwoods Yes Screwed in with a bolt or specialized tool Wide range including plastic, metal, hardwood

3 Ways How to Install T nuts

The process of installing t-nut is simple and straightforward. There are several ways how to insert a t-nut in a piece of wood.

Step 1 - Drill a Hole

A T-nut requires a hole to be sunk into. T-nuts find their place on the rear side of the workpiece, ensuring that when you tighten the bolt, it consistently draws the threaded T-nut firmly against the wood. The diameter of the hole needs to be slightly larger than the outer diameter of the T-nut’s cylindrical body. 

Once the hole is finished, choose the installation method:

1. Hammer the T nut

The simplest and easiest method is to hammer a T nut in a hole. It is simple and straightforward, and it works but here are the reasons why I don’t recommend this approach and why you should avoid it.

CONS – Why Not Hammer a T nut:

  1. There is a good chance the T nut will oval and it will be difficult to screw the bolt in since the threads will be distorted.
  2. While hammering the T nut you will probably hit not only the nut but the material as well leaving scratches and indents on the surface.

2. Press the T nut using clamps

This is a much cleaner way of installing a t-nut resulting in a nice t-nut fit without distorting the nut or damaging the material. The installation is quick and with little efforts.

How to install a T nut using Clamps

  1. Predrill a hole using a ø2mm drill bit
  2. Use a Forstner bit to drill a shallow hole, just deep enough to sink the T-nut head
  3. Drill a hole that is slightly wider than the barrel of the T-nut
  4.  Insert the T-nut in the hole and press lightly to fix it in position.
  5. Push it down using clamps until the nut’s head is completely flush with the surface
  6. Make sure to apply even pressure

NOTE: In the same way you can use a vise instead of clamps. I recommend using a vise with wooden jaws. If you don’t have one then add an extra layer of sacrificial piece of wood between the vise’s jaw and the T-nut.

How to use a T-nut
T-nut pressed into a star knob

Watch the video below to see how to apply this method. In this wooden vise project, I am using T nuts to fix the vise jaws to the body of the vise.

3. Install the T nut using a bolt and a wrench

The installation process is similar to the clamp installation with the same benefits. In this case, you will need a bolt or a screw and a wrench or a ratchet wrench to push the t nut down. 

Sometimes using a clamp or a vise is not sufficient and you will need to use this method fo further secure the t nut in the hole.

How to install a T nut using a Bolt

  1. Predrill a hole using a ø2mm drill bit
  2. Use a Forstner bit to drill a shallow hole, just deep enough to sink the T-nut head
  3. Drill a hole that is slightly wider than the barrel of the T-nut
  4.  Place the T-nut in the hole and press lightly to fix it in position.
  5. Use a bolt a fender washer and a wrench to tighten the T-nut down until it is completely flush with the surface.

NOTE: While tightening the bolt the washer can still cause scratches on the material. I recommend using an additional layer between the washer and the wooden piece, for example, another piece of wood that will prevent scratching the surface or painter’s tape that can be easily removed afterward.

This way you will get a nice and clean outcome with no scratches.

Slab Flattening Mill T-nuts
how to install t nuts in MDF - t-nut and bolt method

Watch the video below to see how to apply this method. In this drill press stand project, I am using T nuts to mount the drill press stand to the base desk.

Easy Tips to Avoid Mistakes with T-Nuts and Threaded Inserts

When installing T-nuts and threaded inserts, there are a few pitfalls you’ll want to keep an eye out for. First off, make sure you’re choosing the right size and type for your material; getting this wrong can mess up your project before you even get started.

  • With T-nuts, be careful not to hammer them in too hard, or you might damage the surface you’re working on.
  • And for threaded inserts, make sure you’re threading them in straight. If they go in crooked, you’ll have a tough time getting them out, and they might not hold as well.

Lastly, don’t forget to check the depth. If an insert goes in too deep, getting it to securely hold anything becomes a real headache. So, take it slow and steady to avoid these common mishaps.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is a T nut called T nut?

A T nut is called so because of its T-shaped body, resembling the letter T, which provides stability and ease of installation when inserted into a T-slot or channel.

What is a T nut used for?

T nuts are commonly used to create strong and reliable connections in woodworking and metalworking projects, providing a threaded anchor point for bolts, screws, or other fasteners.

Can you use T nuts on metal?

Yes, T nuts can be used on metal surfaces. They are versatile and work well with various materials, including wood, plastic, and metal, offering a secure and robust fastening option.

How do you install a T nut?

There are various methods to install a T nut. The simplest one is by hammering the T nut, although this can leave scratches and damage the workpiece. A cleaner method is to use either a clamp and gently push the T nut in or use a bolt and wrench to slowly thread it into place.

How to install t nuts in MDF?

You can install a T-nut in MDF using a few methods: simply hammer it into the hole, secure it with a clamp or vise, or use a bolt and ratchet to fix it in place.

Install T Nuts - Different Methods

What is a T nut and how to install a t nut
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About the author, Lukas
About the author, Lukas

Meet the creator of AllFlavor Workshop! As a passionate DIYer and woodworking enthusiast, Lukas is always looking for ways to make things himself rather than buying them off the shelf. With a keen eye for design and a knack for working with wood, Lukas enjoys sharing his craft with others and helping them discover the joy of building. Whether you're an experienced woodworker or a novice looking to try your hand at a new hobby, you're sure to find plenty of inspiration and tips on AllFlavor Workshop.