Illustration by Len Churchill
Brad nailers are among the most popular pneumatic tools in the workshop, and with good reason. Use them in place of, or to supplement, screws when assembling cabinets, jigs, and fixtures, to install all kinds of small to medium size trim and moulding, and to stabilize work pieces during clamping. Because they require a low volume of air, typically around 2 CFM at 90 PSI, you can use them with most air compressors.
The features to look for will depend on how frequently you’ll use the gun, and for what tasks. Furniture makers, for example, will likely be concerned with the size of the nose, sight line, and a rear exhaust, while finish carpenters might place greater emphasis on tool weight and ergonomics, dry-fire lockout, quick-release nose, and a belt hook.
Price: $35 to $275
Nail Length: 1/2″ to 2″
Weight: 2 to 3-1/2 pounds
CFM Requirement: about 2 CFM @ 90 PSI
PSI Range: 70 to 120
Warranty: 1 to 5 years
Most nailers require oil. Keep your tool in tip-top shape by oiling it as per the manufacturer’s recommendation.
While nailers are fairly safe tools to handle, nails sometimes fly in unexpected directions. Wear eye protection, keep your hands away from the line of fire, and disconnect the air hose before reloading.
Set the air pressure to the upper limit of the pressure range, typically around 100 PSI. Brads will be less likely to split your material, blow out through a side, or not sink below the surface.
Avoid inadvertently firing the nailer by keeping your trigger finger away from the trigger until you’re ready to shoot, and don’t place your finger near the trigger when carrying the nailer.
Don’t use the same size of nail for every task, as nails may blow out the side, or completely through, your material. Choose a nail that is long enough to go through your material, and penetrate about 1″ into the substrate.