Brad Nailer VS Finish Nailer
A brad nailer is a type of nail gun used to fasten thin and delicate workpieces, such as trims, crown molding, paneling, picture and mirror frames, or baseboard shoe molding.
Brad nailers look a lot like finish nailers, but there are some subtle differences between these two nail guns. Finish nailers are a little larger than brad nailers. Finish nailers use slightly thicker 15 and 16-gauge nails, while brad nailers use finer 18-gauge nails or brads (we’ve also covered 23-gauge micro pin nailers here if you’re interested in comparing these smaller nailers).
Slender 18-gauge brads are ideal for paneling or attaching wood trim. Because they are finer, they will not split or destroy the delicate trims and moldings you are working on.
Brads can sink flush to the surface of the workpiece, resulting in a cleaner finish. The head of 15 and 16-gauge nails discharged by finish nailers, on the other hand, will still be visible on the surface of the workpiece.
Brads are available in different lengths, ranging from 5/8″ up to as long as 2″.
Brad Nailer Buying Guide
18-gauge brad nailers are either powered by air compressors or batteries. (Note that this review is dedicated to battery-powered brad nailers).
Air-powered brad nailers are easy to use — just hook the compressor’s hose up to the nailer and you’re good to go. They are also lighter and cheaper than their battery-powered counterparts. The downside is that your mobility is limited when you use air-powered tools as you are always tethered to the compressor.
It makes sense to buy an air-powered brad nailer if you already have an air compressor. But if you don’t own one, then it’s best to purchase a cordless electric brad nailer instead. Battery-powered brad nailers are more mobile than air-powered ones. You can use them just about anywhere, from remote locations during home addition projects to basements where it can be difficult to lug an air compressor around.
Cordless electric brad nailers, however, are sometimes heavier than pneumatic nailers. You also have to stop and recharge the battery if you’re running low on juice and you don’t have a spare battery with you.
The majority of brad nailers have a depth control adjustment dial located at the side of the tool or near the trigger. This allows you to choose whether to sink the brad flush with the surface or drive it (for some reason) slightly shallower into the workpiece.
The depth control adjustment dial is sometimes supplemented with a depth adjustment window. This window lets you know if you have set the nailer to the right depth or if the tip of the brad is going to protrude from the wood.
Trigger Actuation Modes
Brad nailers have two types of trigger actuation modes: sequential and contact firing.
With sequential firing, you have to press the nose or safety tip of the nail gun against the surface, then press the trigger to fire the brad into the workpiece. Repeat the sequence to drive another nail into the wood. Although slower, sequential firing is preferred by most builders as this mode is safer and more precise than contact or bump firing.
Contractors and woodworkers who value speed can choose to use contact or bump firing. With contact firing, all you have to do is pull the trigger and press the nailer’s nose or safety tip against a surface to discharge the brad. But keep in mind that it is easier to misfire and cause injuries in the workplace using contact firing because all you have to do to discharge a brad is press the safety tip against a surface.
Some brad nailers are designed to offer both sequential and bump firing. Just press a button or switch, and you can automatically switch from one mode to another and vice versa.
Check out our favorite nail gun safety video to know why sequential firing is safer than contact firing.
Other Useful Features
Other useful brad nailer features that you should look into include LED lights, low battery indicator, and jam indicator. A good brad nailer should also have a stall release lever, tool-less jam clearance, and belt hook.
Factor in the tool’s weight when choosing the right brad nailer. The lightest brad nailers weigh around 4 lbs, while the heaviest can weigh as much as 8 lbs. Attach the unit’s lithium-ion battery, and it’s going to add another 1 to 3 pounds to the overall weight. The combined weight of the nailer and the battery will definitely take its toll on your arms especially if you’re going to use it all day.