Since the dawn of time humans have used hammers. They may not necessarily have been the masterpieces of modern engineering that today’s hammers can be, nonetheless they were hammers. At heart a hammer is basically just a solid blunt head with a handle.
Now sometime in the past, some bright spark got the idea of holding two objects together using a metal pin (for simplicity’s sake let us call it a nail). What a great idea. Hammers, nails, wood. What more could a person ask for? Well how about a gun that fired nails?
That would be really fun and let us be honest kind of cool. And lo, the nail gun was invented. Today there are different types of nail guns. The two common types of nail gun are a finish nailer and a brad nailer.
“Yes. Yes”, I hear you say, “but what is a brad nailer?”
A brad nailer is a special type of nail gun that has been designed to fire thinner gauge nails, known as brads. Since brads are smaller, and of a thinner gauge than standard nails, it is understandable that a brad nailer is ideal for attaching lightweight pieces of trim to your projects. Most brad nails will typically be 18-gauge.
One of the main advantages of a brad nailer, is that the smaller gauge nails will often leave a barely visible entry hole in the surface of your wood.
The main disadvantage of a brad nailer is that it is not intended for attaching heavy pieces of trim or large pieces of wood together, as the small brads do not have the strength to hold them together.
A brad nailer usually consists of the following main parts.
Many tools can be separated into different subtypes. The brad nailer is no different. Typically, a brad nailer will be either pneumatic, or electrical.
A pneumatic brad nailer is attached to an air compressor via a standard hose attachment. The pneumatic brad nailer then uses the year pressure, from the compressor to fire brad nails. Generally, so long as you have brad nails and air pressure, a pneumatic brad nailer will keep on working.
One of the main disadvantages of a pneumatic brad nailer is that it must be connected to an air compressor in order to work, which may take up valuable time and space.
An electric brad nailer, is a cordless brad nailer that is powered using a rechargeable battery. When it comes to a simple, basic project that does not require too many brad nails, a battery-powered brad nailer can be quick and easy to use as a does not require setting up and operating an air compressor.
One of the main disadvantages of cordless (battery-powered) brad nailers is that their use is limited by the time it takes for the battery to go flat. Once the battery is flat, it will need to be either swapped with a second, fully charged battery or alternatively placed on the charger, to recharge.
When it comes to choosing the most suitable type of brad nailer (pneumatic vs. electrical) for yourself, there are pros and cons with both types. We recommend considering what features are important to you and which are not, then making a decision based on what you have identified as being important.
A brad nailer is a relatively simple tool to use, however like any power tool, care does need to be taken to make sure that it is used correctly.
Whenever you are using a brad nailer especially for the first time, familiarize yourself with the manufacturer’s instructions. These will often be provided as either a booklet supplied with the brad nailer or alternatively may be found online.
Please note: The following guide is a general guideline only and is not intended to replace or supersede the manufacturer’s instructions.
A Brad nailer and a finishing nailer look very similar. So, what are the main differences between a Brad nailer and a finish nailer?
A Brad nailer will generally use thinner gauge nails (typically eighteen gauge). Since a Brad nailer uses thinner (and often smaller length) nails, they will often be slight smaller power tool, in size, than a finish nailer. A Brad nailer is a useful tool when wanting to attach lightweight trim.
The smaller entry hole means you may not need to use wood putty to cover any nail holes. When working with thin pieces of trim, or other materials, a Brad nailer will reduce the risk of splitting or breaking, due to the smaller gauge of its nails.
A finish nailer, on the other hand, uses thicker (and sometimes larger length) nails allowing heavier pieces of wood to be attached to each other. A finish nailer is a better choice when requiring a stronger attachment for your wood. This is especially so if you secure your material to a few studs.
Essentially a Brad nailer is used for attaching small, lightweight materials that do not require significant structural support, such as trim or a picket fence. A finish nailer, on the other hand, is better suited to materials requiring strong attachment to each other.
Some people ask whether they should get one type of nailer over the other but in truth they are intended for different types of jobs. A Brad nailer is often recommended by the experts for people who have not used a nail gun before, as it is generally considered a safer means of introducing oneself to using nail guns.
With brad nailers being such a useful, power tool it will come as no surprise for you to learn that there are several companies that manufacture them.
Five of the more common manufacturers that you are likely to come across our Bostitch, DeWalt, Porter-Cable, Ryobi and Hitachi. While I use the word common, these manufacturers are anything but common.
All five of these companies were established more than seventy years ago. Their decades long histories, and the quality of their products, have led to them being well respected in the power tool industry.
Bostitch was founded in the late 1800s by Thomas Briggs. From the beginning Bostitch specialized in the manufacture of fastening machines and tools. Originally known as the Boston Wire Stitch Company, the company changed its name in 1948 to Bostitch. Bostitch has been manufacturing fastening tools at its current location in Rhode Island, since 1957.
DeWalt was started in 1923 by Raymond DeWalt when he invented the radial arm saw. In the 1990s DeWalt introduced a wide range of portable electric power tools which included some of the most powerful cordless tools available at that time. DeWalt assembles their wide range of tools in seven manufacturing plants across the United States of America.
Porter-Cable was started in 1906 out of a garage in Syracuse New York. In the 1920s Porter-Cable began to specialize in portable electric power tools. Drawing upon decades of experience, Porter-Cable began producing pneumatic nailers during the 1990s.
Ryobi is the youngest of the five manufacturers discussed here, having been founded in 1943. With more than seventy years’ experience in manufacturing, Ryobi manufacturers a wide range of power tools, that are known for their innovative design features.
Hitachi was founded in 1910. Hitachi initially produced a 5-horsepower induction motor. With its proud history in manufacturing, Hitachi began manufacturing electric power tools in 1948. Interestingly, Hitachi released the world’s first electric power tool equipped with a microprocessor in 1982.
No matter who the manufacturer is, we believe that it is important to buy a brad nailer manufactured by a well-established, and respected brand. Do not think that this is some form of power tool snobbery. Rather we consider this to be commonsense. These brands have spent decades proving themselves to consumers and consequently are worthy of our trust.
Since brad nails are a small, fine gauge nail, they are usually deemed to be safer than other types of nail guns. Even so, there are several safety precautions that you should always adhere to when using a brad nailer.
No doubt many of you will find the following safety tips to be obvious, however do not dismiss them, since a visit to the emergency department of your local hospital, during the middle of your next project would be more than just a little frustrating.
Whenever using tools, especially power tools, safety glasses are a must. Thousands of Americans suffer injury to their eyes every year. Louis Braille, inventor of the Braille Writing System for the Blind, became blind as a child after playing with an awl in his father’s workshop. If it can happen to Louis, it could happen to you. Wear safety glasses.
If using a pneumatic brad nailer, you should use earplugs or other suitable hearing protection, to protect your ears from the air compressor noise. While many small air compressors are not very noisy, if you are using an air compressor and a small confined space, or a particularly noisy air compressor, then hearing protection is a must. If in doubt about the noise level we recommend being safe and wearing ear protection.
When using any power tool, you should always check to make sure that you have no loose clothing that could interfere with, or get caught up in, the power tool.
Most manufacturers will provide an instruction book on the proper use of their brad nailer. We recommend familiarizing yourself with this before you start any project using a brad nailer.
When using any power tool, especially for the first time or if it has not been used recently, we would recommend giving the brad nailer a quick check to make sure that all parts are working properly. It is better to discover a fault before you start your project, rather than the middle of your project.
Ultimately, your safety, is your responsibility. Whenever you are uncertain about whether something is safe or not, choose the safer option.
There are several steps that you can take in order to maintain your brad nailer.
When using a pneumatic brad nailer it is possible that you may experience air leaking from a fitting.
Should your brad nailer have an air leak, then the compressor will constantly run in order to keep reaching the required pressure. If there is no air leak and the brad nailer is not being used, then the air compressor should rest once the storage container is at pressure.
If there is an air leak at a connection fitting we recommend you remove the fitting using an adjustable wrench.
Take the screw connection and wind Teflon tape around the thread. This should improve the seal when the fitting is screwed back into the brad nailer.
Screw the threaded connection fitting back into the brad nailer, making sure to tighten using an adjustable wrench. Do not over tighten.
Check again to make sure that the brad nailer is no longer leaking.
A brad nailer is a wonderful power tool to have. No longer need you spend hours hammering fiddly tacks and small nails, at awkward angles, into trim and fittings.
Quick, easy and efficient to use, a good brad nailer will save you lots of time, and lots of money.
When choosing a brad nailer, the choice between a pneumatic a cordless one, will be decided by you based on what features are important to you.
Once you are familiar with using a brad nailer, you will wonder how you managed to live without one.
There are many manufacturers of brad nailers, however we recommend a proven, trusted and well-established brand, such as those mentioned above.
As with any power tool, your safety is paramount. There are thousands of eye injuries every year from power tools. Wearing safety glasses one good way to reduce the chances of you becoming a statistic.
Ultimately the joy and pleasure you will get from using a brad nailer for all your woodworking projects, will far and away exceed any concerns or doubts may currently have. A brad nailer is actually a relatively simple power tool to use, and is definitely a good choice for first-time users of nail guns to learn with.