Types of Nailers: Gauge, Size & Nail Type

The claw hammer is one of the handiest woodworking tools to have been invented to date. But, if the job at hand is large or you need something fast and more precise a nail gun is the tool for you. With one pull of the trigger on a gauge nailer, you can set the nail below the surface of the board or piece of wood, and all this is while only using one hand.

As handy as the gauge nailers might be they are not all the same, and no one size fits all tasks. And so it is important to know how to choose the right one for the job at hand. For this to be easy for you, it is important to know the common gauge nailer sizes, the pros and cons of each and its applications.

When it comes to the nailer, most homeowners will want to buy one at a time, and so it is important to know what to start with depending on your types of projects.

#1. Trim Nailer

Trim Nailer

The trim nailer comes in 15 and 16-gauge sizes. However, the 16-gauge is also what most woodworkers know as the finish nailer. These nailers can shoot nails that are up to 2/12 inches in diameter. They are ideal nailers for use in both interior and exterior carpentry, but they are more versatile when using them for interior carpentry.

In most instances, woodworkers will use the 15-gauge for exterior trim work. The 15-gauge nails are collated and angled which makes it possible for the nose of this nailer to get into tight spaces and it is suitable for small trim projects, baseboards, and paneling.

This nailer will support different nail lengths depending on the model, but for most, it is between 5/8 and 2 inches long nails. However, the large fastener diameter means that it will leave a large hole in the wood which requires some extra effort to fill so as to maintain the appeal of the stock.

#2. Finish Nailer

Finish Nailer

The 16-gauge finish nailer will also shoot up to 2 1/2 inch long nail and is ideal for interior trim work, assemble cabinets, baseboards and for smaller crowns. It shoots nailers that are longer than what the 18-gauge shoots, but they are not angled. The greatest and probably the only demerit of the 16-gauge nailers is that just like the 15-gauge they leave large holes for you to fill.

#3. Brad Nailer

Brad Nailer

The brad nailers will use smaller nails (18-gauge) than the 15 and 16-gauge, and they can shoot fasteners that are up to 2 inches long. Since the fasteners that they shoot are thinner in the cross section, these nailers will leave smaller holes and so you will not have a lot of filling to dob. The small holes are also less likely to split molding and thin trim.

The 18-gauge nailers are a perfect all round nailer that you can use for anything from assembling cabinets to small trim applications and cove molding. This nailer is a good choice as your main nailer in the workshop thanks to its versatility, the size of the nail and the holding capacity. Its main shortcoming is that the small size of the nail might not be appropriate for large pieces and exterior carpentry.

#4. Pin Nailer

Pin Nailer

The 23-gauge fasteners come in both slight-headed and headless varieties. These nailers can shoot up to 1-inch long fasteners, but some more expensive types can shoot 2-inch fasteners. This nailer leaves tiny holes that are difficult to see, and they will disappear into the grain of the wood or under a coat of paint or varnish.

These pin nailers are ideal for tucking parts in place as you wait for the glue to dry but they also have other applications like delicate trim work, face framing, and small moldings. Although the pin nailers are very handy when giving the glue time to dry, they do not offer a lot of sheer or pull away strength which is their main disadvantage.

#5. Staple Nailer

Staple Nailer

The narrow crown stapler is also a handy nailer to have in the workshop. And this is more so if you tend to deal with thin material like plywood, hardboard, and MDF a lot. This non-nail type nailer comes in 1/2 or 1/4 inch wide, and it can typically shoot staples that are up to 1 1/2 inches long.

Crown staples will grab the material in two different spots and keeps it in place tightly. They are a perfect tool when you want to create a backing for cabinets and drawers or upholstery. But for upholstery, it is always a good idea to buy specific types of staples for this. The main disadvantage of this nailer is that there is nothing much you can do with it in the workshop if you are not working with thin materials.

Content referred from WorkshopAddict:


Each one of the gauge nailer sizes above has its place in a woodworkers shop. And if you are a professional contractor or a hobbyist that is always working on something the probability is that you will need to use each often.

But, buying them all at once can be quite expensive. The right idea is to start with what you find most versatile and appropriate for your projects. However, you can still save a notable amount of money by buying a combo kit that comes with a variety of gauge nailer sizes.

Lastly, you also need to think about maintenance when purchasing these handy tools. Most will require regular oiling, and it is important not to forget to oil them if you want to get the best and long service from the nailer.