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How to use a brad nailer

Date posted: 16 March 2015

Some people confuse a brad nailer and a finish nailer. To shed some light to it, a brad nailer is not only smaller than a finish nailer but is also used differently. For example, you will use the brad nailer to trim and attach small mouldings to a woodwork project. In other words, where a standard finish nailer will most likely split the piece of trim, the brad can deliver excellent results. Finally, brads are thinner and while there are not as many applications for them compared to finish nailers, they are very handy for attaching delicate trim and attaching thin strips. 

But…

What is a Brad Nailer?

A brad nailer is made of an 18-gauge wire (much thinner than the common 16-gauge nails used for battery or pneumatic-powered finish nailers). Moreover, brads allow for a more effortless work, given that they leave a small nail hole after the nail has sunk below the stock’s surface, which, in turns, means you have less holes to fill with a filler.

Brads usually use nails which are narrow in diameter and short in length (between 5/8-inch to 1 ½ inches). This is why they don’t need to have the holding power of wood screws or nails larger in size. For that reason, a brad nailer is meant for very delicate and small pieces of trim. The good thing about using a brad nailer is that you will hardly notice the nails once they are driven into wood. Considering that small nails are extremely difficult to drive manually, a brad nailer is the perfect tool to use.

Styles of Brad Nailers

The majority of brad nailers require a hose to an air compressor to operate the tool (hence are pneumatic), although there are some manufacturers that have cordless brad nailers that utilise compressed air canister combined with a rechargeable battery to run the brad and drive it into the wood. Furthermore, some brands offer angled brad nailers that fit perfectly to tight spaces. 

Using the Brad Nailer - Common Problems and Solutions

1. Nail Blowout

One of the most common problems when using a brad nailer is that of the nail blowout, where the nail comes out at the least expected spot. A way to solve this issue is by angling the gun towards the unseen side. To master this technique:

  1. Position the centre of the nail gun tip precisely where you want your nail to enter the wood.
  2. Align the gun with the direction (path) you want for the nail. It is much like lining up a pool cue a few secs before striking the ball! 
  3. If you are nailing into areas that you only see one side of them (e.g. door jambs), point the gun to the hidden side (just slightly), so it won’t show if the nail happens to pop through.

Note: From time to time, a nail follows the grain or hits a knot and pops out, even though you have given it your best shot. In this case, you can break the protruding nail (or cut it off instead) and then recess the remainder with the help of a nail clipper. However, it is probably wiser to just remove it with a crow bar or a hammer.  

2. Split Ends

(i) To the End of a Trim

You can minimise this occurrence by placing the nail accurately. Now, if you have nailed too close to the end of the trim, chances are it might split. It is nothing that most people using a brad nailer don’t come across, given that it is easy to get carried away and put nails in the wrong place. It takes practice and you’ll eventually get the hang of it and have nails driven exactly where you want them to be. 

(ii) To the End of a Moulding

If you have placed a nail too close to a moulding or a baseboard’s end, it might also split. To prevent splitting, keep your nails a couple of inches from the end of baseboards or moldings, unless you are using a brad nailer, where you can nail within half an inch of ends and about 1/8 inches of edges without worrying about splitting the wood. This is because they drive shorter and thinner nails. 

3. Exposed Nail

Too large nails can come out and become exposed. Using the right size of a nail is the solution to this problem. No matter how tempting it might be to use the loaded nails and cross your fingers hoping it will all work out well, changing nail sizes whenever required is a must-do task. Some people like having both a brad nailer and a 15-gauge nailer connected simultaneously to different hoses by installing a T-fitting at the compressor and pick up the one the need for the task they are delivering. Intricate jobs, as previously mentioned, such as pinning, is an easy matter for the brad nailer.  

Safety Precautions

Brad nailers are considered pretty safe tools to use, especially compared to framing nailers and finish nailers, given that the nails are significantly smaller. However, this doesn’t mean injuries cannot occur, which is why you should always:

  • Wear Safety Glasses
  • Wear hearing protection (e.g. ear plugs) 
  • Keep loose clothing away from the surface you are working

Useful Tips:

  • A powered brad nail gun is best for the around-the-house DIY’ers, since you won’t be needing an air compressor to run. 
  • A pneumatic brad nailer is best suited to those with a regular use of the tool, due to its long-term reliability. 

If you wish to hire a brad nailer visit Best at hire, your National tool hire supplier. Next day National delivery available.

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