Brad Nailer vs Pin Nailer Guide

Brad Nailer vs Pin Nailer

Boris Woodworking 101 0 Comments

If you are planning on undergoing a DIY endeavor into home renovations or cabinetry, then it would be a good idea to become familiar with finish carpentry. Finish carpentry includes applying trim, crown molding, and base boards. All of these tasks require the right kind of “nail gun”. In most cases you will need either a brad nailer or a pin nailer.

But how do you know which one is the right one? This article will walk you through the differences between brad nailers and pin nailers and show you which applications are best for each nailer.

What are Brad Nailers?

Brad nailers are named after what woodworkers call brads. Brads are 18-gauge nails are much smaller than regular nails, but still offer the same holding power when used in the correct applications. There are several different brands of brad nailers on the market, and each offers nailers that support different lengths of nails, typically between 5/8” and 2”.

Brad nailers have a distinguished flat head on the finished product, giving a delicate look and feel while still maintaining the required strength. This is one reason why brad nailers are one of the most common and popular woodworking tools used in finish carpentry and DIY tool kits.

Types of Brad Nailers

There are two primary types of brad nailers, pneumatic and electric.

Pneumatic
Pneumatic brad nailers utilize compressed air through a lightweight hose that drives the compressor and powers the gun. Pneumatic brad nailers are a very popular choice among professional contractors because they allow quick and consistent work. Pneumatic brad nailers come in a variety of sizes and operating methods, both of which should be considered when choosing one. The nailer itself will consist of a gun, air hose, cartridge, and batteries.

Best Pneumatic Brad Nailer

Hitachi NT50AE2

The Hitachi NT50AE2 is an excellent choice for a pneaumatic brad nailer. Featuring a lightweight body, high capacity magazine and multiple firing options, it's the perfect companion for extensive nailing jobs.


  • Multiple Firing Options
    Easy selection between intermittent and continuous firing modes. One for precise firing, the other for rapid nail insertion.
  • Comfort
    Lightweight aluminum body (2.2 lbs) and a comfortable grip makes this a joy to use all day long.
  • High-Capacity Magazine
    Magazine capacity of 100 brad nails allows you to go longer between reloading.

Electric & Cordless
Cordless brad nailers are a relatively recent addition to the market. While they are usually slightly heavier than their pneumatic counterparts, they save weight on the total package since you no longer need to lug around your heavy compressor to the jobsite. Recent advancements in battery power and life mean that cordless brad nailers can pack a punch similar to their air-powered brethern. Cordless nailers to tend to be slightly more expensive due to the extra costs associated with the battery but do end up requiring less maintenance than a pneumatic nailer in the long run, saving you money.

Best Cordless Brad Nailer

PORTER-CABLE PCC790LA

Ranking as what may be the best option available for cordless brad nailers, the PORTER-CABLE PCC790LA is an excellent, fully-featured tool. The complete kit included both battery and charger so you can start nailing right out of the box.


  • Plenty of Adjustability
    Tool-free release lever, jam release, and a depth adjustment wheel makes working with this nailer hassle-free.
  • Powerful Battery
    No compressor needed thanks to the powerful 1.5 Ah 20V Max Lithium-ion battery.
  • High Capacity Magazine
    Magazine capacity of 100 brad nails (on a cordless nailer!) allows you to go longer between reloading.

Brad Nailer Applications

The brad nailer is one of the most versatile tools in finish carpentry. It is perfect for delicate tasks that require high precision such as upholstery, finish cabinetry, finish molding, and small trim. The following are just a few of the wide variety of things that you can do with a brad nailer:

Home improvement projects – The brad nailer can be used in any project that involves base boards or crown molding, and simple fixes such as securing a window or door casing.

Arts & Crafts – Brad nailers can be used for many crafts around the home, office, and classroom such as picture frames, and other small scale projects and crafts.

Odd jobs – Brad nailers can be used in building fences (depending on the type of fence of course), interlocking flooring projects, and securing paneling. The possibilities and uses of brad nailers are nearly endless.

Professional tasks – Many professional woodworkers have a brad nailer handy as their go to tool for securing pieces of wood together. Brad nailers are perfect for projects such as cabinets, chairs, and other types of furniture.

What are Pin Nailers?

Pin nailers are the smallest of finish nailers available utilizing ultra-thin 23-gauge pins. As with brad nailers, they come in a variety of brands and can range in sizes from 3/8” to 2”. The pins are headless in the finished product, resulting in the least visible hole. Regardless of their small size, pin nailers can still penetrate the hardest of woods and with relative ease. While the pins do not have a head, they still have a surprising amount of holding power.

Best Pin Nailer

Hitachi NP35A

The Hitachi NP35A pin nailer is an excellent choice for the professional or hobbyist woodworker. The no-mar tips allow this nailer to beautifully embed small pins into trim work, molding, paneling and whatever other fine woodwork you may have.


  • No Mar Tips
    These tips protect your workpiece from dents, scratches, or other finish damage while inserting nails.
  • Depth Adjustment
    Easy depth adjustment located on the front of the nailer, adjustable via the included hex wrench.
  • Rear Exhaust
    The rear exhaust port prevents any nasty oil, dirt or grime from propelling itself onto your workpiece.

Pin Nailer Applications

While pin nailers are the smallest of the nail guns they still have many practical uses. Many wood workers use them to hold two pieces of wood that have been freshly glued together during the cure time. Their small size is also perfect for small molding in furniture, interior millwork, and cabinetry. Pin nailers are also convenient tools in other crafts such as building birdhouses or attaching thin strips and delicate trim.

Choosing the Right Nailer for the Job

Even experienced carpenters and woodworkers can find themselves in a dilemma of which nailer they should choose for the task at hand. There are several guidelines you can follow to determine which nailer you should choose.

Tensile Strength – Determine how much holding power you will need and whether or not a pin nailer can hold up to the job. If not determine the minimum gauge you will need.

Nail Size – Figure out what nail size you need. The longer the nail is the more holding power it will have. However, longer isn’t always better and common sense will tell you what size you need.

Nail Type – Determine what type of nail you want. Brad nailers have a visible flat heat whereas the pin nailers are barely visible and will blend into the grain of the wood. Pin nails can also be covered completely with an application of varnish or stain.

Primary Application – Determine how you intend to use the nailer. If you are just holding boards together as glue dries, a pin nailer is your best option. The brad nailer however is so versatile it can be used in nearly all projects ranging from baseboards to cabinetry.

Conclusion

Having both types of brad nailers in the workshop is a good idea and even essential for contractors, DIY homeowners, and hobbyist. Each has its own applications and will make for better projects. However if you have to choose only one, choose the one that you will use the most. Everyone has a different opinion on which nail gun you should use for what, but give them both a try and decide for yourself which one you like better, and which one will work the best for your individual needs.

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