Tool Test: Pin Nailers
For fastening small, stain-grade moldings, nothing works better than glue and a few headless pins.
Synopsis: When you’re assembling detailed work, such as cabinets, stairs, or other woodwork, nothing comes in handier than a 23-ga. pin nailer. These tools fire thin nails that are nearly invisible when countersunk. Finish carpenter Kit Camp takes a look at the latest 23-ga. pinners on the market. After testing six models, Camp rated a Cadex as the best overall and ranked a Hitachi as best value. The other tools tested included models from Duo-Fast, Porter-Cable, Ridgid, and Senco.
I bought my first 23-ga. pin nailer, a small Senco, more than 10 years ago. At that time, these tools were used mainly in industrial settings for making furniture and the like, and they were just starting to be seen on home-building job sites. That crude little Senco shot pins ranging in size from only 3⁄8 in. to 1 in., and the magazine had to be adjusted manually when I switched nail sizes. The tool had a blunt nose, which I filed down to help the nailer countersink 1-in. pins in harder woods, and it had no safety mechanism. If I pulled the trigger, it shot a pin. One day, in a hurry while switching tools, I fired a 1-in. pin deep into the muscle of my palm, just below the thumb. The result: surgery under full anesthesia to remove the buried pin.
Today, these little nailers are a common sight in the hands of savvy trim carpenters, cabinet installers, stairbuilders, cabinetmakers, and woodworkers. Thankfully, they also have come a long way from their roots.
Each tool in this review shoots a much wider range of fasteners (from 1⁄2 in. all the way to 2 in.), many have belt hooks and anti-dry-fire mechanisms, all but one adjust to different-size pins automatically, and even the least-expensive models have a double trigger, a safety system…