My pneumatic brad nailer has served me well, but I’m curious about pin nailers that shoot pins even finer than brads.

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Q:

My pneumatic brad nailer has served me well, but I'm curious about pin nailers that shoot pins even finer than brads. When would I benefit from using such a tool?
—Bob Pruefer, Plymouth, Mass.

A:

Pin nailers offer several advantages—and drawbacks—compared with brad nailers, Bob. Unlike 18-gauge brads, 23-gauge pins don't have heads, so they leave miniscule holes that typically don't require filling. Besides the cosmetic advantage, not having to fill holes can result in significant time saving when attaching a lot of trim. But the lack of a head gives a pin little holding power. So for most applications, use pins in conjunction with an adhesive such as wood glue. In the WOOD® shop we often use pins to hold glass stops because there's little risk of shattering glass. That's one of the few pin applications that don't require adhesives.

Because of its thinner profile, a pin won't likely split thin, delicate trim or veneer, the way a brad could. And because a pin nailer doesn't have a nose-mounted safety with large plastic pad, as shown above, you can precisely position a pin in tight spots. (For safety purposes, a pin nailer has two triggers in place of the nose-mounted safety.)

Brads typically range 58 "–2" long, and pins come 38 "–2" long. But guns capable of shooting pins longer than 1" can be pricey, with those shooting 2-inchers costing upwards of $200. Despite their thinner gauge, pins penetrate the hardest of woods as easily as brads. But be warned: A pin more likely will deflect off course as it hits denser bands of latewood.

You can buy either type of nailer in its most common pneumatic form (cordless versions are also available) for less than $100. But if you can afford just one, a brad nailer will prove more versatile. And if you think you might like a compromise between a typical brad and pin, consider a 21-gauge nailer, now available from several manufacturers. Technically brads because they have slight heads, those slim fasteners can be harder to find and require nailers priced close to $200.