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Best Finish Nailer

Most finish carpenters work with two types of nailers, finish nailers and brad nailers. If you look at the door casing in your home, you’ll see there’s a row of nails close to the edge of the trim, by the door opening; these are done by a brad nailer. Then there’s another row of nails farther back and these have been done by a finish nailer. If you look closely, you’ll see the finish nailer made larger holes than the brad nailer did.

The longer finish nail is intended to go through the trim, drywall and well into the framing of the home. In contrast, the brads used on the edge of the door casing only have to go through the lip of the casing and directly into the door frame. Thus, the nails don’t need to be anywhere near as long nor do they have to structurally hold the trim since the finish nails going into the framing accomplish that.

For more information about how to select a good finish nailer, check out our buyer's guide listed below.

Hitachi 2-1/2 In. 15 Gauge Finish Nailer (Angled Finish Nails 1-1/4 - 2-1/2 In) Nt65ma4

Hitachi always seems to put a little more into their tools and sell them for a little less. This angled finish nailer has a nice set of features including an integrated air duster for clearing debris away from the spot you need to work in. It also has a selective fire trigger, allowing you to switch between bump fire and sequential fire at the flip of a switch; most others require a trigger change to accomplish the same thing. The nose has a flip latch for easy jam cleaning while depth adjustment is tool-free along with a 360 degree adjustable exhaust. The only thing that they didn’t do on this nailer is make it oil-free; oh well, maybe the next model.

BOSTITCH BTFP72156 Smart Point Angle Finish Nailer

Bostitch's updated angled finish nailer has added some nice features that aren't commonly found on the competition's guns. This is another oil-free design, which when coupled with the rear air exhaust, helps to eliminate oil stains on the woodwork. It has an integrated air blower, to clear dust away from the targeted part of the wood. What really sets it apart is the new nose design, which is much smaller than other nailers, making it much easier to get accurate shot placement. Depth control is dialed in with a tool-free adjustment and the trigger is selectable for bump-fire or sequential mode, without changing triggers. Finally, it has a 16" on-center gauge for spacing your nails, without having to use a tape measure. This is a great tool all around.

Senco FinishPro 42XP 15 Gauge 1 1/4-Inch to 2 1/2-Inch Finish Nailer

Senco is an old hand in the world of pneumatic nailers. As such, you can count on their tools for quality, consistency and very few problems. This angled finish nailer is made with a magnesium housing for lower weight and high strength as well as being lube-free which is a great boon for finish nailers since oil splatters can ruin the finish on wood molding.

The nosepiece is designed with an easy open latch for jam removal and the depth of drive is a standard thumbwheel adjustment. A nice little detail they’ve added is outboard no-mar pads to protect your work when you set it down. Finally, this unit comes with a belt hook and a 360 degree adjustable exhaust.

Porter Cable DA250C Angled Finish Nailer

Porter Cable has included two really excellent things on this air nailer. First of all, it’s oil-free, so you don’t have to worry about oil droplets staining the woodwork and ruining the finish. Secondly, they’ve put a piston catch in the motor which ensures consistent maximum power on each and every shot. The depth of drive adjustment is tool-free, with detents for proper depth settings, taking out some of the guesswork. Like the other selections, the nosepiece comes open with the flip of a lever so jams can be removed quickly and easily.

DeWalt D51276K Angled Finish Nailer

This is the only finish nailer I’ve seen that features “dual lube.” What that means is you can choose whether you lube the motor or not and it’ll work either way. Some people don’t trust the lube-free ones, as they feel that they tend to wear out more quickly. Well, with this nailer you can lube it when you feel like it. It comes with all the features you expect such as a tool-free depth adjustment, an easy open nosepiece for jam clearing, a belt hook, and a 360 degree adjustable exhaust. Shipped from the factory, it has a sequential action trigger while the bump mode trigger is an accessory.

Senco FN65DA 15 Gauge Fusion Finish Nailer

Senco has come up with a truly amazing and innovative nailer. This is the first cordless nailer that does not require a gas cartridge to provide the necessary pressure to drive the nails. Instead, non-reactive nitrogen gas is contained within a pressurized sealed chamber in the tool. When the trigger is pulled, the control circuitry allows compressed gas to drive the nail forward, but the gas doesn’t escape from the tool. Instead a small gear motor and cog pushes the piston back into battery, compressing the gas back into its storage chamber at the same time. 

This innovative design totally eliminates my biggest complaint about cordless nailers, that of having to constantly buy gas cartridges for them. I’m a notorious cheapskate and hate spending that extra few bucks if I can avoid it. 

The rest of the tool is as well designed as the drive system with Senco claiming you can drive 600 nails on one battery charge. With the fast recharge Ni-ion battery, you can work all day, letting the battery recharge on your coffee break. A selector switch offers bump mode (fires when you hit the workpiece with the nose of the tool) or sequential fire (pull the trigger).

There’s also a built-in work light and an LED battery meter rather than just a “the battery is dead” light. A thumbwheel allows quick and easy depth adjustment, no matter what type of wood you are using and it runs off a Lithium-ion battery. If you’ve only got to have one finish nailer, I’d have to say this is the one to have.

DeWalt DC628K Cordless Angled Finish Nailer Kit

DeWalt has created an upgrade from the DC618K, which was a 16 gauge cordless finish nailer to the DC628K which uses 15 gauge nails, making them just a little bit stronger. This is another gasless and cordless finish nailer and although a bit bulky, it gives you the capability of driving finish nails without having to pay for those gas cartridges.

This nailer is also full of handy features, such as being usable in both bump fire and sequential modes as well as designed to have a really fast cycle time, allowing you to drive up to five nails per second. There’s even an integrated LED headlight for working in dark places. The depth of fire dial is a six position dial, allowing you to move between jobs with minimal fuss in setting the depth.

Hitachi 2-1/2 In. 15 Gauge Finish Nailer (Angled Finish Nails 1-1/4 - 2-1/2 In) Nt65ma4

Hitachi always seems to put a little more into their tools and sell them for a little less. This angled finish nailer has a nice set of features including an integrated air duster for clearing debris away from the spot you need to work in. It also has a selective fire trigger, allowing you to switch between bump fire and sequential fire at the flip of a switch; most others require a trigger change to accomplish the same thing. The nose has a flip latch for easy jam cleaning while depth adjustment is tool-free along with a 360 degree adjustable exhaust. The only thing that they didn’t do on this nailer is make it oil-free; oh well, maybe the next model.

Paslode 902400, Cordless 16 Gauge Angled Finish Nailer

Paslode is another old-timer in the air tool market and like Senco, they’ve been producing professional nail guns for years. This is essentially an upgrade from Paslode’s 900600, changing the batteries out to Li-Ion, instead of Ni-Cad. That gives you more work time per charge and a faster recharge time. While there’s no particular feature that makes this cordless brad nailer stand out, it’s an excellent tool overall with quality evident in every line. At 4.9 pounds, it’s not quite as light as the Hitachi, but it’s still very comfortable to use. With Paslode's long-standing reputation for quality, you can't go wrong with this option.

Stanley Bostitch GFN1564K Cordless Angled Finish Nailer

While Bostitch is better known for office staplers, they’ve long been the quiet contender in the nailer and construction stapler market. This cordless is only 4.2 pounds and coupled with the wrap around padded handle, these features makes it very comfortable to work with. It also uses a 15 gauge nail, as opposed to most cordless nailers, which are still using 16 gauge. That gives you a little more strength than the others options and works especially nice on dense woods. They’ve also included a low-nail lock out, to keep you from dry firing the nailer and possibly damaging your nailer.

Paslode T250S 501680 16 Gauge Straight Finish Nailer

At 3.9 pounds, this is a really light gun to work with and Paslode includes the selectable fire trigger I’ve mentioned on some of the other nailers. Plus, it also has the dry fire lockout feature I like so much. The nosepiece is designed to provide an excellent line of sight and the magazine is wide open for knowing how many nails you have available. An included tool-free nose latch for jam removal and tool-free depth of drive make it easy to work with.

Hitachi NT65M2S 2-1/2" 16G Finish Nailer

This nailer weighs in at only 3.7 pounds, making it the lightest finish nailers I’ve seen. That makes a lot of difference when you’re doing a whole day’s work. This nailer also has an on-board air duster, which nobody else has started including yet. Just bump the button and a blast of air clears away the debris in the way of driving your nail. It also has selectable trigger mode, saving you from having to change out triggers to switch from sequential fire to bump fire. Depth of drive adjustment is accomplished by an easy to use dial and besides that, Hitachi is simply known for their excellent product quality and longevity.

Freeman Freeman PFN64 16 Gauge 2-1/2" Straight Finish Nailer

With this nailer, depth and exhaust are adjustable without using any tools, as well as opening the nose to removed jammed nails. The nailer uses an air filter to reduce dirt in the tool and increase life. All the O-Rings are Teflon as well and it comes with a reversible belt hook and an over-molded comfort grip. The really impressive thing about Freeman's line of nailers is they all come with a seven year warranty. That's says a lot about their quality, considering the company wouldn't dare put a warranty like that on their tools, if they weren't sure that they would survive constant use.

DeWalt D51257K 1-Inch to 2-1/2-Inch 16 Gauge Finish Nailer

DeWalt has been making their air nailers so they’re dual lube tech, and this model is no exception; what that means is you can decide if you’re going to use oil in it or not. The advantage of an oil-free design is you don’t have to worry about oil splatters on the wood, which could ruin the finish. This nailer comes with the selectable trigger already installed so if you want to use bump-fire mode, you’ll have to change it out. It also has a trigger lock-off for safety, something that most manufacturers don’t bother with. Like the Bosch, the magazine is wide open on this one, so you can see your available nail supply at all times.

Senco 1X0013N FinishPro 32 16-Gauge Finish Nailer

As one of the old-time manufacturers in the business, Senco has produced a lot of great air tools. This one is designed for high volume work, with a very comfortable soft-grip handle and only 4.2 pounds of weight. It comes with a sequential actuation trigger and if you want bump fire, you’ll have to buy that feature as an accessory. The reversed safety foot helps improve visibility of the shot area as well as a tool-free depth of drive adjustment and an easy-clear nosepiece. The magazine has a large window in the side to see how many nails you have left.

Buyer's Guide

Finish Nailer Buyer's Guide

Of all the varieties of nailers, the ones that homeowners are most likely to buy are framing nailers and finish nailers. Actually, finish nailers fall into two different categories because there are two different types of nails used on architectural trim. While categorized differently, brad nailers are used extensively for finish work as well. In fact, a finish carpenter usually works with two nailers together: a finish nailer and a brad nailer.

Finish nailers can be broken down into pneumatic and cordless categories with pneumatic being the old faithful of the bunch. Up until the last ten years, cordless nailers were somewhat of a joke the last few years have seen them become powerful enough to be a real contender for the top spot. Actually, cordless finish nailers seem to be outselling pneumatic ones even though they’re priced higher. The added convenience of the cordless nailers overcomes the difference in price.

The difference between the finish and brad nailers is the size nails they use. Finish nailers are designed for either 15 or 16 gauge finish nails which are either 2" or 2-1/2 long. Brad nailers work with 18 gauge nails, which are usually no more than 1-1/2" long. The thicker finish nails are considerably stronger than the brad nails are. In fact, there’s a considerable strength difference between 15 and 16 gauge finish nails.

15 Gauge vs. 16 Gauge

16 gauge finish nailers are more traditional, and the 15 gauge ones are a newer addition to many companies’ lines. The thicker finish nail was chosen specifically for working with hardwood trim as some woods like oak are famous for bending nails, even when everything is done correctly. By going to a thicker nail, the chances of the nail bending are greatly reduced.

However, the larger diameter nail makes a larger hole for the painters to fill. Because of that, 16 gauge finish nailers are still used in many cases where less dense wood trim is installed. The smaller nail hole is easier to fill as well as to hide.

Straight vs. Angled Nailers

Finish nailers traditionally come in two varieties, straight and angled. This term refers to the position of the magazine, in relation to the nailer head. Angled finish nailers tend to be slightly larger than straight ones and also cost a bit more. But that's not the main deciding factor in choosing one over the other.

Most architectural trim can be installed with either nailer. However, you can't nail inside corners of cove molding with a straight finish nailer. In that case an angled nailer is required so that the gun will clear and the nose of the gun can be pressed against the wood.

It’s important to buy nails which will fit the gun to be used. Straight collated nails won't fit in a nailer with an angled magazine and vice-versa. Likewise, the nail gauge is important to prevent nails jamming in the tool since a larger diameter nail could cause permanent damage to a nailer.

Cordless Nailers

Cordless nailers are gaining in popularity over the traditional pneumatic ones. The biggest advantage of any cordless nailer is convenience. You don't have to use a compressor or run a hose you have to drag around all day. Most cordless finish nailers use a gas cartridge to operate; gas is flash-burned in the cylinder, and the expanding gas pushes the piston to drive the nail.

There are a couple of finish nailers on the market now which don't use gas and instead operate by a motor that cocks the piston back after each shot. When the trigger is pressed, the piston is released and a strong spring drives it forward. The motor then engages to re-cock the nailer.

Selecting a Finish Nailer

Once the decisions about size and magazine configuration are made, it's time to move on to the smaller details of selecting a nailer. Most finish nailers today have tool-free nosepieces, which are held closed by an over-center spring latch. In the case of a jam, all that is needed is to flip the catch open and remove the bent nail. This is much easier than having to unscrew the nosepiece.

Another important feature which many people overlook is the nail gun's exhaust. With finish nailers it’s important that the gun's exhaust be away from the trim. If the exhaust were to blow any oil contained in the gun onto the trim, it would cause permanent spots which could not be removed in finishing, especially if the wood is set to be stained and varnished.

Selectable Trigger
Most finish nailers today have selectable triggers so you can have the trigger set for bump-fire or sequential mode, depending upon your work preference. However, not all models have both selections internal to the gun. Many require the trigger be removed and replaced to change modes. In some cases, the second trigger is included with the gun, but occasionally it’s sold as a separate accessory.

Dry-fire Lock Out
One feature which I personally think is very important is a dry-fire lock out. This feature prevents the nailer from firing, when the magazine is empty. While most nailers have open magazines that let you see your nail supply, sometimes you might not pay attention to that. With the dry-fire lockout, you are saved the risk of damaging your nailer by firing it without any nails in it.


Bestcovery Staff
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