Brad Nailer vs. Finish Nailer – A Guide


An overview of types of nailers, brad nailer vs finish nailer, their features, safety and top 5 nailers. 

Introduction

A nailer, nail gun or gun is a device used to drive nails into wood or any other material. It is powered by compressed air, electromagnetism, butane, propane or any other kind of highly flammable gases. There are two main types of nailers – brad nailer and finish nailer. Depending upon the project, you have to choose between brad nailer vs finish nailer.

Brad Nailers: These nail guns are widely used in home improvement projects and is a prominent part of a DIY kit. It helps fasten 18 gauge brad nails which have distinct oblong head for home repair jobs. Rather than hammering nails into wood, it is more convenient to use brad nailers. They also help reduce work time as you can work faster with it and get a smarter finish. They are also used to join furniture pieces together and other small carpentry jobs.

Finish Nailers: For larger and bulkier wood trim, finish nailers are good. These nailers operate on 15 or 16 gauge, and are slightly larger than brad nails, which give them enhanced strength for support. Their large diameter fastener proves to be their biggest disadvantage as you will need to cover all the openings of these nails with putty. And, by using a finish nailer on a piece of trim, the latter could split and form blemishes in the wood.

Here’s a quick comparison of top 5 nailers:

Product NameItem WeightDimensionsPower SourceRatingsCheck Price
Paslode 905600 Cordless XP Framing Nailer7.2 lbs17 x 5 x 17 inBattery Powered (includes a battery)4 / 5Check Price
Hitachi NT65MA4 15-Gauge Angle Finish Nailer4.2 lbs4.8 x 16.9 x 15 inAir-powered4.6 / 5Check Price
Dewalt DC608K Brad Nailer14.7 lbs3.5 x 11.5 x 11 inCordless - electric4.6 / 5Check Price
OMER 3/4" - 2" HD 18 Gauge Brad Nailer4 lbs13.3 x 11.2 x 3.1 inAir-powered5 / 5Check Price
Porter-Cable PCFP12234 3-Tool Combo Kit47.4 lbs20.44 x 22.5 x 20.56 inPneumatic powered4.4 / 5Check Price

Best Nailer Reviews

Paslode 905600 Cordless XP Framing Nailer

Features: The Paslode 905600 Cordless XP Framing Nailer is an absolute wonder at a weight of 3.3 kg, including battery, brad nailer vs finish naileroffering better control and comfort. With 15% additional power, it drives nails flush into wood, including laminated veneer lumber and hard wood species. It can work in temperatures up to 14 degrees F.

Its 7.4 V Li-ion battery can drive a maximum of 9,000 nails for every charge. A full charge takes 90 minutes while a two-minute charge can give 200 shots.

Pros:

  • It does its job perfectly and without any problems.
  • It fits ergonomically in the user’s hands and does not cause any cramping after protracted use.
  • Its balance is awesome.

Cons:

  • The cartridge is small, making the user stuff nails into it.
  • The butane drives in fewer nails than mentioned.
  • It makes a noise while working and gives off fumes.
  • The nailer’s nose is so large that it becomes difficult to aim a sure shot.
  • You have to change the depth of drive feature often.

Hitachi NT65MA4 15-Gauge Angle Finish Nailer

Features: This superb nailer does everything you want it to do. It is a pneumatic framing nailer that is perfect for panelling, hitachi-nt65ma4-15-gauge-angle-finish-nailerframing, crowns and baseboards. It does not have tools and a nose that’s easy to clear in case of quick extraction of nails if ever there’s a nail jam. It also comes with a selective activation switch that permits contact or sequential nailing by just pressing a switch.

For ease of work, there’s a rubber grip. Just so that you work in a clean environment, the 360-degree, completely adjustable exhaust portal throws out air exhaust far from you. Its small size is an advantage in reducing fatigue and increasing manoeuvrability and ease of working well while in awkward positions. It is very portable and heavier due to the battery’s weight.

Pros

  • It is lightweight, portable and easy to use.
  • Users are protected by a five-year warranty from Hitachi.
  • For extreme durability, a rugged plastic carrying case, no mar tip, safety glasses and air fitting are included.
  • Being of a small and convenient size, the user does not get tired using it and it also increases the device’s maneuverability.
  • The rubber grip adds comfort and offers a good grip.

Cons

  • It is unsuitable for small jobs.
  • It needs to be maintained regularly and checking should be done to avoid any problems in future.
  • It is expensive when compared to others with similar capabilities.

Dewalt DC608K Brad Nailer

Features: The Dewalt DC608K brad nailer is cordless in design and is structured to let the tool keep pace with the user with its dewalt-dc608k-brad-nailerfast rate of nail penetration into both hard and soft woods. This compact and portable device lets you drive brad nails into wood, ranging from 5/8″ to two inches at the rate of five brads per second.

You neither need a compressor here, nor an air hose. The 3.6 kg tool is powered by an 18-volt battery and drives 18-gauge brads. Its straight cartridge has a capacity of 110 brads and can cut out dust that could cause the nailer to work imperfectly. It can work successfully with hardwood, softwood, plywood and sheet goods, making it ideal for cabinetmakers and trim carpenters. It can be used to make moldings for shoes, crowns and chairs and for panelling, jambs and door and window casings.

It has several other features that make the user’s time with it very easy. Some of these include depth of control, reversible belt hook, swing-open nosepiece that clears jams, etc. Users will get a three-year limited warranty and a 90-day money-back guarantee.

Pros:

  • No jams or misfires upto 1200 nails that range between 5/8″ and 2″.
  • The product is well-built and dependable.
  • The cartridge is big and it reloads quickly.

Cons:

  • The nailer feels a bit heavy.
  • The top of the gun is bulky, so care should be taken when using in tight spaces.

OMER 3/4″ – 2″ HD 18 Gauge Brad Nailer

Features: The Omer 12.50 18 gauge brad nailer is said to be the best among 18 gauge brad nailers. It fires brads ranging from omer-34%22-2%22-hd-18-gauge-brad-nailer3.4″ to 2″. It is made in Italy to be highly durable and has some very special features, such as: It is anti dry fire, it works fast and releases any jam fast; It has a small nose so users can fire nails into the most difficult corners; It gets rid of any extra mechanism that is responsible for adding weight to nailers. It is available in single or bump fire by just flicking a button; It works on depth of adjustment.

Pros

  • There’s no recoil when the gun is fired. The trigger is pulled very smoothly and the nail slide is impressively smooth.
  • A well-designed and well-balanced tool, worth every penny, according to users.
  • It is built to endure and is repairable.
  • A tool for professionals.

Cons

  • The exhaust is at the top of the gun instead at the base of the grip.

Porter-Cable PCFP12234 3-Tool Combo Kit

This device can put in many more nails than a conventional compressor. This 6-gallon, 150 psi compressor weighs a meagre porter-cable-pcfp12234-3-tool-combo-kit30lbs. It works beautifully The Porter-Cable combo kit is simply perfect for framing and finish work, flooring and furniture. The kit comes with 2 in. Brad 2-1/2 in. Finish Nailer and TS056 3/8 in. Crown Stapler.

The Portable Electric Air Compressor kit offers comfortable support for two users as it features two regulated, factory-installed air couplers. The steel body with an upgraded shroud console cover protect its important components. A heavier extension cord 50 ft. long allows compressor use with ease and an easy nail removal because of the Tool-free jam release mechanism. The oil-free pump offers an easy maintenance. It provides a year’s limited warranty on compressor components.

Pros:

  • This combo kit is perfect for DIYers as it provides reliable and fast service as the compressor fills up really fast.
  • This combo kit works beautifully even after 2000 finishing nails.

Cons: 

  • As the complexity of a task increases, this kit may not give the desired results.
  • The manual isn’t as detailed as it should be.

Types of brad nailers

There are two kinds of brad nailers–the electric brad nailer and the pneumatic brad nailer. Here’s an introduction to each of them:

Electric Brad Nailer: An electric brad nailer is an alternative to the pneumatic brad nailer. It is obviously powered by electricity, in fact this electric motor fuels the gun that drives the brad nails into the wood. The bulky motor of this nailer adds to the overall weight of the electric brad nailer, making it heavier by default. Despite its weight, this nailer is very efficient. It not only works faster and effectively than a manual try, but it also requires safety precautions while working. This nailer also leads to injuries if not handled carefully. This makes it necessary to have a first aid kit handy.

Though the electric brad nailer is more expensive than the pneumatic, yet in the long run, it is worth it as it needs just a little maintenance.

Pneumatic Brad Nailer: This type of nailer uses compressed air that is fuelled by a lightweight hose. The hose, in turn, drives the compressor and fuels the gun. This kind of nailer helps one work efficiently and offers a neat finish even in complex jobs. However, while using this device, it is good to use safety measures. Due to the air under pressure, accidents can occur, so handling the nailer with care is necessary.

There are all kinds of sizes available in this category, each with different operating systems. The device comprises a gun, batteries, air hose and a cartridge. For all its efficiency and cost-effectiveness, its maintenance may seem expensive to some.

Differences between brad and finish nailers

Nailing tools that a woodworker needs in his daily work are brad nailers and finish nailers. Though they are very much alike, they perform different functions. So, what are the differences between these two kinds of nailers that set them apart?

  • Nail size and gauge: Brad nailers are 5/8” and 18 gauge nails. They look very different–some are headless while others have heads. In diameter, brad nails measure just 1.22mm. They are so small that they can actually fit into a pneumatic nailer.

On the other hand, finish nailers range between one inch and 2.5″ in size and come in gauges of 14 to 16. These nails are larger and can be nailed firmly into wood, unlike brad nailers. These nails are also headless, so they blend into wood perfectly.

  • Function and usage: Brad nailers can be used to trim carpentry objects, nail molds, frames, designs and trims. The fact that brad nails have a prominent, large and flat head, they are used to nail things that are out of sight. Brad nailers also join materials, however temporarily. Since they come with heads, it becomes easy to take them off using a plier. Being small-sized, they barely damage the wood from which they are removed.

Finish nailers are used to finish jobs. Since these nails are headless, they do not protrude out of the material and are therefore pleasing to the eye. They are camouflaged into the material they are embedded and are further obscured by a coat of paint. Unlike brad nailers, they do not join two materials since their function is to offer medium nailing grip.

After finish nails are nailed, they are meant to remain there, unlike their brad counterparts. If they were to be removed, their headlessness, large gauge size and 1.63mm-1.83mm diameter would damage the material in which they were nailed.

Price

Among all pneumatic nailers, brad nailers are the most popular not just for their performance but also for their affordability, often not costing more than $70. On the other hand, finish nailers are more expensive than brad nailers, costing between $150 and $400. Their cost is reasonable, if you consider that they are more versatile than brad nailers, since they do all the work of brad nailers and more.

Brad nailers are excellent for making trims, molding, paneling and crafts chiefly because their nails adhere strongly and can be removed without damaging the wood surface.

Finish nailers are very good in all respects. They can work as well as brad nails, though the larger nails among them might just damage the wood they are driven into.

Power sources of nailers

The power source of each type of nailer is testimony to its mobility and the complexity of jobs that it can handle. A pneumatic nailer uses an air compressor to drive nails into it. Its compressor’s pressure and volume ratings should be equal to or more than the nailer’s needs. If you plan to use other tools along with a nailer, ensure that the compressor can take this new load.

If you use a cordless and battery-powered nailer, you will find that it gives more mobility than a pneumatic model since it doesn’t need an air compressor or even a hose. Though it starts up quickly, it doesn’t have the power that a pneumatic nailer has.

A cordless fuel-based nailer needs combustion to drive nails into wood. Fuel flows from a disposable gas sealed unit into a combustion chamber. Electricity is provided to the unit through a battery that helps light up the fuel. With the explosive force that results, a nail is driven into the wood. This nailer has such good mobility that it neither demands any cords nor any hoses. This kind of nailer is powerful enough to take on complex jobs.

Features of nailers

After selecting the nailer that’s perfect for your project, look out for its features that will enable it to work easily and efficiently.

  • Directional exhaust systems: This feature lets you direct the exhaust from the tool. You will value it when you work in dusty environs. Some exhaust systems need special tools to be adjusted, while others remain tool-free.
  • Jam-clearing systems: They make maintenance easy, particularly when nails get jammed into the device.
  • Depth adjustment: It lets you control the depth a tool can drive a nail into its work surface. Depending on the depth setting, nailers may leave nails sticking out or they may enter the wood surface flush. Some nailers need tools to adjust depth while with others, adjustments can be made manually.
  • Large triggers: With these, you can manage your tool easily using gloves.
  • Carrying cases: They protect the device from damage while in transit.
  • Swiveling air connectors: When these connectors are are placed on pneumatic nailers, the tangles in the air hose reduce.
  • Protective guards: They prevent the tool from being damaged and from debris that may affect you. Such protective gear can wear out in time, so use those that can be replaced easily.
  • Nail size adjustment: With this feature, you can change the sizes of nails as you move from job to job.
  • Work lights: With work lights, you can see your work surface better.

Nailers’ safety

Before using nailers, find out what safety measures you need to adopt. Given below is some basic safety tips, but in all cases, it is essential that you follow the nail gun manufacturer’s safety instructions:

  • Before you begin using the device, inspect it, repair and replace any damaged parts.
  • Don’t alter a nailer.
  • Wear safety glasses and other safety equipment as specified in the nailer manual.
  • Stand away from the firing area. When you need to join work pieces together, remember to use clamps.
  • Before doing any maintenance work, disconnect it from the power supply and try to clear any jam.
  • Remember not to point a device at any individual or animal.
  • When running a nailer, keep people away from it.
  • Switch off a nailer if you see an occasional spark from it that could light up dust, vapor or gas.

Conclusion

Now that you know a good bit about brad nailers vs finish nailers, you can make an informed decision before buying one.

Author: John Clax

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