What is a Brad Nailer? Info Guide

If you’re serious about woodworking, then you may want to consider ditching the hammer and nails and getting a nail gun. However, getting a nailer isn’t as simple as picking one off the shelf. Different nailers serve different purposes. In your search, you might come across a wide range of different nailers such as finish nailers, brad nailers, roof nailers, and so on. When it comes to woodworking, one of the most widely used types of nail guns is a brad nailer.

What is a Brad Nailer?

What is a Brad Nailer?

A brad nailer is a miniature version of a finish nailer. This gun is used mainly to attach small moldings and decorative trim. Brad nailers use brad nails (obviously) which are thinner and pose less of a risk in cracking thin workpieces.


What are Brads?

Brad nails are made of 18-gauge wire. For those of you who don’t know, this is an extremely thin nail which is what makes it ideal for attaching delicate workpieces. Brads have thin heads which leave smaller holes in their wake. Basically, the holes are invisible from a distance, so you don’t need to worry about filling them in with wood putty.

The length of a brad nail ranges from 5/8 to 1-1/2 inches. The shortness of the nail coupled with its thinness offers it very little holding power compared to wood screws and finish nails. When building and assembling furniture, brads can be used as a temporary fastener for aligning pieces but require the use of adhesives that provide permanent holding power.

Can you use a brad nailer for framing?

Types of Brad Nailers

Brad nailers can fall into separate categories base on their source of power. There are two main types of brad nailers – pneumatic and electric.

Pneumatic Brad Nailers

Pneumatic brad nailers are much more popular than their electric counterparts. This is due to the effectiveness at firing nails deep into your material. The CFM and PSI requirements vary from model to model so if you decide you need one of these tools then make sure that you own/purchase a compatible air compressor.

Electric Brad Nailers

If you plan on doing home renovation projects but don’t feel like dragging around an air compressor, then consider investing in an electric brad nailer. They can come as either corded or cordless models that don’t rely on air compressors or pressure hoses. Instead, you plug the tool into an outlet or pop a battery in the slot and get right to work.

Electric brad nailers are just as capable at firing 18-gauge brads deep into your material. The electric motor loads a built-in compressor which builds up air. As you fire the trigger, the pressure is released in a quick burst, firing the nail into your workpiece. Of course, electric brad nailers aren’t nearly as powerful as pneumatic guns might be a problem since, if the nail doesn’t penetrate the surface all the way, driving the nail deeper with a hammer is out of the question. However, if you’re installing trim or need a temporary holder to connect boards, electric brad nailers can be a viable option.

What do you use a 18 gauge brad nailer for?

The greatest benefit you get from electric brad nailers, especially cordless models, is maximum portability. You can install crown molding on the ceiling without having to tug on power cords or pressure hoses. This is especially helpful when working in cramped spaces like cabinets where cords just get in the way.

How to Safely use a Brad Nailer

Like any gun, you need to give a brad nailer the respect it deserves. Note that a brad nailer is NOT a toy and should be handled extremely carefully. Even though using a brad nailer is pretty straightforward, there are several things you need to consider to put it to good use.

1. Do not fire brad nails too close to the rim or edge of a wooden board. Since brads hardly have any holding power, they won’t be of much help around joints. Not only that, but it can also cause the board to split or crack in ways that are beyond repairable.

Can a finish nailer use brad nails?

2. If the brad nail doesn’t penetrate the surface all the way through, there’s no point trying to drive the nail deeper by smacking it with a hammer. It’ll end up more bent and possibly mar your workpiece. The only thing you can do is remove the nail, increase the driving power of the brad nailer, and fire again.

3. Make sure that the clip still has brads in it. Even though firing empty rounds is more of an annoyance than anything else, there are practical reasons why you should make a habit out of checking the clip every so often. First, firing on an empty clip wastes battery power. Second, releasing the built-up pressure without firing a nail can damage the surface of your workpiece. Third and most important, you could end up damaging the nose-end of your tool.

What are brads used for?

4. Be aware of whether your brad nailer has a contact or sequential trigger. Both contact and sequential triggers require both the nose of the gun to be pressed up against the surface of your work while pulling the trigger to fire nails. The difference is that a contract trigger will continue firing nails as long as you hold the trigger, whereas a sequential trigger needs to be released before firing the next round. Sequential triggers are, by far, the safer option, but contact triggers are considerably quicker; they just require a steady, quick-moving hand and extreme caution to operate safely.

5. Prepare for recoil. Firing a brad nail will push the tool back slightly. Relax your hand after firing each round and let the nose of the gun recoil back before gently placing it against the work surface again. If you push with too much force, the gun will bounce back onto the surface, creating a slight dimple or even causing delicate workpieces to crack.

6. Brads aren’t meant for hardwood. If you need to fasten pieces of hardwood together, you’re better off using a finish nailer and thicker 14-gauge nails. Hardwoods like plywood or MDF may be too dense for brads to penetrate regardless depth adjustments. Conserve your brads and use it only for attaching trim and other thin pieces of material.

Brad Nailer vs. Finish Nailer

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