Much of what’s new in nail guns and staplers has to do with the cordless revolution, where batteries have replaced air hoses. That’s a boon for jobsite work, but there’s still a lot happening with pneumatic guns too, and those are still very popular on the shop floor. Quite often, the same companies are producing state-of-the-art tools in both formats.
The GCP650 from California-based Grex Power Tools (grexusa.com) fits that jobsite profile. Billed as ‘the first and only’ cordless 2”, 23-gauge pinner on the market, this is a gun that drives the finest (as in thinnest) pin nail possible. Its light weight and hose-free compact body makes it a lot easier to be very accurate, which is usually a requirement when pinning fine moldings and the like.
Another cordless gun from Grex, the GC1850, came out a couple of years ago and was designed to be the most compact and lightweight 18-gauge nailer available. It can sink 2” nails in solid hardwoods. This hybrid is gas powered, and its spark comes from a couple of standard AAA batteries. The trigger feels as responsive and fast as a pneumatic nailer, but keep in mind that the gun might need to be oiled right off the shelf, for best performance. It operates at high altitudes and in cold weather, and the fuel cartridges are low cost, with minimal odor and no expiration dates. There’s a simple power adjustment knob for different wood density or nail length, and the driver tip is tapered to create the smallest mark possible. It has auto trigger lockout, a Posit-Lock nose to prevent jams, a fastener supply window and more.
Cincinnati-based Senco Co. (senco.com) has roots that stretch all the way back to 1935. In August of 2017, it was acquired by the Japanese manufacturer Kyocera Corp. Senco offers three cordless Fusion nailers – the F-15, a 2-1/2” angled finish nailer; the F-16S (no angle); and the F-18, a 2-1/8” brad nailer. They run on an 18-volt system, and the F-18 is an especially handy tool that drives both slight and medium-headed brads. It was built with trim crews and remodelers in mind. Senco also caters to shop and workbench needs with a huge array of pneumatic guns – everything from the PC1195 mini hand nailer (it literally fits in the palm of your hand and drives nails up to 3-1/2” long) to complete families of pinners, finish and framing guns, brad nailers and specialty tools for applications such as flooring, insulation and roofing. Among the pin guns is the FinishPro 23SXP, an industrial strength headless pin nailer that’s useful for intricate finish and trim work.
The catalog from Milwaukee Tool (milwaukeetool.com) includes 11 nail guns and staplers, seven of which use 18-volt batteries. There’s a 3/8” crown stapler and a cordless palm nailer that both run on 12-volt power packs, and a couple of roofing and framing guns that use pneumatic power. The newly released 2746-20 is an 18-gauge brad nailer powered by the company’s M18 Fuel battery. Milwaukee is also about to introduce a couple of cordless framing guns where the operator can switch out the stock magazines for extended capacity ones that will accept two full strips of nails. They’ll be available in both 21- and 30-degree options.
Paslode (paslode.com) is a division of Illinois Tool Works that has been in business for more than 80 years. The company pioneered fuel powered cordless tool technology (gas cylinders), and one of its more recent additions is an 18-gauge cordless brad nailer, the IM200Li.2. The tool is lighter (just 4.25 lbs.) and more compact than its predecessors, a feat achieved in part by going with a smaller magazine. The new footprint and one-strip magazine deliver better access in tight spaces, and they also improve visibility and decrease the chances of damaging the wood.
The Stanley family
Founded before the Civil War, Stanley Black & Decker (stanleytools.com) was once known as The Stanley Works. Among its brands are such familiar names as Bostitch (bostitch.com), DeWalt (dewalt.com) and Porter-Cable (portercable.com). In January 2017, the company acquired the Craftsman brand from Sears.
The revitalized Craftsman division (craftsman.com) has recently released a new three-tool combination kit (item CMEC3KIT-CA) that is ready to use right out of the box. This is a good option for small shops and installers who don’t want to break their budget. It comes with a six-gallon air compressor, an 18-gauge brad nailer that drives nails from 5/8” to 2” in length, and a 16-gauge straight finish gun that handles nails from 1” to 2-1/2” long. Also included is a 3/8” stapler and an air hose.
Bostitch makes more than 2,000 different fasteners, so it’s no surprise that the company also offers a good choice of tools. There are 16 finish and brad nail guns, four of which feature Smart Point technology that includes smaller noses that eliminate the need to compress the contact trip to actuate the tool. This reduces work surface damage, and the risk of pushing the material out of position. The company also offers four pneumatic oil-free or oil-powered 18-gauge finish and trim staplers. Among these is the SB-2IN1, which drives both 18-gauge brads and narrow crown finish staples. This tool has another popular feature found on lots of the newer pneumatic tools – an adjustable exhaust that conveniently directs air away from the user.
Porter-Cable’s catalog includes several 20-volt cordless tools and half a dozen pneumatic options. The company’s new, sleek looking PCC792B cordless 16-gauge nail gun accepts fasteners from 1” to 2-1/2” long, and it has a 100-nail magazine capacity. It also showcases a couple of aspects of newer guns to be found industry-wide such as tool-free settings, dual LEDs, light weight and a well-designed center of gravity.
DeWalt’s 20-volt Max batteries include 2.0, 3.0, 5.0 and 6.0 Ah (Amp hour) versions that are designed to give varying reserves of power and present a range of physical sizes. That’s because sometimes one needs a smaller, lighter tool and at other times raw power is the answer. Cost is also a factor. Using the latest in Lithium Ion technology, most of the batteries have an LED fuel gauge system that lets a woodworker instantly check the state of charge. Among the newer guns from DeWalt is the DCN662B, a 16-gauge cordless straight finish nailer that drives nails from 1-1/4” to 2-1/2”.
Among the latest offerings from Max USA (maxusacorp.com) is an 18-gauge brad nailer, the SuperFinisher (NF255SF2/18), that has a couple of new tweaks including a patented button that can send a quick blast of air to clear dust and debris from the work surface. It also has that very precise nose for guiding nails to an exact area on the work, and a flat top design that allows nails to be fired as close as 1/8” to a vertical wall. And there’s simple dial-up depth adjustment that lets the woodworker drive nails into either hard or soft materials without leaving large craters (or protruding heads). Plastic guards stop the tool’s metal parts from touching and damaging finished surfaces. It also has built-in dry firing protection that prohibits repetitive auto-firing when seven nails remain in the magazine. Without this, the hammer would make a dent without driving a nail.
Metabo HPT (metabo-hpt.com) offers North American woodshops a massive range of products (in the neighborhood of a hundred tools) in its nail and staple gun catalog. These include both cordless and pneumatic options. Several are powered by a gas fuel rod combined with a Lithium Ion battery, and this means that there isn’t much downtime on the job. The fuel rods can be replaced immediately upon depletion, instead of waiting for a compressor cycle or recharging a large battery.
Ryobi (ryobitools.com) is one of the brands owned by Techtronic Industries (that also include Milwaukee, AEG and Homelite, among others). One of the latest tools to join Ryobi’s One+ stable is the P317, a 3/8” crown stapler. This gun handles staples from 1/4” to 9/16” and is also compatible with Arrow’s T50 staples. There’s an onboard attachment that will guide staples when working with window screens and a belt clip.
Makita (makitatools.com) has introduced a new 21-degree, full round head nailer (AN924), a pneumatic gun that drives plastic collated framing nails from 2” to 3-1/2” in length, and 0.113 to 0.148 in diameter. It has many of the features an installer would want such as a two-mode selector switch (bump, sequential); lightweight design (only 8.3 lbs.); a heat-treated S7 steel driver blade; a solid aluminum top-loading magazine; and a nail lock-out mechanism that protects the tool and work surface from dry-fires. There’s also a tool-less depth adjustment for flush or countersink nailing.
Cadex Tools (cadextools.com/en) offers five 23-gauge, three 21-gauge, an 18-gauge and a soon to be introduced 16-gauge nail guns, all of which are pneumatic. Also powered by compressed air is a cabinetry stapler called the V3/90.40. It shoots 90 Series or Senco Type L staples, an all-metal body, a built-in air blow gun, adjustable depth control, a long two-strip magazine and a 45-degree plastic tip for angle nailing on floors and siding.
Ridgid (ridgid.com), part of Emerson Electric Co., offers a 15-gauge angled nailer and a 16-gauge straight gun, plus an 18-gauge brad nailer and finish stapler. All of these are pneumatic. The company’s HyperDrive cordless category includes a 2-1/8” brad nailer and 2-1/2” straight finish nailer.
Campbell Hausfeld (campbellhausfeld.com) has several pneumatic brad nailers and a 1/4” crown stapler sold in a kit (CHN10399AV).
Other manufacturers’ catalogs worth exploring are Apach (apach-tools.com), Arrow (arrowfastener.com), California Air Tools (californiaairtools.com), Duo-Fast (duofast.com), Freeman (freemantools.com), Grizzly (grizzly.com), Master Air Tool (masterpalm.com), Prona (pronatools.com), Speedaire (a Grainger product, online at grainger.com), Stinger (stingerworld.com) and WEN (wenproducts.com).
For shops setting up jobs on a CNC, Senco and Raptor Nails & Staples (raptornails.com) offer plastic nails that can be used to secure parts for milling. These composite staples, nails, and specialty fasteners can be cut and sanded without damaging router bits, saw blades and sanding belts. If a CNC cutter accidentally hits one, it won’t do any damage to the carbide. Senco makes guns for its nails, while Raptor sells several Omer guns.
A woodshop looking to upgrade its nail, pin and staple gun arsenal may want to think about the way each tool will be used. Cordless guns and staplers are incredibly handy on the jobsite, and perfect for woodworkers who build one-of-a-kind custom furniture where power nailing is an occasional task. Shops building lots of cabinets might be better served by choosing pneumatic tools that deliver all day and have far more power available than they’ll ever need.
When shopping for a cordless gun, the battery voltage (12, 14, 18 or 20) seems to be taking a back seat to the Amp hour rating. While voltage measures the strength of the current, the Ah number measures the amount or volume of juice available.
LED lights are becoming much more widely available, and these miniature spotlights that illuminate the work right at the nose of the gun can really help a woodworker produce cleaner, better nailing jobs. And those new, thinner noses also open up possibilities for better results – an operator can actually see exactly where the nail will go, rather than making an educated guess based on experience.
This article originally appeared in the December 2019 issue.