What is the Difference Between a Brad Nailer and a Finish Nailer?
A quick look at nail guns online and you’ll come across two types – brad nailers and finish nailers. By looking at them, you may not be able to tell them apart. They’re about the same size, they both shoot nails, so what’s going on? Why the distinction?
There is a huge difference between brad nailers and finish nailers. In this article, we’ll discuss what the main differentiating features are between the two tools, how they’re used, and the scenarios in which each of them works best.
What is a Brad Nailer?
Brad nailers are the slightly smaller version of a standard nail gun. They feature a smaller head that shoots out smaller brad nails (hence, the name of the tool). Brad nails are ideal for attaching light trim to a workpiece.
Although brad nailers use different-sized nails, the most common size is 18-gauge nails which leave tinier holes in their wake. Their small size and length – between 5/8 and 2 inches – significantly reducing the risk of splitting molds and when shot through them.
In most cases, you won’t need to attempt to conceal the presence of the brad nails with putty since they’re virtually invisible. If you’re doing a home renovating project that requires the use of small, delicate nails with limited visibility, brad nails, and a brad nailer would be a great choice.
How to Use a Brad Nailer
A brad nailer can be a valuable tool to DIY-hobbyists and even the common woodworker. Brad nails are meant to be used in connecting delicate pieces together such as trim or eve cardboard. However, since it shoots out nails at a surprising speed, you’ll always want to exercise caution and safety procedures when operating it. Assuming you already have the proper safety equipment on – goggles, gloves, and ear muffs or plugs – you can begin using your brad nailer.
When using brad nails, you’ll want to shoot them near – not on – the edge of your workpiece. Shooting it too close to the edge can lead to splitting.
If you have a pneumatic (air-powered) brad nailer, make sure that the tool is attached tightly to your air compressor. Make sure that the nail feed and properly lubricated and filled with the nails of the right size.
We must reiterate that brad nails are extremely small, thin, and can bend rather easily. This means that in many cases, especially when working with thicker boards, the nails may not sink through your workpiece. Attempting to sink them flush with your board using a hammer isn’t a good idea since the nail will most likely bend. If the nail doesn’t sink all the way in, it’s best to remove it and shoot another nail.
When to Use a Brad Nailer
For trim and molding, a brad nailer is an excellent tool to use. You can even use a brad nailer in instances where you want to connect two boards temporarily or give them a bit more structure prior to applying wood glue. Since brad nails won’t make even the slightest puncture in hard materials, you’ll want to avoid using a brad nailer when working on MDF and plywood.
What is a Finish Nailer?
A finish nailer is used to… get ready… “finish” the job! Nailed it!
Finish nailers use thicker nails – typically between 14- and 16-gauge – to connect workpieces together. The nails are also headless so they can’t be removed from your boards. Once they’re in, you’ll need to dismantle your workpiece entirely to remove the nail. The reason for using headless nails is to sit flush into your board and blend with the wood’s motif.
Finish nails are easy o paint over to give your workpiece a nice, seamless appearance without covering any holes with putty. The typical length of a finish nail is anywhere between 1 and 2-1/2 inches.
For many people, especially professional furniture-builders and contract workers, finish nailers are preferable to brad nailers or even manual hammering since they produce long-lasting results.
There are two types of finish nailers based on their shape and how they’re used. The types of straight and angle finish nailers. Angle finish nailers are better-suited for work in tight spaces since the design of the magazine allows for a greater range of movement.
Finish nailers can either be powered by air (pneumatic) or batteries (cordless). Pneumatic finish nailers require that you have an air compressor on hand (CFM and PSI capacities depend on the nailer). Cordless finish nailers are the weaker type and are usually much heavier and harder to hold.
How to Use a Finish Nailer
Since finish nailers shoot out thicker, stronger nails, they’re great for baseboards and door casings. However, in a pinch, you can consider using a finish nailer as you would a brad nailer, but there’s very little room for error since once the nails are in, they’re in forever. As always, be cautious when operating any nail gun and have the right PPE on at all time.
Before you even think of pulling the trigger, you need to depress the safety nose, i.e. the mechanism that keeps the gun from accidentally shooting when the tool isn’t in use. After that, make sure that the anti-marring rubber is slipped over the nose to prevent it from leaving unsightly marks on your workpiece.
Now you’re ready to begin shooting nails into your workpiece. Place the tip of the gun where you’d like to insert a nail. Try and keep the gun as perpendicular as possible to the surface since the nail will penetrate farther into the wood and provide better stability. If for whatever reason the nail doesn’t sit flush with the board, simply give it a couple taps (or whacks) with to force it all the way in. Finish nails aren’t as delicate as brad nails so feel free to use a bit of force.
When to Use a Finish Nailer
Finish nailers can shoot nails through stronger materials like plywood and MDF. They also work on softer materials without leaving any damage marks. If you’re looking to provide more stability when connecting boards or nailing trim and mold, a finish nailer might be exactly what you’re looking for. They provide a nice, smooth finish to your workpiece, and the nails can be painted over to hide their almost-invisible presence.
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