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How To Choose A Nail-gun

by The Handyguys

in Audio Podcasts


Porter Cable Combo KitThe Handyguys discuss what nailer you use when. A pneumatic nailer takes much of the work or of driving nails and saves you time. With one pull of the trigger the nail is set flush or below the surface of the work. Nailers allow for one handed operation which frees up your other hand for positioning the work. A nailer can also get into tight or awkward locations where it would be virtually impossible to swing a hammer. There are nailers for interior trim, crown molding, chair rail, craft projects, woodworking, framing, building a deck or roofing. There are many many specialty nailers designed for specific jobs.

In this show we address a few questions about nailers from one of our fans Eddie. Eddie wrote us and asked.

I am doing a complete kitchen remodel as you may remember. To help me in this I got a set of 4 Campbell Hausfeld nail guns from Lowe’s. Now my dad owned nail guns and I saw him use them. But I was never allowed to use them very much and don’t know much about them. ( I know they are dangerous and that you have to oil them, usually with an oiler place in line on the air hose)

I need a resource for learning about these machines and the finer points of using them. What kind of maintenance etc. what kind of nails they are capable of using ( are there just one or two sizes per gun?) When do I choose which gun? I have some common sense but don’t have enough experience or education to know what question to ask.

This is quite a question! Eddie, we have dedicated this entire show to your questions. You asked the right questions.

EDIT – We created this video November 2012 called Selecting a┬áPneumatic┬áNailer, Watch it here

First a run down of the most common nailguns

18g Brad nailer

Brad Nailer

  • Used for small trim, interior molding, baseboards, paneling, crafts and come cabinetry.
  • Different models support different lengths of nails between 5/8″ and 2″ in length.
  • Brad Nailers for sale on Amazon
16g finish nailer
16g finish nailer
  • Use for trim work, interior molding, baseboards, paneling and smaller crowns.
  • These can shoot nails up to 2 1/2″ in length. Although they can shoot a longer nail than an 18g nailer they also leave a bigger hole.
  • 16ga Finish Nailers for sale at Amazon
15g angled finish nailer

15g Angled Finish Nailer

  • Use for trim work, moldings, baseboards, crown molding.
  • The 15g angled finish nailer shoot a larger nail up to 2 1/2″ or more on some models. The nail has the greatest holding power of all the finish nailers but also leaves the largest hole to fill.
  • 15g angled finish nailers at Amazon
Framing Nailer

framing nailer

  • use for framing, sheathing, wood siding, fence building, carpentry.
  • The nails come in two varieties. Clipped head and round head. The clipped head nailers can hold more nails but are not allowed in all jurisdictions. Round head nailers hold fewer nails but are not restricted by some building codes. Often the manufacture will build a larger magazine to accommodate the round head nails and not sacrifice on capacity but the gun may be a little larger.
  • Framing Nailers at Amazon
Narrow Crown Stapler


  • Use for furniture, cabinet assembly, some carpentry, floor underlayment, upholstery and crafts.
  • The staples are usually between 5/8″ up to 1 1/2″ on some models.
  • Narrow Crown Staplers on Amazon
Pin Nailer

Pin Nailer

  • use for furniture building, small moldings and holding pieces while the glue dries.
  • The pins can go up to 2″ or more in length but the nailers that support the very Long lengths are very expensive. A typical pin nailer supports nails up to 1 1/2″ in length.
  • Pinners on Amazon
Roofing Nailer

Roofing Nailer


Most pneumatic nail guns need to be oiled. You mention an in-line oiler. This option probably didn’t come with your kit. They can be added to facilitate automatic oiling of your tools. The disadvantage is you will have oil in your hose which is really bad if you are going to use the compressor for spraying paint. Most people will usually just add a few drips of tool oil in the air inlet before using the tool.


Be sure to read an follow all the instructions that came with your kit. Safety glasses are a must.


Paul had a really random tip to wrap up the show. Door stoppers, get the spring loaded ones, not the solid ones. You have to listen to the show to understand why.

Note – Haiti Earthquake Disaster Response

If you are considering supporting relief efforts in the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti please consider making a donation to an organization that both Handyguy Brian and Paul have personally worked with. The Presbyterian Church of America’s mission to North America disaster response team. Click this link to support their efforts in this time of need.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Carl Green April 26, 2013 at 9:31 pm

Yes, this compressor is operating correctly. Some compressors operate with
automatic stop/start controls, which shut the compressor off when the proper pressure is reached.
Other compressors have constant speed controls which uses a pneumatic (air) control line connected to a device
which will hold the intake valves open to prevent
more air pressure from building up once the desired pressure
has been reached. This type of compressor will run in an
“idle” mode when it has reached the proper pressure, and it will go back to normal compression
mode when the pressure drops. Also, some larger compressors have the ability to bleed
off the pressure from the top of the cylinder upon shutting down, so that the compressor motor will not have
to start up under a large load. Unless you are simply talking about a loose fitting,
there does not seem to be a problem with your machine.


Ron October 8, 2013 at 1:33 am

Thanks guys
I am a real newbie at this. I have a fence around our half acre property that needs to be renailed and repainted, and we have an underground sprinkling system that needs to blown out each year so it made sense to buy a 30 gallon compressor to do all three jobs. Your rundown on the types of nailers convinces me that a 15 gauge angle nailer is what I need for the fence.


The Handyguys October 8, 2013 at 8:32 am

I actually like framing nailers for most fence projects. I use galvanized ring shank nails. You will see the heads of the nails though.


John Wilkins June 4, 2014 at 2:32 pm

Not sure if you updated your video but the part about the door stop (spring loaded vs solid) wasn’t included. Coincidentally I do use the spring variety. I’m just curious why you prefer these.
Thank you! Loved the show regarding air tools. You answered a lot of my questions.


John Wilkins June 4, 2014 at 2:41 pm

One other thing: While shopping for compressors, nail guns and whatnot, I noticed that a variety of manufacturers also produce and sell nails for their guns. Am I as the end consumer required to purchase the brand name nails for the corresponding nail gun I buy, or can I just purchase what I need dictated by type and length of nail regardless of who manufactures the nail?


The Handyguys June 6, 2014 at 10:55 am

You can purchase any brand of nail as long as it is the required size/length/angle/etc. Your owners manual will tell you the variety of nails that will fit your nail gun.


Jason mcgoldrick March 3, 2015 at 11:39 am

I got a lot of info from the podcast. I’m a new homeowner I have to replace my banister rail on my steps what would be the best nailer to use


The Handyguys March 4, 2015 at 10:53 am

I’m assuming this is inside, not a deck.
Usually handrails are held together with screws that are hidden.

The balusters or bannisters are usually set into recessed mortises in the stair tread and handrails and held with glue. Sometimes a very small nail is used to hold things while the glue dries but the primary strength comes from the mortise and tenon joint and the glue. That small nail is at most an 18g nail and more recently a pin nail.

Building handrails with ballusters is a very specialized skill and is usually reserved for the most experienced master carpenters. If I misunderstood what you are trying to do please let me know.


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