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Pulling the trigger on nail gun purchase
published Fri, 27 Mar 09 08:02:04 -0700

Paul Bianchina
Inman News

For professionals and do-it-yourselfers alike, nothing makes a job easier and faster than a power nailer. Nailers not only substantially speed up your work and save a lot of stress on your arm, hand and wrist, but they reduce wood splitting and hammer dents, eliminate predrilling in hardwoods, and accurately set your nails at or below the surface of the wood.

COMPRESSED AIR

The most common power supply for a nailer is compressed air, which is created by an air compressor and routed to the nailer through a hose. Compressed air is reliable, easily adjusted and consistently powerful, but requires the additional expense of an air compressor that needs to be taken to the jobsite and set up.

With compressed air, you have more nailers to choose from, ranging from big framing nailers to smaller, more precise finish nailers. One example of a professional-quality, air-powered framing nailer that would also be at home in the do-it-yourselfer's shop is the new Paslode PowerFramer 350 ($279). At 7.5 pounds this is one of the lightest framers on the market, but the PowerFramer was designed with enough power to drive 3-inch nails into dense engineered-lumber products. This nailer shoots a variety of different nail types, in sizes ranging from 2 inches to 3 1/2 inches in length. And it's definitely durable, with -- according to the manufacturer -- the ability to withstand a drop from a two-story building.

At the other end of the spectrum are the finish nailers, which are designed to drive thinner nails with much smaller heads. An example of a very nice finish nailer is Paslode's new 16-gauge Angled Finish Nailer ($199, with fitted case). The angled head on this nailer makes it easier to get into tight locations, and at 3.75 pounds it's light, powerful and very well balanced. The thinner 16-gauge nails reduce the chances of splitting the wood and also leave a smaller hole to putty. This particular nailer will drive nails ranging from 1 1/4 inches to 2 1/2 inches in length, which adds versatility.

CORDLESS

Cordless nailers offer the convenience of not having to set up an air compressor and not being tethered to an air hose, but the tradeoff is less power and the need to keep a charged battery available.

DeWalt, another manufacturer of professional-grade tools that are also very suitable for home improvement use, offers several very nice cordless finish nailers that range in voltage from 12 volts to 18 volts (average cost $349 to $379, with case and batteries). These nailers are available with a straight magazine for faster nailing in higher-production applications, or with a 20-degree angled-head magazine for tight spaces and greater single-shot accuracy. The DeWalt guns shoot 16-gauge nails in sizes ranging from 1 1/4 inches to 2 1/2 inches long, and an 18-volt battery will give you enough power to shoot upwards of 800 nails. ...CONTINUED

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FUEL CELLS

Fuel-cell nailers are something of a hybrid between compressed air and battery-powered nailers, using a combination of a rechargeable battery and a small, disposable fuel cell that contains compressed liquefied gas. Like the cordless nailers, fuel cell nailers offer freedom from a compressor and air hose. And like compressed air tools, they offer quite a bit of power, making them capable of shooting larger framing and siding nails. On the downside, you have the additional cost of the fuel cells themselves -- average cost is around $5 to $6 each.

Paslode has long been known for its tough and very reliable fuel-cell nailers, and they have several to choose from. For framing, take a look at the excellent new CF-325 Cordless Framing Nailer ($399, with case, battery and accessories). A comfortable 7.5 pounds with a nonslip handle, the CF-325 has a 30-degree-angled magazine and is capable of shooting several different types of nails up to 3 1/4 inches in length. A fresh battery will drive about 4,000 nails, with a fuel-cell life of around 1,200 nails. This is a true framing nailer with the convenience of a cordless, and for building a fence or framing a shed in the back of the yard this gun is unmatched for its combination of power and versatility.

For finish tasks there's Paslode's 16-Gauge Straight Finish Nailer ($299, with case, battery and accessories). This nailer sets up quickly -- just insert the battery, fuel cell and nails, and you're ready to go. The nailer weighs 4.75 pounds, and is very comfortable to hold and use for extended periods. It has a nonmarring tip for delicate woods, and an easily adjustable depth setting that ranges from flush to deep setting of the nails. For versatility, you can shoot nails ranging from 3/4 inch to 2 1/2 inches in length.

EYE PROTECTION

Eye protection is no joke when using a power nailer. Most manufacturers provide safety glasses with their guns, and if they don't, be sure you buy a pair. NEVER use a nail gun without eye protection!

Remodeling and repair questions? E-mail Paul at paulbianchina@inman.com.

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