Choosing Trim Nailers: Which Gauge Finish Nailers Should You Own?
Most finish carpenters probably use the full range of pneumatic nail guns, from pin nailers to brad nailers to heavy-gauge trim guns, but can’t the average carpenter or homeowner get by on one or two sizes?
One of the major factors to consider when choosing a finish nailer is the size or gauge of the nails it fires. Now trim carpenters are going to want to have a 15-, 16-, 18-, and 23-gauge nailer at their disposal. But a homeowner is probably only going to want to have one.So which one do you choose? Let’s take a closer look.
The gauge of a finish nail is actually a measure of its diameter, just like with electrical wire. The higher the number, the thinner the nail is; the lower the number, the thicker it is.
15- and 16-gauge nailers are the real anchors of the pneumatic-trim-nailer team. These two tools fire nails up to 2-1/2 inches long, and are the most versatile for interior carpentry. They also have quite a bit of overlap in terms of application. Both are commonly used for installing baseboard, chair rail, door and window casing, crown molding, door frames, and more. One advantage to 15-gauge nails is that they are collated at an angle, which allows the nose of the nailer to reach into tighter spaces.
Brad nailers use smaller 18-gauge nails up to 2 inches long. Because the nails are thinner in cross section, they leave a smaller hole and are less likely to split narrow trim and molding, making them a good choice for stop and cove moldings or baseboard shoe molding.
Pin nailers fire 23-gauge fasteners that are available in both headless and slight-headed varieties. These nails are ideal for attaching delicate trim pieces. They leave a hole almost small enough to disappear under a coat of paint, or blend with the grain of a piece of wood. They don’t offer much shear or withdrawal strength though, so these nails are best used for wood-to-wood connections. And it’s best to back up the wood you’re fastening with glue.
Now every one of these nail sizes does have its place, and I really do use them all. But if you had to pin me down to just one nailer, it would probably be the first one that I bought, which is the 16-gauge. You can use it for small projects and big projects.
But if you really can’t decide which to choose, consider getting a combo kit which gives you more than one size gun all in the same package.