For years, unless I had historic tacks that I could re-use, I have been using 1/4" cut tacks for gripping, simply because those were the smallest that I could find for sale anywhere. Recently I found something better from vendor Blackbird TacksAndNails on Etsy. They sell 'Steel Tacks Tiny Small Nails' in 5mm and 7mm lengths. For most gripping purposes, the 5mm tacks, sold 700 to a bag, seem excellent. The 7mm tacks (just under 1/4") could be good where a longer tack is needed, e.g. with thick hide, or with a listing.
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These are the 5mm tacks from TacksAndNails on Etsy. This is one order of 700 divided into two bags.
Here are a selection of historical tacks, removed from various clubs that I was recently re-gripping.
Here is a comparison: 1/4" cut tack on the left, sample historical tack removed from a club in the centre, and 5mm tack from Etsy on the right (dime for scale). The Etsy tacks are extremely consistently made, fine, and almost all exactly the same in form.
Here is an example of one of the Etsy 5mm tacks as the top tack in a grip (before whipping).
And here is a 5mm Etsy tack as the bottom tack in that same grip (again before whipping). The Etsy tacks seem to hold well, and being fine cause almost no risk of splitting the wood.
I got another order of tacks from TacksAndNails on Etsy. I ordered more of the 5mm tacks, which have proved excellent for gripping, and also some of the next size up, 7mm. Here is a picture. On the left is the old package of 1/4" cut tacks I was using previously, if I didn't have a historical tack I could re-use - and the left-hand tack in the row is one of these. The next tack in the row is a historical tack, taken out of an old grip. The third from the left is an Etsy 5mm tack, and above, the bag these come in (700 pcs. to a bag). And on the right an Etsy 7mm tack, and the bag (400 pcs. to a bag).
One more comparison. Across the top are a variety of historic tacks that I have recently removed from clubs, arranged roughly in order of size (and yes, that monster on the left was really in the shaft of a club). Below are the two sizes of tacks from Etsy that I am currently using (7mm and 5mm). Dime and measuring tape for scale.
Ken Leedham, GHSC. If you have questions or comments, please email email@example.com.