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Thread: What gauge nailer do I need?

  1. #1

    What gauge nailer do I need?

    Well, Iím making good progress on my fireplace mantel and surround project, but Iím getting closer and closer to the point that I always dread when I build anything, that is, the nailing issue. I hate using a nailset, since no matter how careful I am, I usually miss one or two and wind up banging the wood or being unable to set the nail deep enough.
    Now I have an even bigger problem, since with my mantel project, Iíll be installing many moldings onto it. The smallest molding that Iíll be using is a base molding made of oak. The molding is about 1 3/4 inches tall and about 3/4 inches thick in the "fat" part, but the place where Iíll be nailing (into the recessed area) is only 3/16 inch thick. Iíll be nailing this molding onto a piece of 3/4 inch solid oak.
    Iíve been getting very serious about getting a compressor and nail gun set. Home Depot has a Porter-Cable set with a nice compressor and a 16 gauge finish nailer and an 18 gauge brad nailer. I know that Iíd use the finish nailer on the "big" parts of the project (those where Iíd be nailing 3/4 oak onto 3/4 oak), but itís the molding that Iím worried about, so hereís my question.
    Will the 18 gauge brad nailer be what Iíd need for attaching the molding (at the 3/16 inch point) into the 3/4 inch oak? If anyone says that the 18 gauge brad would be too large and that Iíd need a 23 gauge pin nailer instead, then the Home Depot kit wouldnít help me, since it has no pin nailer included.
    Maybe I should be asking this question also. Is there any rule of thumb that can be used to determine what type fastener (finish nail, brad nail or pin nail) to use in a given situation?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Modesto, CA
    I, personally, would use my 23 gauge pinner to attach 3/16" trim. The 18 "could" be too big and I wouldn't want to chance it.

    However, I'm sure that there are others that are better qualified to answer and they will chime in.
    Mark Rios

    Anything worth taking seriously is worth making fun of.

    "All roads lead to a terrestrial planet finder telescope"

    We arrive at this the unswerving punctuality...of chance.

  3. #3
    louis, the kit you mention is probably going to give you good bang for your buck. the major difference between an 18-23 ga besides the diameter of the shank is that most 18 ga brads have a slight head. this serves to actually help hold the moulding in place. i`ve not looked, but if you`re able to find a kit with an 18 ga and a 15 ga, or just an 18 ga that`ll shoot 2" nails i think you`d be better off. reason being the only benefit i see with a 16 ga over an 18 is an extra 1/2" of nail length. both nails will curl back and bite you, whereas a 15 ga is much less likely to curl and bite you. for furniture/trim type of work an 18 ga and a 1/4 crown stapler would be a good combo too, and i think i`ve seen these? in otherwords if you`re able to get the 18 ga and anything but a 16 ga you should be well served......02 tod

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Greenville, South Carolina

    Brad or pin

    Well, Louis, you don't mention if you are also using any glue, and that could make a difference. But let's assume not. Then my general rule of thumb on finish work is use the smallest possible fastener that will hold the weight. Because the smaller the holes, the better the finished look.

    If it were me, on 3/16" thick, I would probably be using a pin nailer. You might need more of them, but they are almost invisible. Another criterion is--will the brad split the wood? But the brads might do okay. The pros can give you a better idea than I can, I suppose, but I am one to always test a piece of scrap with the different ones before I decide.

    As far as what to buy, I got the PC pancake compressor and the finish nailer and brad nailer first, but it wasn't 30 days before I had a pin nailer and a stapler. You will be amazed at how often you will use each one. Tell your LOL that it is justified because you are saving so much money on the mantel by doing it yourself--so the tools are practically free

    I measure three times and still mess it up.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Columbia, SC

    I don't know of a "rule of thumb" that would help you - others may know of one. I have used an 18 Ga brad nailer for a long time and it has handled all of my needs until just recently. My work is general furniture building - not much carpentry or heavier type construction that would require a finish nailer. My current project calls for nailing into the edge of some 1/4" BB plywood. I got some blowout with my 18 Ga brad nailer, so I purchased a 23 Ga pinner for the job. I think I will use it for some of the light tasks I've used the 18 Ga gun for in the past, but the 18 Ga. brads have always worked fine for me. As others have mentioned, the 18 Ga brads have a small head while the 23 Ga pins are straight with no head. I think the head helps snug down the work and hold it in place while the glue dries. I really haven't used the 23 Ga pinner enough to know whether this is a concern, it's just my opinion with no experinece to base it on. The 18 Ga brads do, however leave a larger hole than the pins, so I guess it depends somewhat on what you want to accomplish.

    It sounds like you would be happy with an 18 Ga. brad nailer for your molding project. I really think the 23 Ga pinner would be too light for your application, and you would probably get more use out of the 18 Ga gun over the long run than you would from the 23 Ga pinner unless you do a lot of delicate work.

    My $.02.


  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Odessa, Texas
    Someone in the last few days advertised a PC pancake compressor, a 15 ga finish nailer, an 18 ga brad nailer, AND a narrow crown stapler for $299.99 (this is the same combo PC offered everywhere last year), but you don't have to wait for PC to send you the crown stapler with this deal. I think it may have been HD, but maybe othersare offering it too. This would give you a good setup, and you could buy a Pin Nailer separately and really be fixed up for most anything you would need. ('Course you can always later add a round head framing nailer, an upholstery nailer, a roofing gun, etc. just so's you have ALL bases covered).
    "Some Mistakes provide Too many Learning Opportunities to Make only Once".

  7. #7

    My nickle, Pc maks some fine nail guns.
    I have the 23, 18, 16, and angled finish.
    I do not use their 23 anymore, I bought the Grex which
    fires up to a 1 3/8 pin. I use this gun more then all of the PC's.
    The 18 guage is suitable for just about everything else.
    But I use my pasload 18 more because of its ergonomics,
    I shoot my crowns with with the 16 and hang doors with the 15.
    I would never buy a kit.
    I do not like pancake compressors, (I have one) they are noisy
    and under powered. I do not like the stock hoses. You want a hose like this,

    They weigh nothing and are a joy to control.

    If tragedy struck and I had to retool, I would buy separately,
    Grex 23 guage pinner, paslode 18 g, small dual tank oilfilled compressor,
    the hose.

    I hope this helps.

    "all men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night....wake in the day to find that it was vanity; but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, to make it possible."
    T.E. Lawrence

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Blog Entries
    I'm the odd-ball. I have a 16 for heavy stuff and a 21 pinner. the pinner has a little more strength than the usual 23 but of course leaves a slightly larger hole. 21 or 23 hiding in the cleft of moulding will be pretty invisible.
    "Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups." - George Carlin

  9. #9
    I use my 23 gauge to hold light mouldings until the glue dries. The holes are so small that I normally don't even have to fill the holes, but the "pins" are so thin that they barely have enough strength to hold a light moulding in position until the glue dries. That said, I use a half dozen pins on practically every project. I use it often, but not much.

    The 18 gauge brad nailer makes holes that have to be filled, but the "brad" is strong enough to hold some things without glue... for example, it is great attaching shoe moulding and other fine wood, but I bet it would split the 3/16 inch.

    I skipped 16 gauge and have a 15 gauge finish nailer. I use it for home repair, not furniture building (and consider a mantle furniture).

    I would consider building your mantle in the shop, using glue and clamps, and only nailing if the clamps don't work. Leave a slot in the back for a board that can be bolted to the fireplace. To install the mantle slide it over the board and drop a couple small screws through the mantle into the support board... typically down direction through the top of the mantle. Most of the support is from resting on the board, so these screws just keep it from sliding off the board.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Charlotte, NC
    FWIW I bought the 3-gun kit and took it back as soon as I tried it out. The kits tend to include lower end models of each size nailer. I prefer getting a little better quality gun or at least one with a wider capacity of nail lengths. Almost all my trim work is handled with an 18 ga brad from Bostich which can shoot up to 2". If I only had one small nailer it would be this gun.

    I strongly endorse Per's comments about oil filled twin tanks And the Pur hose.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Rockville, MD

    I'm with Per Swenson

    The only difference is I don't own a 23 guage pinner so I can't speak from experience there, but on rare occasions have thought it would have been a good one to have at the time. But have the same comments he made on all other factors, even the DeWalt dual cannister Emglo portable air compressor (althougth mine is a bit heavy to lug around). I have a 20gal main shop compressor which isn't very portable. I don't have the polyester line, but the short coiled (junk) line that comes with some air compressors should be replaced at your earliest convenience. To me, the bottom line in guns is each has it's place and if you do enough variety of work, in time you will end up with a number of them as I have, because no one can do all the jobs quite as nicely as the one designed specifically for just that type of work your doing at that time.

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