Pin Nailers vs. Finish Nailers

Pin Nailers vs. Finish Nailers

With the wide variety of pneumatic tools available today, it can get pretty confusing for beginners who don’t yet have a handle on all the various types of tools constantly coming out. Most carpenters or handymen will have many different nail guns, all of which serve their own particular purpose, and without which certain tasks would not be possible.

For those who aren’t familiar with the many different kinds of nail guns, for example, often mistakenly think they’re all the same – just different brands. One reason for this is because pneumatic tools are for the most part, specialized tools, and are often unnecessary luxuries for the average DIY. Being expensive both on their own as well as requiring an air compressor, pneumatic tools are in most cases reserved for professional carpenters.

Thus, it’s no wonder why some folks don’t have the first clue as to the differences between nail guns and their individual uses. In this article I will outline the differences between two nail guns which, in my opinion, cause the most confusion due to their similarities in both appearance and use. – Pin nailers and finish nailers, also known as brad nailers.


Pin Nailer

This type of air nailer came into production due to the demand for near-invisible nail heads and holes. For example, ceiling trimming and base boards are usually glued and then nailed into place. However, until the advent of pin nailers, finish nailer reviews were used to hold the trimming in place until the glue dried. The problem with this is that as small as the finish nail is, it still leaves a rather visible nail head on the surface of the board.

This is when tool manufacturers began producing what is called the pin nailer. With a thinner nail diameter as well as nail head, pin nails holding ceiling trim and base boards are nearly invisible from a normal standing position. The features are:

  • 23-gauge nails, the thinnest of all the nailers.
  • Lengths ranging from 5/8 inch to 1 1/2 inches.
  • Small, square head buries below the surface; easy to fill the hole.
  • Can be used for small, delicate moldings less than 1/4-inch thick.
  • Typically requires the use of glue to ensure the grip.
  • Physically lighter and smaller than other guns, so it’s handy.
  • Precise, accurate.

Finish Nailers

The term “finish nailer” implies a nailer that when used, leaves the nailed surface visibly unmarred. Well, although it is certainly good enough for some projects, it by no means does the trick for more elegant surfaces. Suffice it to say that many finished surfaces simply cannot afford to have any nails – no matter how thin – piercing them.

Finishing nails in small numbers have close to no holding power after vibration and movement – which is inevitable – have loosened its grip on whatever it was holding. This is why they must be used in conjunction with a bond of some kind. The job of the finishing nail is over the moment the glue is dry. However, their holding power goes up significantly when used in large numbers from various angles of the work piece. The features are:

  • 15- and 16-gauge nails, medium.
  • Typical lengths ranging from 1 1/4-to-2 1/2 inches.
  • Large barrel-shaped head, may or may not bury below the surface, always requires filling.
  • More holding power than pin or brad nailers.
  • Physically larger and heavier.
  • Can shatter or split moldings less than 3/4-inch thick.
  • Angled head allows for angle shots.
  • Use them on bulky, thick trim without glue.
  • Good for baseboard.

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