All You Need To Know About Brad Nailers

All You Need To Know About Brad Nailers

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?”

Good question.

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.

  • Trigger - the trigger is unsurprisingly the means by which a brad nail is fired from the brad nail gun.
  • Magazine - the magazine holds the rows of brad nails in a similar way that staples are held together in a stapler. Many magazines for brad nailer is will come with a nail indicator, making it easy to know when your magazine is getting low on brad nails.
  • Contact Tip/Nose - the contact nose for a brad nailer is the point which will contact the trim and is the location from which the brad nail is fired. Many brad nailers will come with a no marring      contact nose. This helps to protect your project when the brad nailer is pressed against the surface of the material being nailed.
  • Latch - the latch is the mechanism used to clear away any jams that may occur with the nail gun. Some manufacturers will refer to this as a tool free jamming release mechanism.
  • Exhaust valve - most brad nailers (though not all) will have an exhaust valve outlet that blows some compressed air out when it is being used.
  • Belt hook - most brad nailers will also have a belt hook making it more convenient when needing to climb ladders and other times when you might need to use all your hands.

​​​​​​The Two Main Types Of Brad Nailers

Many tools can be separated into different subtypes. The brad nailer is no different. Typically, a brad nailer will be either pneumatic, or electrical.

Pneumatic Brad Nailer

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.

Pneumatic Brad Nailer

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.

Electrical (Cordless) Brad Nailer

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.

Cordless Brad Nailer

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.

How To Use A Brad Nailer

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.

  • ​Read any warning and specification labels that the manufacturer has provided on the brad nailer. Failure to adhere to the manufacturer’s tool and nail specifications may result in damage to your brad nailer or the project you are working.
  • ​If you are using a pneumatic brad nailer, make sure to check the appropriate operating pressure range for your brad nailer.
  • ​Do not set the pressure on the air compressor, outside of the manufacturer’s specifications. Without enough air pressure the brad nails will not be driven in properly. Too much air pressure and the brad nailer may be damaged, or the brad nails may blow out the side of your woodwork project.
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    Make sure to check the number of nails the magazine can hold, also making sure to check the range of lengths and the gauge of brad nails that your brad nailer takes.
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    You will need to load the magazine of the brad nailer. Many brad nailers will only allow the brad nails to be loaded in one direction, however it is wise to doublecheck and make sure that the brad nails are loaded in the magazine, facing the correct direction.
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    The magazine of the brad nailer will often have grooves in it, that are designed for the nail heads to rest in. When loading the magazine of the brad nailer with brad nails, make sure that the nail heads are resting in one of those grooves.
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    Close the magazine, making sure that it locks in place.
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    If you are using a pneumatic brad nailer you will need to connect the air compressor hose to the brad nail gun. Should you be using a cordless battery-operated brad nailer then a fully charged battery pack will need to be attached to the brad nailer.
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    In terms of orienting the brad nailer with regard to your work piece, there are two criteria that need to be considered.
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    Firstly, make sure that the brad nailer is being held perpendicular (at right angles) to the direction you will be nailing along. For example, if you were attaching trimming to a wall and were planning on going from left to right, then the body of the brad nailer would be in a vertical direction.
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    Secondly, if your piece of wood has growth rings in it, you will need to slightly angle the direction of the brad nailer to improve the chances of the brad nails penetrating the different growth rings. Do not over-angle the brad nailer however as you risk a nail blowing out the side of your woodworking project.
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    When holding the piece of wood or trim that is to be nailed, make sure to keep your hand well clear of the area where the brad nail will be fired into. Should the brad nail hit a knot in the wood, or blow out the side, there is a risk of injury to you, if your hand is too close.
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    If in any doubt about how to use a brad nailer, it is reassuring to know that there are many helpful video clips available online.

​What Is The Difference Between ​A Brad Nailer Vs. A Finish Nailer

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.

Types of Brad Nailers

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.

Manufacturers Of Brad Nailers

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​

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.

Bostitch Logo

DeWalt

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.

DeWalt

Porter-Cable 

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.

Porter Cable Logo

Ryobi

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.

Ryobi Logo

Hitachi​

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.

Hitachi​ Logo

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.

Safety Tips

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.

Safety Glasses 

​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.

Earplugs/Hearing Protection

​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.

Hearing Protection

Check Loose Clothing 

​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.

Manufacturer’s Instruction Guide ​

​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.

Pre-Inspect The 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.

How To Maintain Your Brad Nailer

There are several steps that you can take in order to maintain your brad nailer.

  • ​If you are using a pneumatic brad nailer, it is wise to check for air leaks before starting your nailing job. We will explain how to do this below.
  • ​When using your brad nailer, especially for the first time, carefully make sure that all moving parts are functioning correctly. In some cases, you may need to lubricate parts. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions if you decide to do so.
  • ​As with any power tool, how long it lasts, will be determined by how well it is looked after.
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    When you have finished using your brad nailer, make sure to clean it off and return it to its case, if one has been provided.

​Checking For Air Leaks

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.

Pneumatic Leaks

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.

Conclusion

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.

Brad Nailer Cordless

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.

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