You know that the nail gun saves your finger from getting hammered. But you are probably unsure which nail gun is best for you.
But first, what is a nail gun?
A nail gun or nailer is a power tool that shoots nails that are arranged in a coil or strip into the material. The piston of the nail gun is powered either by compressed air (pneumatic nailers), by a battery (cordless nailers) or by gas.
Nail guns are an essential tool for modern carpentry, framing, or roofing jobs. While using a hammer to drive nails into material works, it is only practical if you have to do five or six nails at a time; any more and it becomes impossible. That is where the nail gun (also called power nailer) becomes useful.
Do I Need a Nail Gun? Benefits of Nailer
You don’t need a nail gun to drive a nail occasionally to hang pictures on your wall. A hammer would work perfectly fine. But, if you are interested in DIY, home improvement and repair jobs then a nail gun is an excellent power tool. It is a necessary power tool for professionals such as carpenters, construction and roofing specialists, builders, etc.
Below are some of the advantages of using a power nail gun.
- Precise: Power nailers help you to shoot nails accurately and precise control.
- No more bent nails: Unlike a hand hammer, a nail gun can drive the nails straight without damaging the workpiece and eliminates the need for pulling out bent nails.
- Safety: I have seen even experts carpenters hammering their fingers occasionally. Use a nail gun and keep your fingers intact.
- Improves productivity: How long does it take you to hammer a nail into the wood? With a power nailer, all it takes is a push of a button. It is faster and easier.
- Better Quality of work: A nail gun can shoot the nails to the correct depth without damaging the workpiece. This improves your craftsmanship.
- Convenient: With a nail gun you no longer have to carry around a box of nails. You can enjoy the convenience of using a nail strip or coil depending on the type of your nail gun.
Nail guns are crucial for most modern projects because they allow you to drive in hundreds of nails with ease. But, because of their popularity, there are a lot of different kinds of nail guns to choose from; so, it can be difficult to find the one that’s right for you. Find out everything that you need to know about nail guns in this buying guide.
Types of Nail Guns
Although we could talk about all the various kinds of nail guns, for this buying guide, I am going to restrict myself to talking about the two main kinds of nail guns that are important for you to know about. The two kinds of nail guns that I am going to talk about are coil-style and strip-style; which refers to how the nails are actually loaded into the gun.
Coil-Style Nail Guns
Coil-style nail guns work by having all the nails joined together using wires. The wires are then coiled together. Coil-style nail guns have drum magazines that can hold roughly 300-350 nails on average (although it should be noted, that many models can hold more and some models hold less).
Coil-style nail guns have a couple of advantages.
Firstly, in terms of nail capacity, coil-style nail guns are unsurpassed. If you want to complete a job or a project without having to reload constantly, then you really have no choice but to use a coil-style nail gun.
Secondly, coil-style nail guns tend to be more maneuverable than their strip-style counterparts are. Now, at first this may seem hard to believe; after all, coil-style nail guns have a big, unwieldy drum magazine, so how can they be easier to move around with? Well, because the drum magazine doesn’t jut out of the nail gun like a strip-style magazine does, a lot of professionals find it easier to use, especially in tighter spots.
Strip-Style Nail Guns
Strip-style nail guns use a single, long magazine that juts out of the bottom of the nail gun. The nails are held together using wires, paper, or plastic. In terms of capacity, your average strip-style nail gun can only handle twenty to forty nails. Because the magazine juts out of the bottom of the gun, they can be a bit unwieldy and harder to use in tight spaces.
This may leave you wondering why anyone uses these kinds of nail guns when coil-style nail guns seem to be so much better. Well, strip-style nail guns do have a few advantages.
First off, they cost a lot less than coil-style nail guns, making them good for people on budgets or people who don’t use nail guns all that often.
Secondly, the strip-style magazine ensures that the weight of the nails is distributed evenly, as opposed to being frontloaded, as the weight is on coil-style nail guns. The evenly distributed weight makes it a lot easier for you to accurately drive in nails; it also makes them a lot easier to handle.
What Kind of Nail Gun Do I Need? Nail Guns by Application
This is the section that most of you should really pay attention to. Because you need the right tool for the job that will increase your productivity and quality of work.
Here is a video that explains the different types of nail guns and their usefulness.
These are what you use for heavy-duty projects. For example, if you are doing framing on an entire house, then you will want to use a framing nailer.
Likewise, are you building something big, like an addition to your house or a deck? Then again, you will want to break out the framing nailer.
These are finish nail guns that you will use to attach trims, molds and carpentry work. Depending on the size of the nail used, trim nail guns can be categorized into three types. They are finishing nailers, brad nailer, and pinners.
These kinds of nailers are meant for precision work. If you are building furniture, doing molding, or installing trim, then you want to use a finishing nailer. The accuracy and precision of the finish nailer are essential for those sorts of jobs.
The most common finishing nail guns use 15-gauge and 16-gauge nails. These can drive nails up to 2.5-inches. The 15 gauge nail gun uses bigger sized nails and is usually has an angular design that allows it to reach tight spaces.
The brad nailers don’t actually shoot regular nails. Instead, as the name implies, they shoot brads, which are essentially an ultra-thin nail. Brad nails are 18-gauge which is 0.0475inches in diameter. For those who use the metric system, that is approximately Ø1.2mm.
You use brad nailers when you need accuracy, such as when putting up lightweight trim. Also, because brads are so thin, the holes they create are barely noticeable, making them a good option for when you don’t want to damage whatever it is you are working on.
Brad nail guns are especially useful for installing thin trims and molds without splitting them. You can also use a brad nailer for small woodworking projects like a jewelry box, bird cages, etc where you do not need a lot of holding strength.
Now if you are confused between these two trim nailers, don’t worry. I highly encourage you to check out my guide that explains the difference between a brad nailer and finish nailer in detail here.
The 23-gauge pin nailers use the smallest diameter nails. They are mostly headless nails although slight-headed nails are also available. You can probably guess that they cannot be used for any work that requires high holding power.
23-gauge pinners are mostly used to temporarily hold trim that is glued. They are also good enough for making wooden toys, and upholstery work.
Palm nailers are a form of specialty nailer. Unlike most other nailers, they can only shoot one nail at a time. The purpose of the nailers is to drive single nails into incredibly tight spaces that other nail guns would struggle to reach.
As the name indicates, roofing nailers have one specific job, which is to work on roofs. Specifically, roofing nailers are used to nail down roof shingles.
As the name indicates the siding nail guns are designed to install sidings. You could use a framing nailer to do the siding, but the nails used framing nail guns are longer than what you need for siding installation.
Siding nailers, on the other hand, got a wider head and shorter nails which works very well for its purpose.
How Do Nail Guns Work
Nail guns work by using bursts of power onto a piston that drives nails into the material with a force far greater than your average human can produce. This is why it takes several swings with a hammer to drive a nail in, while a nail gun can do it with the press of a trigger.
How are nail guns powered?
There are three different ways of powering nail guns:
- Electric/Battery powered
- Pneumatic power
- Gas power
Cordless Nail Guns: These are powered by rechargeable batteries. Battery powered nail guns are the weakest of the three, but also the easiest to use since the batteries are less bulky than an air compressor or a fuel canister.
Tip: Do you own a cordless tool from popular brand like Dewalt? Try to buy the nail gun of the same brand because you can share the batteries provided they have the same ratings.
Compressed Air: Pneumatic nailers are perhaps the most widely used type, especially in woodworking shops. Pneumatic nail guns are the cheapest, but you will need an air compressor at your shop. They can be cumbersome to use at construction and building sites since they require a constant supply of compressed air and the air pipe lying around may be an inconvenience.
Gas Powered: The gas-powered nail guns are the most powerful variants, but they can both be expensive and cause safety issues.
How do they work?
You will attach a gas canister to the nail gun. When you pull the trigger, the battery in the nail gun will ignite a spark (similar to a spark plug in your car) causing the gas to catch fire. The resulting combustion force will drive the piston of the nail gun.
Ultimately, which one you use comes down to personal preference.
Buying Guide: What to Look for When Buying a Nail Gun?
When buying a nail gun, there are a few key features that you should be on the lookout for. These are the features that all professionals absolutely must have when working.
Tool-less jam clearing
Sometimes nail guns just jam; it’s a fact that you can’t get around. Some nail guns offer easy ways to clear a jam, while others require you to use specialty tools. Personally, I always recommend getting a nail gun that has toolless jam clearing; it makes your life a lot easier.
Easy depth adjustment
“Depth” refers to how deep the nail gun drives a nail into a surface. During a project, you will likely have to adjust the depth of your nail gun. So, look for a nail gun that gives you the ability to easily adjust the depth, this will save you time and it won’t lead to your flow being disrupted.
Maneuverable air connectors
This one only applies to pneumatic nail guns, but it is definitely a feature that is worth talking about. With pneumatic nail guns, you need to connect a hose to them, so that you can channel the compressed air into the nail gun. Well, certain nail guns have connectors that can be moved around easily, and others have connectors that require tools to move. I can’t overstate how useful it is to be able to move air connectors around without tools, it makes everything easier.
Light attachments are one of those things you don’t find essential until you need them. You never know when you are going to need extra light while using your nail gun. So, as a general rule of thumb, I prefer to have the extra light and not use it, than not have it at all.
Which Nail Gun Do I Recommend?
By following this guide, you should be able to pick out the nail gun that perfectly fits your needs and wants. So, next time you have to do a major project that involves carpentry, consult this guide and figure out which nail gun is best for the job.
For a total beginner who is looking forward to buy his first nail gun to do home improvement and DIY work, I would recommend the 15-gauge finish nail gun and perhaps the 18-gauge brad nailer.
Having the right nail gun can allow you to complete even the toughest jobs in an easy and quick manner.