If you’re looking for a power tool to replace your hammer for driving nails, then a nailer is what you need. A nailer is a gun-like tool that shoots nails through the nozzle and into the surface of your workpiece. It shoots nails out extremely quickly and with precision, allowing you to finish the amount of time spent on a single woodworking project.
In this article, we’re going to focus more heavily on brad nailers, one of the most popular types of nailers out there. Most carpentry projects call for the use of brad nails as a way to fasten boards together.
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What is a Brad Nailer?
A brad nailer is a type of nail gun that shoots brad nails, hence the name. Brad nails are made using 18-gauge wire, meaning that they’re thinner than the average nail.
Some people might get confused over what a brad nailer does that a finish nailer doesn’t and vice versa. In a nutshell, a brad nailer is for holding light workpieces together with thin brad nails, whereas a finish nailer keeps the thicker, heavier pieces together using finish nails.
What are Brad Nails?
Their thin size has several benefits. First of all, brad nails are hardly visible from up close, let alone from a distance. They’re so small that you don’t even need to conceal the nails with wood putty.
Another benefit of tiny brad nails is they have a reduced risk of splitting the surface of your workpieces. They don’t take a ton of space under the surface, so they have a better chance at keeping your workpieces intact and without unsightly damage marks.
There are a few things disadvantages that come with using brad nails. Since they’re so thin, they don’t offer a ton of support for holding large boards in place. They’re mainly there to coax the boards into position while wood glue – the real fastener – keeps them in place permanently.
Another thing about brad nails is that they aren’t designed to be used for dense materials like mahogany and oak. They’ll most likely bend while you shoot them out of the nailer, and don’t even think that you can hammer the brad nail the rest of the way in. They’ll bend with a simple tap of a hammer.
Brad Nailer Power Sources
There are three main sources of power that brad nailers use – gas, compressed air, and electricity.
Gas-powered brad nailers are extremely rare and have been ridiculed out of existence (almost). Although there are a few models out there on the market, some manufacturers have discontinued producing gas-powered brad nailers simply because there’s no demand. Brad nailers are used mainly indoors, and without proper ventilation, you could end up poisoning everybody in the room with one of the tools.
Pneumatic brad nailers are arguably the most popular type. With a good air compressor, you can sink nails flush into the surface of your materials without any issues. The thing is that you need to have an air compressor, to begin with.
The third power source is electricity which can further be split into two different categories: corded-electric and cordless (batteries). The arguments for and against both corded and cordless tools apply to brad nailers as well.
In this article, we’re going to focus on cordless brad nailers for two reasons. First, they’re portable since you don’t need to rely on power outlets. Second, advancements in battery technology have led to extended battery life, meaning you can get more work done per charge. Between the two types of electric brad nailers, we’d argue that cordless brad nailers are the more popular option.
Cordless Brad Nailer Buying Guide
In this section, we’re going to talk about the various specs and features that vary between cordless brad nailer models and how you can determine whether something is worthy of purchasing.
Most brad nailers are designed to use 18-gauge nails, though there are some models out there that use larger 16-gauge nails. It’s a matter of personal preference, but what we can tell you is that 18-gauge nails are less visible but offer less support than the 16s.
Apart from looking at the thickness of the nail, you also need to determine the length of the nail and whether the gun can support it. Brads are typically ¾ to 2 inches in length, so if you’re not looking to commit to one gun for one size, find a brad nailer that has can shoot nails of all sizes.
The length of the gun’s nose is also another important factor to consider. Since brad nails are so thin, the length and width of the nose need to help in ensuring that you insert the nail in the proper location. Having too large a nose can be confusing and cause you to aim at the wrong spot, possibly splitting your workpiece. We recommend finding something smaller and thinner since there’ll be less room for error.
Depending on what you’re doing, you may not want the nail to penetrate all the way through and get lodged inside of your material. To prevent this from happening, the gun needs to have a depth adjustment system. Luckily, most brad nailers do so finding one isn’t an issue.
Another thing to consider is how to work the depth adjustment mechanism. Find a brad nailer that allows you to set how far the nail will penetrate without the use of external tools. This’ll make using the tool more convenient and enjoyable.
Since all of the important components of a cordless brad nailer are on the actual tool itself (i.e. battery), it’s considerably heavier than its corded and pneumatic counterparts. Weight plays a pivotal role in how well you can hold the tool and how consistently perpendicular the nozzle will be to a vertical board. When it comes to cordless power tools, lighter is better.
Bigger batteries mean delivering more nails per charge, but the tradeoff is bearing additional weight. If you don’t feel comfortable holding onto a 7- or 8-pound power tool for long periods, then consider getting a model with a smaller battery but also invest in multiple batteries. That way you can keep one in the charging dock so they’ll always be ready to swap when one is depleted.
Brad nailers are handy tools to have if you need to attach delicate workpieces together or fasten them to the wall/ceiling. They can deliver hundreds of nails per hour so you can put your hammer to rest. Cordless brad nailers are nice since they’re portable, don’t tie you down to a power outlet or air compressor, and can deliver upwards of 100 nails per charge. Just be sure that you’re getting a good model that’s comfortable, accurate, and can use brad nails of all sizes.
3 Recommended Brad Nailers
- Shoot 18-gauge brads ranging from 3/8 to 2 inches in length
- Operate at 60 to 115 PSI with the 1/4-inch NPT air inlet fitting
- Features a depth adjustment wheel, a nail gauge, a rotatable exhaust, and a quick release 106-nail capacity...
- Long life maintenance-free motor to keep from staining the work surface
- Tool-free depth-of-drive adjustment with detents for proper setting of nail heads
- Tool-free jam release mechanism for easy nail removal
- Powerful motor drives a range of 18 gauge brad nails from 5/8" to 2" into hard or soft wood applications
- Aluminum body, magazine and cylinder for strength and durability; weighs only 2. 9 lbs.
- Narrow nose design allows easy nailing access in confined areas