Air-powered nail guns offer many advantages that the hammer-and-nail approach, no matter how honorable, can’t hope to match.

What Counts:
• Type of fastener
• Maximum and minimum length of fastener
• Ease of clearing nail jams
• Easy-to-use depth adjustment for fasteners
• Exhaust ports that direct air away from user
• Ease of loading fasteners

Pneumatic nailers are not only much faster than doing the work by hand, but nailers also are more accurate and do less damage to delicate molding and trim. Cordless models offer the same advantages without the air hose.

A size for every task
Nailers are made to handle almost every conceivable fastener, from tiny headless pins that leave virtually no trace to powerful framing guns that sink 16d nails as quickly as you can pull the trigger. The versatility and range of sizes has endeared nailers to everyone from roofers and framers to trim carpenters and cabinetmakers.

In a cabinet shop, the most useful nailers include finish nailers, brad nailers, pin nailers and narrow-crown staplers. Finish nailers, the heaviest of the lot, use 15- or 16-gauge nails up to 2-1/2 in. long. Some have angled nail magazines that make it easier to reach into tight spaces. Brad nailers use smaller 18-gauge nails up to 2 in. long. Because the nails are smaller in cross section, they leave a smaller hole that must be filled later and are less likely to split narrow trim and molding, But they also have less resistance to pull-through. Pin nailers use headless pins -- some as small as 23-gauge fasteners 1/2 in. long -- for attaching delicate trim pieces and holding trim in place while glue dries. Staple guns are for use in places where the fastener won’t show, such as attaching cabinet backs.

Beyond the cabinet shop
Framing nailers drive much heavier nails, from 6d to 16d. They are much larger, heavier tools and come in two styles: coil and stick. Coil nailers are more compact and hold four or five times the number of nails that a stick nailer can. Some users find the coil nailers are not as well balanced as stick nailers. Stick nailers use full round-head nails, required by code in some parts of the country, or clipped-head nails that take up a little less room in the magazine. Framing guns also can be set up for two types of firing: bounce firing, where the gun is activated each time the tip is depressed, and sequential firing, where the safety tip must be depressed and the trigger pulled for each fastener.