Nail Guns, Explained

Nail guns make driving nails easy – no more drilling guide holes or wrangling shifting pieces while trying to hammer a nail in place by hand. With a nail gun, you can just whack a nail in quickly and move on to the next. Whether you’re erecting a fence, laying flooring, hanging paneling, or building your own cabinets and furniture, you need a nail gun.

The fact of the matter is you probably need multiple nail guns. That’s because different nail guns are suitable for different chores. Nail guns are designed to handle different sizes and styles of nail, so it’s important to know what jobs you’re planning to do with your nail gun or guns before you hit the hardware store. You should consider magazine angle, power source, magazine size, and other factors, too.

Pin Nailers

Pin nailers shoot small, headless, 23-gauge nails that look like pins. Pin nails are usually used in finishing work for small carpentry jobs, like attaching the trim to small furniture. They’re good for fastening two thin pieces together or for fastening something thin, like a thin veneer, a fragile piece of trim, or a slim piece of crown molding, to a piece of furniture or cabinetry. Pin nailers may also be used in craft applications.

Because they’re so small and thin, pins are typically used in conjunction with adhesive. Many craftspeople use them as clamps to hold pieces together while the glue or other adhesive they’re using dries.

Brad Nailers

Brad nailers are similar to pin nailers, so much so that the two terms are often used interchangeably. Brads are 18-gauge nails just slightly bigger than pins, and they’re used for a range of woodworking and craft applications. The size of the brads makes these nails guns ideal for delicate work. Trim, upholstery, baseboards, and other precisions task are ideal for a brad nailer.

Finish Nailers

Next on the list, a finish nail gun fires finishing nails, which have a gauge size of 14 to 16. At 1” to 2 ½” inches long, finish nails produce a sturdier hold than either brads or pins. They’re typically used in cabinet-making, as well as for attaching trim around windows and doors, nailing down baseboards, and hanging chair rails.

Framing Nailers

Framing nails are the kind of nails you probably think of when you think of nails. These are the relatively large nails used to frame out new construction, hence the name. These long, thick nails provide a strong hold for studs and joists. They range in size from 8-gauge to 11 ½-gauge, although they’re typically identified using the antiquated penny sizing system, abbreviated as “d” in the old English style. So you can buy 6d, 8d, 10d, and 16d framing nails – the larger the penny size, the larger the nail.

In addition to structural framing, framing nail guns are also used for other heavy-duty construction tasks, like hanging fences, building decks, or hanging wood siding or sheathing. While other nail guns may be powered by electric, framing nails require more muscle, and are usually pneumatic. This means you’ll need to hook one up to an air compressor to run it.

Other Considerations

When you go shopping for nail guns, size isn’t the only consideration. Power source is a foremost consideration for many woodworkers – an air compressor can be clunky to drag around, so it may be easier to look at electric nail guns, especially if you’re considering a gun that fires brads, pins, or finish nails. Cordless nail guns offer the most flexibility. If you need a nail gun with more muscle, choose an air-powered or pneumatic model; if oomph isn’t an issue, but you need more portability, choose an electric or battery-powered nail gun.

You should also consider the magazine angle when choosing a nail gun. The angle of a nail gun magazine will be between 0° and 34°. The sharper the angle of the magazine, the better the gun will be for getting into tight spaces. If you plan to do a lot of work in tight corners or small gaps, choose a gun with a sharper magazine angle.

If you love carpentry or do a lot of precision woodworking, or even if you just plan to, you need a nail gun. There are few things more satisfying than driving a nail with the pull of a trigger – except, perhaps, for the satisfaction of completing your project at the speed of modern efficiency.

2020 Kimberly Signature

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