Brad Nailer vs Finish Nailer: Know The Actual Differences Between Them

As a craftsman or woodworker, knowing the differences between a brad nailer vs. finish nailer can make a significant impact between doing an excellent job or a bad one.

They are two pretty similar tools, nonetheless. This means you’ll have to cover all of its features and quirks to know how much you can get from each.

Here we’re going over all these differences and factors of each, plus which one can meet your requirements more efficiently. Excited to find out? Then come and see!

What Is a Brad Nailer?

When it comes to making small touches in wooden objects, nothing compares to a brad nailer.

This happens because they use 18-gauge brads, among the thinnest and smallest out there.

These brads are often only useful to use with a nailer. Otherwise, you will probably end up bending or breaking the nail completely, even with the smallest hammer.

They can be pretty long, though. Some of the largest ones can reach up to 2 inches, and the shortest can be 5/8 inches.

This is a superb choice for anyone who wants to make smaller details in the woods. A brad nailer leaves no significant hole in the material, helping to achieve a seamless nail as it is. It won’t be necessary to cover or hide the nail, as it tends to be really small to the point of unnoticeable.

Types of Brad Nailers

You may still find brad nailers of different kinds, from pneumatic to electric options. The most common of all is the pneumatic nailer, ideal for large operations where it is necessary to make several nailings quickly.

But for a pneumatic nailer, you’ll need an air compressor, and that can be a lot of extra money to spend.

In contrast, you can find electric brad nailers; they do the same job but with less strength and speed. However, they offer the advantage of less power consumption but a sturdier construction most of the time.

Some electric brad nailers can be cordless, adding superb versatility and portability to their design.

Overall, brad nailers are the most useful option for small jobs, ideal for providing unnoticeable fittings and attachments without any problem.

What Is a Finish Nailer?

Finish nailers do the same work as brad nailers; they help to insert nails in wood easily without using a hammer.

But finish nailers provide a slightly different approach, using larger and thicker nails in the process. They are usually 14- or 16-gauge nails with lengths of up to 2.5 longs.

This means they leave a bigger hole in wood, but they don’t usually come with a nail head which helps to achieve a seamless nail.

Using a finish nail will probably leave a large hole, so you may need to cover them with something after using.

Thanks to their thickness and length, these nails offer the chance to piece together large and heavy pieces of wood.

You can use them for furniture or any object that needs attaching. This gets even better when you consider that finish nailers come in either straight or angled designs. You can use straight ones for typical jobs, and angled ones for use in small or difficult-to-reach places.

Types of Finish Nailers

Here you’ll also find pneumatic and electric options. Similarly, to brad nailers, they offer the same capabilities.

Pneumatic nailers are stronger and lighter than electric options and offer the chance to work more consistently and quicker than with a cordless option. But you’ll need to buy a separate air compressor which can be sort of a problem for your wallet.

But a cordless electric finish nailer can still offer tons of advantages. Especially if you are working on roofs or places with no electrical outlets close, this option can be pretty handy.

Another factor that put finish nailers apart is the fact that you can use strips of nails of up to a hundred. This way, you could get rid of small and big jobs fast without having to reload consistently.

When to Use a Brad Nailer 

After a brief description of what a brand nailer offers, it is necessary to know when precisely a brad nailer will be essential to use.

Typically, brad nailers are ideal for trimming wood and repairing small objects. Many craftsmen also use them for projects that need seamless or unnoticeable details.

Due to their small size of the nails in a brad nailer, they are ideal for projects where it’s necessary to make details that don’t bring much attention.

When you’re working with thin or fragile pieces of wood, a brad nailer is also the ideal tool to go for. This way you won’t crack, break or split the wood while nailing the piece.

So, a brand nailer will be the perfect choice for jobs such as:

  • Minor repairs or improvement around the house
  • Working with trim or other fragile wood pieces
  • Making seamless details or attaching pieces unnoticeably
  • To attach pieces of wood temporarily
  • Creating craft projects or wooden furniture with small details

When to Use a Finish Nailer

A finish nailer is way stronger than a brad nailer and uses larger and thicker nails. For that, you could quickly realize they’re ideal for more extensive projects and jobs.

When it comes to piecing large and thick woods, nothing compares to a finish nailer. Projects like producing cabinets or furniture almost always use finish nailers to attach pieces of wood together.

The strength and length of a finish nail tend to make it much more durable as well. This means they are perfect for projects where longevity is essential.

But a finish nailer offers a little more versatility than a brad, mainly because you can use it on a broader array of projects excluding small ones or projects with fragile or trim woods.

It also offers the chance to attach things together firmly, way more than any other alternative out there.

But all this comes with the downside of a much more noticeable hole and nail head. Hiding a finish nail can be pretty hard, especially in flat surfaces. Still, the strength is unmatched.

Here are some of the uses you can give to a finish nailer:

  • Creating furniture that demands secure fitting & attachments
  • Holding thick or massive pieces of wood together
  • Making art or craft projects where nail holes or heads are not intrusive
  • Attaching things to walls or floors strongly
  • Adding extra strength to wooden connections

How to Use a Brad Nailer

It is ideal for small jobs. You can make it work for all kinds of delicate projects and will provide an excellent option where it’s not necessary to take too many precautions or steps to use the right way.

But there are still a few factors to consider when using one of these, from safety to overall usage. Here’s a list of steps to follow if you want to use a brad nailer effectively and safely:

Step 1: Start by wearing safety goggles, work gloves, and hearing protectors. This will keep you safe from possible splinters, heat, and grip when handling the tool, and the deafening sound a brad nailer can make.

Step 2: When using an electric nailer, make sure the cord is well attached to the outlet. Try never to use extensions to avoid current problems while using.

Step 3: For pneumatic nailers, always check the connection between the nailer and the compressor. Make sure the whole system is ready without any disconnection or leak.

Step 4: If you’re using cordless nailers, always attach the battery well enough to the nailer. Check for the battery life; it’s better to start working with a full battery unless it’s a small job.

Step 5: Now, you’re almost ready to start. Here you can proceed by placing the nailer on the right side of the plank of wood to attach. The farthest you put it from the edges, the better the result will be to avoid splinters.

Step 6: Only use a brad nailer on thin woods like trim or cardboard. Otherwise, the nail may not go in completely. If it doesn’t, you can always get the nail out instead of hitting it with a hammer and try nailing it again.

Step 7: Once the nail goes in the right way, you can always cover the nail with wood putty or leave it like that. It all comes down to how noticeable you want the job to be.

That’s how to use a brad nailer correctly. Follow this guide if you’re having issues using yours.

How to Use a Finish Nailer

In contrast with a brad nailer, the Finish one is stronger and works better with thicker woods. You won’t have to be as careful to achieve great results, but you’ll have to take more and better safety precautions.

Step 1: Wear all the necessary equipment from protective goggles to thick work gloves, earplugs and earmuffs, and whatever makes you comfortable. Remember to use this safely as it is stronger than a brad.

Step 2: Most finish nailers come with safety nose you’ll have to depress to use the tool properly. It keeps the trigger locked, so you don’t activate the machine by mistake.

Step 3: You’ll also find an anti-marring rubber on the tip of the nailer. This helps to prevent misfired nails from causing damage.

Step 4: It’s also recommended to always lubricate the nail feed on the nailer before starting to nail anything. This will reduce the clogging possibility and produce a smoother nail process.

Step 5: Then place the tip of the nailer in the place where you want the nail to pass through. If the nail doesn’t go all the way through the wood or trim, you can always use a hammer to push it entirely.

Step 6: Once the nail is in the right place, you can cover it with a putty knife to get rid of the large hole or head in the surface. And that’s all.

This is the way to use a finish nailer. Simple, practical, but still safe – you will achieve excellent results.

Safety Requirements for a Brad Nailer

Even though we already went over some safety tips for using a brad nailer, there are additional and more in-depth rules to consider. They are as follow:

Always use protective gloves to prevent nails from damaging your hands. This will also keep the heat or vibrations from losing grip while handling.

Safety goggles or any kind of reliable protective eyewear is also essential. This will keep splinters and small sawdust particles from damaging your eyes.

Never press the trigger unless the tip of the nailer is directly on the wood. Otherwise, you may cause damage to nearby objects. If you use it over metal or similarly hard objects, it could break the tool.

The tool should always be well-connected either to the compressor, electrical outlet, or battery to prevent power issues while using.

The nail feed of the tool should have the right lubrication to avoid clogging or similar problems.

Safety Requirements for a Finish Nailer

As said before, finish nailers are a little easier to use than brad ones. However, they come in two new designs, the straight and angled which help to achieve different results.

You’ll have a different set of safety requirements according to both designs and overall application of a finish nailer. Here’s what you should know:

Eyewear is essential to finish nailers. Due to the stronger performance of this tool, it is more likely you’ll experience splinters or similar wood particles flying around.

Earmuffs can also be really useful. Especially with pneumatic finish nailers, you can experience tons of noise that can be harmful to your hearing.

Wearing the thickest gloves possible is also useful. You won’t prevent a nail from damaging your hand if you point incorrectly, but you can always reduce the problem if you use robust protection.

Finish nailers usually have safety nose or trigger lock, keeping it from activating the tool unexpectedly.

You may also find rubber tip covers, which help to prevent misfires from causing any damage to nearby objects.

Always make sure to align the nailer right over the wood. Especially if you’re using an angled nailer, you’ll have to make an extra effort to aim correctly. Otherwise, you may end up damaging the piece.

Comparing Brad Nailer vs Finish Nailer Features

Yes, now it’s time to make a more in-depth comparison between the two so you can have a better idea of what to go for. Take into account each factor so you can make a better choice eventually:

  • Application

A brad nailers works better for small projects. The 18-gauge nails it uses are exceptional for decoration and piecing together small pieces of wood. But the result tends to be very fragile, so they don’t work for large pieces or thick ones. 

In contrast, finish nails are longer and thicker, a little sturdier, and often produce larger holes with their 16 to 14-gauge nails.

So the proper usage would be in piecing furniture or large pieces of wood together for a strong bond. In decoration projects they won’t work too well. The large heads of finish nails usually needs to be covered with wood putty.

  • Ease of Use

It is almost obvious that being a small machine, a brad nailer is very easy to use. They don’t demand much strength to achieve accuracy and most mistakes can be reversed.

For finish nailers the operation will be a little more difficult. They demand more precision because each nail is thick and large, so if you miss the right place you may not have a second chance. Or eventually, it will leave a large hole or mark.

So, brad nailers are easier to use, but that’s because they are smaller and lighter. Finish nailers are the opposite.

  • Safety

Here, you will find the same difference. Brad nailers being small and light, don’t demand many safety requirements. You just need to make sure the machine is lubricated and use the proper safety equipment like eyewear and gloves.

Finish nailers, on the other hand, are very large and produce a lot of force and noise. So you must not only use protective equipment like gloves and goggles but also earmuffs to prevent any damage to your ears.

On top of that, finish nailers often have additional safety measures like rubber tops and trigger-locking mechanisms. As they are larger and stronger than brad nailers, they also are more dangerous, so the safety measures are a little more demanding.

  • Price

Lastly, the cost of each product depends heavily on the brand and model. However, it is not a surprise that a brad nailer is way more affordable than a finish nailer.

In fact, the price of a finish nailer can be double of a brad nailer, even if they are from the same brand and model series.

The nails for using in finish nailers are also more expensive than the small nails of brad nailers. But of course, in some cases a high-end brad nailer for professionals can cost way more than a standard finish nailer for amateurs. So be careful when choosing.

Get the Right Nailer for Your Needs Now!

By now, you should be familiar with everything a Brad nailer and a Finish nailer have in common and in what factors they differ.

If you need to get rid of a small fix or attach two pieces of plywood, cardboard or trim wood – then using a brad nailer is the way to go.

But if you want to make furniture, attach something firmly to a wall, or just make really sturdy joints, then a Finish nailer will be your best choice.

Which one should you go for? Well, the one that meets your needs the most. And why not choose both? That could also come in as a handy choice too. 

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