I’m looking at buying a 15- or 16-gauge finish nailer for my shop. From my experience, 18-gauge brads tend to follow the grain and blow out the side. Would 16-gauge nails act the same?

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Ouch! Blow-outs can deliver a painful surprise to fingers gripping the sides of the vertical board.

Q:

I'm looking at buying a 15- or 16-gauge finish nailer for my shop. From my experience, 18-gauge brads tend to follow the grain and blow out the side. Would 16-gauge nails act the same?
—Ronald Seto, Vancleave, Mississippi

A:

All three nail gauges can be deflected by grain, Ronald. Instead, choose your nailer and nail length to suit what you're building and the materials you use.

To attach wide oak crown molding to a large project or in a room, use a 15- or 16-gauge nailer for added holding power. The tradeoff: You have to putty larger holes from the 15- and 16-gauge nailers compared with an 18-gauge nailer. For medium-size or tabletop projects, use an 18-gauge nailer or a 23-gauge pin nailer for even less puttying.

To lessen the chance of blow-out, choose the nail length that penetrates the top piece of wood and extends no deeper than 1" into the piece below. So for nailing 34 "-thick stock like that shown above, choose a nail no longer than 134 ". For safety's sake, even with shorter nails, never grip the wood with your fingers on either side of the nail's intended path.