Angled vs. Straight Finish Nailer: Buying Guide

When needing to drive hundreds of nails on a regular basis, the most time-efficient tool you can use is a nail gun. This tool can literally sink thousands of nails daily with consistent precision. If you’re looking for something that’ll sink nails flush with the surface of your workpiece, then a finish nailer is what you’re looking for.


Angled Finish Nailer

From the name, you can correctly presume that a finish nailer is designed to help with driving finish, no-head nails into whatever you’re building. They used to cost an arm and a leg, but nowadays you can pick one up at a relatively cheap price. This is extremely good news if you plan on carrying out any DIY home renovation tasks.

Types of Finish Nailers

There are two types of finish nailers available – angled and straight. In truth short, the main difference between the two is their shape, but there’s a bit more to it than that. In this section, we’ll go over their differences briefly and in what scenarios each would benefit you more.



Angled Finish Nailer

As we mentioned earlier, the shape of the gun is what separated an angled nailer from a straight nailer. An angled nailer’s magazine is tilted at an angle in respect to the gun’s body.
At first glance, the difference angle of the magazine may not seem like such a big deal, but believe us when we say that it plays some rather significant roles in comfort. First of all, the angle of the magazine allows the user to hold and operate the nailer at all sorts of angles. The body of the gun doesn’t need to be perpendicular to the surface so working in tight areas is entirely possible.


Straight Finish Nailer

Secondly, due to the angle of the magazine, an angled finish nailer can use heavier, thicker nails for attaching your workpieces together. This is due to the fact that the magazine doesn’t block the nozzle of the gun when held perpendicular to the board. Since larger nails are used, an angled finish nailer can provide better stability to your woodworking projects.
There are only two main downsides to owning an angled finish nailer, and none of them have anything to do with impacting performance. First, heavier gauge nails are harder to find, and second, when you do find them, they’re considerably more expensive than thin-gauge nails used in straight finish nailers.

Straight Finish Nailer

The magazine on a straight finish nailer is perpendicular to the gun and parallel to your work surface. The only way to get optimal results when using one of these contraptions is by holding the gun at a perfect 90° to the board otherwise the nails may not stick.

The nails used in straight finish nailers are smaller than in angled nailers because the angle of the magazine doesn’t allow for much clearance from the board. Basically, a straight nailer is better suited for lighter-duty fastening of boards or other soft materials.


Angled Finish Nailer

Because the nails are smaller, you won’t have too much of a difficult time in hiding them from sight from the surface of your workpiece. A coat of paint and the nail will be virtually invisible.

There are some rather significant downsides to using a straight finish nailer. First, the nails are thinner, thus weaker, and won’t be able to connect large boards when doing large woodworking projects. Second, the shape of the gun and magazine don’t allow you to operate them in cramped spaces. Third, they’re bulkier and a bit heavier than their angled counterparts.

Which is Better?

It ultimately comes down to one question – what are you doing? If you need a gun for light-duty fastening jobs (molding, trim), then an angled nail finisher would be the more cost-effective tool to get. However, if you want a gun that does both light- and heavy-duty fastening (connecting adjacent boards in cabinets and bed frames, for instance), then an angled finish nailer would serve you much better.


Straight Finish Nailer

Finish Nailer Buying Guide

This following section will give you a brief overview of the most crucial specs and features to consider when looking for a finish nailer. Keep in mind that the first decision you need to make is determining which type – straight or angled – would work better for your projects.

Fuel Source

There are three main sources of power for finish nailers – air, gas, and electricity.
Pneumatic finish nailers are powered by air supplied by your workshop’s air compressor. They’re super-powerful and, depending on your compressor’s capacity, able to sink a nail in a single shot. No more hammering for a flush finish.

Gas-powered nailers require you to top off their tanks with gasoline every so often. They’re just about as powerful as pneumatic nailers, but they shoot out toxic fumes. This tool is to be used outdoors only. You shouldn’t fasten trims on your walls and ceilings with a gas nailer.

Electric nailers can be split into two categories: corded and cordless. Corded nailers rely on you being nearby a power outlet or make use of long extension cords (tripping hazard), whereas a cordless nailer relies on the battery providing enough power per nailing session. Both of these types of nailers provide the least amount of nailing power.


Angled Finish Nailer

Type of Magazine

There are two types of magazines – nail stick and coil.
A nail stick magazine is one that juts out and can get in the way in cramped areas. They generally hold up to 40 nails per magazine.

A coil magazine is similar to what Rambo uses on his machine gun. It’s flexible and is wrapped around in a canister. It can hold up to around 300 nails per coil, so reload-time isn’t too big of an issue. The finish nailer can move much more freely with a coil magazine since the magazine isn’t hanging out and in the way.

Adjustable Nail Depth

A good finisher nailer should give you the option to set the depth of the nail. This is especially important for the more powerful angled finish nailer since you won’t always need to penetrate 2 or 3 inches deep into the board.

Nail Jams

Jamming in the nozzle is common in many finish nailers, regardless of nail size. Because of this, it’s important to find a model that’s easy to un-jam when the inevitable occurs. There are also several finish nailers out there where clearing any stuck nails can be done without the use of external tools. These models reduce downtime and increase productivity.


Straight Finish Nailer

Final Remarks

A finish nailer is a great tool for connecting boards or crown moldings. They can even be used for larger projects like building cabinets and such. For these projects and any others that require working in cramped spaces, we recommend going with an angle finish nailer since its shape allows for better maneuverability. A straight finish nailer and its smaller nail capacity would be more appropriate for fastening delicate decorative trim.