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Air-powered showdown: Brad nailer vs. finish nailer

A lightweight brad nailer offers a convenient way to hold furniture joints while glue dries, as in the drawer construction shown here.


Though I’m relatively new to woodworking, I plan to build  several pieces of furniture and some cabinets. As I add tools, I’m wondering when to use a brad nailer, and when is it better to nail with a finish nailer? 
—F. Gregory Bartlett, Freeport, Bahama Islands


For your purposes, Greg, a brad nailer is the better choice unless you also do a fair amount of construction or trim carpentry. A typical brad nailer shoots 18-gauge fasteners 58 –2" long and is handy for tacking glued molding in place on projects or assembling jigs. These thin brads with narrow heads leave only a tiny hole to be filled on visible  surfaces. A finish nailer drives heavier and longer 15- or 16-gauge fasteners in the 114 –212 " range. That extra heft serves you well when you install crown molding or assemble heavy cabinets without glue, but these fasteners leave a bigger hole in the surface. Other points to consider: brad nailers weigh significantly less than finish nailers and cost less, too. 

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