Amongst the most commonly used power tools, many newcomers get confused by the differences between brad nailers and finish nailers. So what are their differences and which one is the better one?
The main difference between the two is what size of nail they use. There is no better one as they are both useful in different circumstances.
Here, we will talk about the brad nailer Vs finish nailer debate in depth. In turn, we will examine the pros and cons of each nailer and compare the two.
Table of Contents
First, we’ll look at the brad nailer. The brad nailer is similar in appearance to a nail gun, with the primary difference being that it shoots much thinner nails than a regular nail gun. These thinner nails are dubbed as ‘brads,’ which is where the name brad nailer comes from.
Brads or brad nails are usually measured at 18 gauge, and they have a very small cross-section, usually around 0.05 inches. You may wonder why would one even use such a small-sized nail?
There are times when nailing thinner pieces of wood or material where the material is thin enough that a regular size nail can end up breaking it.
To avoid such mishaps, you will need to use thinner nails. That is where brad nailers come in. Another reason to use brad nailers is if you want to avoid using putty to clean up a mess.
Stronger and thicker nails can leave behind splinters and bruises on the wood. To cover these up, many people make use of putty so that it is easier to apply paint or varnish to the product.
However, this can be time-consuming, and the use of a brad nailer can help eliminate the need for this step. So you can go straight to applying a finishing coating.
Since they make use of smaller nails, brad nailers are also generally much smaller. Although this makes them easier to carry around for use and portable, this limits the capacity they can have. So brad nailers aren’t suited for long operations as you will need to change out the magazines much more often.
Pros of A Brad Nailer
Since we’ve given an overview of the brad nailer, let’s look at the advantages of using it.
No Breaking Or Splintering
The main feature of a brad nailer is that there is no issue of breaking or splintering. Since the nails are thin, they do not break apart material. So your wood will have fewer dents or scars, and this will mean less clean-up after using a brad nailer.
No Need For Putty
Since brad nailers do not leave holes or scratches on the surface, there is no need to use putty to fill in the holes. This saves time and improves workflow as you can go to the next step and provide finishing touches to your material.
Usable For Smaller Materials
Using a normal nailer for nailing plywood can result in the plywood breaking apart. Brad nailers can work with plywood without destroying it, which allows them to be usable for nailing baseboards.
Cons Of A Brad Nailer
A brad nailer is not without its flaws. These include:
Lack Of Penetrating Power
Due to the smaller size of nails used, brad nailers don’t pack a lot of penetrating power. As a result, there may be situations where the nail doesn’t properly go through the piece of wood. Hammering the brad nail won’t improve the situation and will cause dents in the wood.
If the material is too strong, brad nailers won’t be able to penetrate it.
Brad nailers don’t feature a high capacity for storing brad nails. As a result, it can be easy to run out of them while you’re working. Using a nailer when your magazine is empty can damage the nailer, so be careful of that.
Now, we come to finish nailers. Finish nailers are often considered the middle option between nail guns and brad nailers.
They use 15 to 16 gauge nails which are thicker than the nails used in the brad nailer but not as thick as the ones in a nail gun. Hence, the finish nailer strikes a balance and is usually the most versatile option.
The 15 to 16 gauge nail size is a common nail size and sees a lot of use in woodworking and building furniture. It possesses greater penetration power than brad nails and so can be used for stronger or larger materials.
This also has the problem where the nail is powerful enough to leave dents or holes in the wood, so you will need to fill in the holes with putty.
Since the nails are stronger, they can fasten or hold larger wood pieces much more easily. Often a brad nail isn’t powerful to hold heavier pieces which will necessitate the use of a finish nailer. For heavier or thicker trims, you need to fasten and minimize holes or dents and the finish nailer is incredibly useful here.
Pros Of A Finish Nailer
Let’s look at the advantages of using a finish nailer.
Offers Greater Holding Strength
15 or 16 gauge nails are much stronger and can hold heavier materials or objects that a brad nail cant’. They also provide greater security when they are used to attach parts for a piece of furniture which is preferable.
Offers A Great Balance
Finish nailers are very versatile due to being the middle option between brad nailers and nail guns. They have better penetration power but also don’t damage the wood as much as a normal nail gun. As such, you can use them for many tasks and get decent results.
Can Be Used In Tight Corners
15 gauge finish nailers can be used in tight corners if they have an angled design. Brad nailers often cannot be used in tight spaces or corners, thus limiting their use.
Cons Of A Finish Nailer
However, a finished nailer does have some problems you need to look out for when using it. They are:
Leaving Holes Or Dents
Although the thicker nails possess greater penetration power, they are also prone to leaving dents or holes on the wood. You need to cover them up with putty, which takes time, and a poor job can result in an uneven surface that will be difficult to apply a finish coating to.
Can Break Apart Weaker Material
If you are using a finish nailer on weaker material, it can break it apart. This can be very dangerous, so watch out.
Comparison Between Brad Nailer And Finish Nailer
Since we’ve covered the two nailers, in turn, we will now compare them.
In terms of power, a finish nailer is far more powerful than a brad nailer. It can penetrate much thicker wood pieces in one go than a brad nailer can’t. They also have much greater holding or fastening power.
Brad nailers use much smaller nails rated at 18 gauge with a cross-sectional size of 0.05 inches. Finish nailers use bigger nails rated at either 15 or 16 gauge with cross-sectional sizes of 0.07 and 0.06 inches, respectively.
Finish nailers are considered the more versatile one of the two. They can be used for many different tasks since they work on many different wood types. Brad nailers are more specialized and are generally seen as less versatile.
Leaving Dents Or Holes
Brad nailers barely leave any dents or holes on the wood they are used on. So when using it, you don’t have to worry about cleaning up dust or filling the holes as the material will be relatively unharmed.
This is not the case for a finish nailer, as it will almost always leave dents on the wood, which you will need to fill up with putty.
When To Use Which Nailer?
The deciding factor for which nailer you will use is primarily what type of wood you’re working with. Thicker wood will require a finish nailer as a brad nailer won’t be able to hold it properly in place. For thinner wood, you will need a brad nailer as thicker nails might end up breaking the piece of wood apart.
We hope that this article has proven informative regarding the brad nailer vs finish nailer debate. While overall, a finish nailer sees more use due to being more versatile, a professional woodworker will have both of them in hand.