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Brad or Finish nailer

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  • Brad or Finish nailer

    I'm looking at one of those Porter cable compressor kits. My local store has two types: A finish nailer or a brad nailer. What is the difference between the two? I know what a brad and a finish nail are but when would you use one vs. the other? ie Molding would be finish nails or brads? What about making shelving and fastening the outer box or shelves together? Brad or nail? Crown molding? I'm trying to determine which I would use mor universally

  • #2
    It is kind of hard to say which you would use most often. The finish nailer fills the gap between the brad nailer and a framing nailer.

    A brad nailer would be what you would use the most on smaller projects. Building book cases, shelves, mantels, etc. And smaller trim molding. For larger molding like crown or trimming out doors and windows, a finish nailer comes in handy. A finish nailer can be used for a lot of exterior finish work as well. I have a Porter Cable brad nailer and love it. I plan to get a PC angle finish nailer soon.


    • #3
      Brad nailers are good for cabinet work and a lot of woodworking projects too.


      • #4
        Larliz, why not start with a brad nailer. Once you have a compressor, you can always buy a finish nailer later (using the more is better theory)

        Seriously, think of the projects you have made that required nails. How did you decide which size nail to use?? If most of your projects have been using 2x4's then a brad nailer is not for you.

        I have had a brad nailer for 5 years or so. VERRRRRY useful tool. Norm sure uses his a lot


        • #5
          If in doubt, start with a brad nailer. The PC 200A will shoot 18 ga. brads from 1/2" to 2" (and can be had from HD for $100, if you download a couple of web offerings and take advantage of price matching). With the longer brads, the brad nailer can intrude further into finish nailer country (such as window trim) than can a finish nailer do duty where brads are called for (such as picture frames or small boxes). Ultimately, as the other fellow said, you'll end up with both.

          PC, which generally makes exceptional air tools, has two versions of finish nailer: the 16 guage (straight magazine) and the newer 15 ga. (angle magazine). For some reason, the reviews of the angle nailer haven't been as good as those for other PC nailers. You might want to borrow one for a test ride before shelling out for it.

          One other bit of advice: given that air tools are nearly as habit forming as OxyContin, don't scrimp on your first compressor. 2 SCFM at 90 psig may be OK for a brad nailer, but eventually you'll want more capacity, so buy a big enough one to start.


          • #6
            Thanks for the advice guys. Sounds like the brad nailer is the way I'll start out with.

            RGAD - do you think the pancake compressors that PC makes are underpowered? I dont want a huge one around as I have limited space. What size would you recommend. I wont be doing much framing so I really dont expect to need that much power. (Famous last words right)


            • #7
              Pancakes are for hauling around (even though they are heavy enough). I've used one with a 3-1/2" full head framing nailer, but the poor compressor was running nearly continuously. There are some larger compressors mounted on 12-20 gallon tanks with wheels that are nearly as portable.

              The key value to look for is SCFM (standard cubic feet per minute) at a given pressure (usually 90 psi, which is the upper range for most tools). You can get away with 2 or 2-1/2, but you'll work the compressor to death and may suffer a pressure drop (resulting in half-shot nails). Look for at least 4. Remember that you'll end up owning a lot of air tools, but usually only one compressor.

              Note that a workable size 110V compressor will be right at 15 amps (look how thick the elecrical cord is). Don't count on running it with long extension cords; at best you risk burning out the motor from low voltage. Put the compressor right next to the outlet and use a longer air hose. If you use 3/8"-bore hose and fittings (vs. the 1/4"-bore that is more common), you'll not notice any pressure drop with as much as 100-150 feet of hose. Campbell-Hausfield makes a line of 3/8"bore-1/4" NPT fittings, which HD carries.


              • #8
                do not waist your time with that little compresor.... i have a sears 5hp 20 gal compressor and i use it for my bradnailer a lot and the thing bearly turns on the little compressor will run all the time and will burn a lot of electric at the same time

                plus if u have a bigger compressor u cna use it to spray and for other air tools as well



                • #9
                  The problem with having an undersized compressor that runs too frequently is not that one is wasting electricity. Apart from differences in efficiency of different compressors, the amount of watt-hours it takes to compress a given volume of air at a given pressure should be the same, regardless of whether you do it fast or slow. The problem with too small a commpressor is that these devices are not designed to run continuously; they cannot dissipate that much heat. Rather, they are designed for a "duty cycle," which means so many minutes running, then so many minutes not running (and cooling off), and so forth. This is particularly true for "oil-less" compressors, which use synthetic materials to lube the pistons. Eventually, you'll burn up a too-small copmressor.


                  • #10
                    This is one of those times when bigger is better.


                    • #11
                      OK so I did it wrong, bought the finish nailer first then bought the brad nailer. Follow the advice of the other posts and get the brad nailer first, you won't be sorry. Now for the compressor, buy a cast iron oil type. Check out Harbor Freight Tool. They carry Campbell Hausfield compressors, NEW not reconditioned or rebuilt or damaged etc. CH is a respected name and has been around forever, you can get everything from a small electric to a big gas unit. Many years ago I worked for a company that repaired air tools etc, and after working on a few compressors there is no way you'll ever sell an oil less compressor to this kid. Harbor Freight has a 5 HP 20 gal, 2 cylinder (not 2 stage) unit that can be wired 110 or 220, and it's on sale this month for $299.00. It is rated heavy duty and mine has ran fine for almost 2 years. Had a good work out this summer and kept up with my PC framing nailer no problem.
                      It\'s not the quantity or quality of your tools that matters....<br />It\'s all in the firewood that\'s left over.....


                      • #12
                        I agree that Campbell-Hausfeld makes good stuff, though my experience is that Harbor Freight prices aren't as good as Home Depot, at least most of the time.

                        Don't rely on "horsepower" numbers. No device working on 110V can produce 5 hp. A theoretically 100% efficient electric motor (it doesn't exist in the real world) requires 748 watts per horsepower. Five horsepower would be 3,720 watts, which would be 37 amps. The biggest 110V circuit you can legally (or practically or safely) wire is 20A.

                        Look instead for the "SCFM" number at 90 psig. For most single-tool applications, 4 is sufficient; more is OK (the compressor will run less) but expensive (and you quickly get to the point where you need 220V). For a shop running multiple tools from the same compressor, you want something more like 8-10 SCFM @ 90.

                        220V tools are nice, but the problem is that they are not portable (even if you can lift them), because you're not going to find too many 220V outlets in other people's locations.


                        • #13
                          Picking a nit: "The biggest 110V circuit you can legally (or practically or safely) wire is 20A"

                          Sure you can. One of the standard receptables for a 30a 110v outlet is a NEMA 5-30R, one for a 50a is NEMA 5-50R, a 14-60R is a standard 60 amp 110v outlet. There are others for each capacity. There could be limits on where these are installed, but they are available. Note that none of these receptacles look like the standard plug we're used to seeing, and you'd be looking at some serious wire for them. But, they exist.

                          However, 100% agreement on your commentary regarding the magical hp of compressors. There are several other common tools rated with the same magic.



                          • #14
                            I stand corrected. I guess what I had in mind (but didn't say in so many words was the largest you could wire for an outlet box in a house to plug tools into. Usually 30A or bigger 110V circuits are for power supplies (to boats, RVs, etc) that will have distribution panels with their own circuit protection downstream.


                            • #15
                              Air delivery and recovery are very important, I didn't go there since everyone else has mentioned it. The reason I plugged the 2 cylinder from Harbor Freight is recovery, I have not found this particular compressor availble anywhere else around here. The air delivery is good for anything I'll ever do and maybe then some, and recovery is awesome. Once the tank is full recovery is maybe 1 minute (more like 30 seconds or less) with a 20psi differential set on the regulator. I have not researched the 2 cylinder concept enough to totally understand exactly whats going on, however basically your using 2 cylinders to do the work of one. In theory the compressor won't work as hard, (yes I realize there are more parts). All things considered I figured this unit was a good investment for me. Now for your wiring options, 220 or 110 will not use more or less energy, actually they use the same, however, if wired 220 the motor will run more efficent and cooler, therefore it will have a longer life. With a little ingenuity the motor can be wired for dual voltage, use 220 in the shop/garage, and 110, when out on the job.
                              It\'s not the quantity or quality of your tools that matters....<br />It\'s all in the firewood that\'s left over.....