The two terms are often used together. Generally, a brad nailer is 18ga, and
the nails range in length from about 5/8" to 2". A finish nailer is usually
15ga or 16 ga and the nails vary in length from about 1" to 2.5". When you
go to buy nails, they're all called finish nails, whether they're 15, 16, or
18ga. The difference in terminology applies to the guns more than the nails.
Obviously the 15ga, because of the larger nail, has better holding power.
The 15ga nail, being more rigid, is more likely to go straight and not
follow the grain, as happens often with 18ga nails.
Some like to use the brad nailers for trim work due to the smaller hole it
leaves behind. Others like to use the 15ga nailers for their better holding
power and slightly longer nails (useful for crown molding, etc.).
Brad nailer shoots thin narrow nails. Finish nail guns shoot heavier gauge
finish nails. Generally, on thin material short brads are better. If
shooting through mostly 3/4" material a finish nailer will generally be the
better choice. Finish nails are less likely to bend or deflect in the
Does one hold wood better than the other. Yes. The finish nail gun holds
much better if the nail does not split the wood. In that case the brad
nailer would probably be the better choice.
Basically one is not better than the other providing you use the gun for
its intended range.
Brands are thinner and usually shorter. Nails are 15 or 16 gauge. Each has
its place in the shop. Nailers are better for larger pieces (where no glue
is needed), in the house for baseboard, crown moldings, etc.
I use a brad nailer to hold things in place while the glue dries. Great for
keeping joints in place during assembly. Once in place with brads, you can
often keep working instead of waiting for the glue to cure. Even if I'm
going to use screws to fasten something, the brands are just an extra set of
hands tohold things in place.
Using 1 1/4" brands I can easily pull apart anything nailed together with it
so it is not good for heavier use or without glue. It is good for very
I have found that you will need both, but 3 is better. I have 3 PC
nailers which have a range from 5/8 to 2 1/2. I like to use the
smallest (BN100?) because it handles easily. For crown you have
to have the 2.5 incher at least but it's sort of clumsy, so the
2 incher comes in handy too.
Now I'm looking at the 1/2" pin nailer...never ends you know!
In addition to what others have said about brads being thinner and shorter,
I have noticed that brads are rectangular while finish nails are round. I
don't know how that affects performance, but it may be the technical
difference between a brad and a finish nail. If tht were the case then you
could theoretically have a 15ga or larger brad nailer that shot rectangular
fasteners or a 20ga finish nailer that shot round nails.
not quite. really, a brad is just a small nail. a finish nail is just
a nail designed to have the head driven below the surface. a 16 penny
finish nail isn't a brad, and a large headed upholstery brad isn't a
finish nail, but the brads in your nail gun are definitely finish
the pneumatic ones are squareish as a side effect of manufacture.
they're coated with a vinyl substance that at room temperature is a
glue and under heat or pressure becomes a lubricant. this stuff is
part of why they are so difficult to pull out without breaking off and
is also used to hold the brads together before you use them. the
process starts with wire coated with this glue/lube which is bundled
together flat and stomped to generate the pressure/heat to glue them
together just enough to make the collated sticks. the heads are then
stomped from the end.
so the cross section isn't quite square. two sides are flat and
parallel, the other two are rounded.
The Borg are currently selling a Porter Cable kit that has a
compressor, a brad nailer and a finish nailer for $299.
One thing I noticed with the kits is that the finish nailer kits tend
to sell for the same price as the brad nailer kits, but the finish
nailers cost a lot more if you need to buy one separately.
I got a brad nailer because I was putting up library panelling and
sinking the heads of the finish nails was a pain. But there are
several occasions I would have liked to have a finish nailer as well.
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