It seems that there is a tool for just about every type of woodworking today. The specialization is such that some tools can double as others. For example, a Brad nailer and stapler do similar work and there are combinations of both available, but what are the real differences?
A dedicated brad nailer is not designed to shoot staples. You need a brad nailer staple gun combo in which you can load brads as well as staples. However, the 2-in-1 combo nailer is not recommended for crown molding or trims since they tend to leave larger marks on the material.
Brad Nailer vs Crown Stapler
Before getting into the comparison, it should be noted that the type of stapler that is most like a Brad nailer is the crown stapler.
Why is it called a crown stapler?
The term “crown” should not be confused with crown molding, but instead, it refers to the staple itself of which all of them have crowns. The crown is the connecting portion between the two legs of the staples.
A crown stapler and a brad nailer work in a similar fashion. Generally, both tools use compressed air to drive the nail or staple into the material. Both power tools also come in either corded and battery versions. Essentially, both tools are used to drive the nail or staple into the material with similar force, but there are a few important differences.
Difference Between a Brad Nailer and Stapler
The most important difference is the design between the staple and the nail. A staple is a two-prong object while a nail is a single prong object. The staple is one piece of metal that is bent 90-degrees at each end. When driven into the material, it leaves the “crown” exposed on top.
The advantage when using staples depends on the purpose of the task. While they are arguably better at securing two separate pieces together thanks to the crown, they are also more exposed to the environment which makes them easier to see and subject to rust if not protected.
A Brad nailer uses a thin nail that is more akin to a pin. Used to fasten molding along with trim to the walls, this type of nailer is used for delicate materials such as thin wood.
The 18G Brad nails are perfect for thin trims and faux shiplap where larger nails and more force would split the wood. The Brad nailer uses less force and nails small enough that they are difficult to see once they are driven into the wood.
The advantage of using the small nails of a brad nailer is that the nail itself is fully driven into the wood and can barely be seen depending on its size and location. This means that the wood itself protects much of the nail while only the top is exposed. If the top of the nail is protected, then it can last for many years inside the wood. It also is well-suited for places where putty and other covering is not practical.
While crown stapler provides better holding between two adjacent pieces, it doesn’t allow much room for the seasonal expansion of wood. This is the reason hardwood flooring is done with nails or L-cleats than with staplers.
The downside is that the nail itself is rather thin and not nearly as robust compared to a staple of similar size.
Thickness of Work
Both brad nails and 18G crown staples are available in different lengths starting from 1/2-inch. The maximum length of 18G stamples is usually 1-1/2 inches whereas you can drive brad nails up to 2-inches long.
As a general rule of thumb, the nail/stample length should be 2 to 3 times the thickness of the wood you are nailing. This is why, although you can use 18G nails for trims, a finish nailer is preferred for baseboard installation.
Type of Material to be Nailed
Apart from the design, arguably the biggest difference between a crown stapler and a Brad nailer is the type of material that both devices are best suited. Staples are perfect for upholstery, especially when the fabric is stretched tight. The more secure grip provided by two prongs going into the upholstery is far better compared to nails.
Conversely, nails are better for wood even if they are not quite as secure as staples. This is because a staple leaves a mark, especially when it has been removed to show the damage it has caused. Compare this to a Brad nailer in which the nail itself is quite small and only leaves behind a tiny hole that is easily covered. It is why a Brad nailer is perfect for trim and molding since it holds the material to the surface and is difficult to see.
Another difference is that crown staples can withstand more weight and stress compared to a Brad nailer. If the material will undergo considerable stress, then a stapler is preferable compared to a Brad nailer.
Brad Nailer Staple Gun Combo
Not surprisingly, there are a few Brad nailer/Crown stapler combination tools on the market. Given the differences between both, some companies have created combo tools that put together both functions so that two devices will not be needed.
As with most combination tools, it does not do a specific job as well compared to a tool dedicated to that function. In other words, a combo stapler/Brad nailer will apply staples and nails well, but not quite as good as a dedicated stapler or Brad nailer.
Perhaps the biggest concern with a combination tool is that when used as a Brad nailer, it leaves behind bigger holes like the stapler. Since this is a combo nailer, the plunger is designed to the staple size. This creates a big indentation (up to ¼-inch) when you shoot brads.
This defeats the purpose of a brad nailer which is to leave behind the smallest indication possible. Therefore, this type of combination tool is not recommended unless you do not care about the size of the holes the device creates.
That said, if the appearance is not a major factor, the convenience of carrying one nail gun that can shoot both brad nails and stapler is very appealing.