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AW Extra 7/26/12 - Master Your Brad Nailer


Master Your Brad Nailer

5 Tips and products to make your brad nailer safe and easy to use.

Avoid the blowout curse

A brad that unexpectedly shoots out the side of your project is guaranteed to make you curse, especially if your finger happens to be in the way. Blowout is instantaneous and dangerous. 18-gauge brads are so darn thin, they have a tendency to deflect whenever they encounter something hard, like a knot. In most cases, blowout is caused by the wood's uneven cellular structure, so you can take steps to limit its occurrence.

• Orient the brad correctly. If you're attaching a face frame, hold your nailer so its handle is perpendicular to the outside edge (not parallel, as shown in the photo). This positions the brad's wedge-shaped tip so any side-to-side deflection will be contained in the wood.

• Fire into the face frame's growth rings. Check the end grain. If your firing angle parallels the growth rings, the brad will simply deflect off the hard latewood.

• Increase the air pressure when you nail into hard wood. Just like a putt that falls off line when it loses speed, a brad driven softly is more likely to deflect.

• Protect yourself. Even when you take preventative safety precautions, blowout can still occur. Always wear eye protection and keep your fingers well away from the brad's path.

Click any image to view a larger version.

Avoid nailer elbow

A stiff, unwieldy air hose makes your nailer hard to maneuver, especially in tight spots. This swiveling air plug ($9 for 1/4-in. hose; $10 for 3/8-in. hose) increases your range of movement by acting as a stress-relieving universal joint between your nailer and hose (see Sources).

18-gauge brads are interchangeable

Argh! You're all out of brads. The owner's manual says “USE OUR BRADS ONLY!,” but the store doesn't carry the right brand for your nailer. What to do? If you're in this pickle, don't worry about the brand. The shafts of all 18-gauge brads are essentially the same size. Just make sure the brads you buy are the right length. Most owner's manuals list the lengths that'll fit, but here's how to be sure:   On the side of your nailer's magazine is a series of flutes that correspond to the different brad lengths it accepts. To fit, the brad clip must sit on the steel wear strip at the bottom of the magazine and the brad heads have to rest between the flutes. Brad strips that hang from the flutes without bottoming on the wear strip don't fit. They'll cause misfires, jams and/or premature wear.

Don't hammer your nailer

High air pressure is hard on your nailer. It'll wear out the O-rings and other internal components prematurely. Even though brad nailers are often rated to handle pressure up to 125 pounds per square inch (psi), they'll work just fine at 90 psi or less, and they'll last a lot longer. Adjust the air pressure (within the range specified in the owner's manual) according to the hardness of the material and the length of the brad. Operate at the lowest pressure that'll consistently drive the brads you're using.

Ditch that old hose

Nothing's worse than being tethered to a cumbersome air hose. It adds dead weight that makes your nailer hard to maneuver and tiring to use. Reinforced polyurethane hose is tougher and more durable than old-fashioned rubber hose. It's also thinner, more flexible, and weighs less than half as much. When it's attached to your nailer, you'll hardly know it's there. The 1/4-in. inside diameter supplies plenty of air for brad nailers, as well as most other pneumatic tools. A 25-ft. length costs about $36 (see Sources). 


Carlson Systems, Inc.,, 800-325-8343, 1/4" ball swivel air plug, 948600, $9; 3/8" ball swivel air plug, 948624, $10.

Coilhose Pneumatics,, 732-390-8480, Flexeel reinforced polyurethane straight hose, PRE14-25, 1/4" i.d., 25' length, $36.

This story originally appeared in American Woodworker January 2004, issue #105.

January 2004, issue #105

Purchase this back issue.


rlc wrote re: Master Your Brad Nailer
on 03-14-2009 10:15 AM

Thanks for the advise

smokey78 wrote re: Master Your Brad Nailer
on 03-14-2009 10:31 AM

the idea of being perpendicular instead of pararell was interaesting to me.  A new thought for me. Jim

Criswell wrote re: Master Your Brad Nailer
on 03-14-2009 12:28 PM

I have needed a new hose for some time and now. With your info on poly hose this is the time for me to visit my favorite supply store.

lourain wrote re: Master Your Brad Nailer
on 03-14-2009 2:02 PM

Thanks, never thought about going to perpendicular install. Just had a blow out the other day... wish I heard this sooner.

BILL SCHRADER wrote re: Master Your Brad Nailer
on 03-14-2009 8:26 PM


toolman1735 wrote re: Master Your Brad Nailer
on 03-14-2009 10:32 PM

I thank you for the information. I was a tool repair man for 12 years and I had change/repaired allot of nail gun because of high air pressure.

Doug Norman wrote re: Master Your Brad Nailer
on 03-15-2009 6:40 AM

Great information.

laminatrap wrote re: Master Your Brad Nailer
on 03-15-2009 10:17 AM

It should be perhaps pointed out the reason for perpendicular vs parallel theory. Since the brad is flat and wider in this direction it is more resistant to bending.

wblampied wrote re: Master Your Brad Nailer
on 03-15-2009 3:05 PM

I think that, as an instructional article, the picture of the brad nailer shown in the figure should have been oriented correctly. When first looking at the picture, it could be assumed that this is the correct position. Instead the text states that this is the wrong position. The emphasis should be on the correct usage.

Ed Lee wrote re: Master Your Brad Nailer
on 03-17-2009 8:14 AM

Good advice - Good to know - than kss

James Sigmon wrote re: Master Your Brad Nailer
on 06-07-2009 10:28 PM

Could and should pin nails be used in a bradnailer?


James Sigmon

James Sigmon wrote re: Master Your Brad Nailer
on 06-07-2009 10:29 PM

Could and should pin nails be used in a bradnailer?


James Sigmon

Ron wrote re: Master Your Brad Nailer
on 09-15-2009 11:24 AM

I really like the web site!

constructionpig wrote re: Master Your Brad Nailer
on 09-30-2009 4:46 PM

I've always shot my brads perpendicular it doesn't guarantee no blowouts but it sure does reduce them.

Christopher Weisel wrote re: Master Your Brad Nailer
on 08-05-2010 9:00 AM

Some very good info!  I never thought to much as to the position of the handle when nailing. I like the idea of a lighter air hose and swivel. Thanks