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Everything you need to know about cordless nail guns

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Man using Ryobi cordless nail gun to attach drawer back panel

Looking to buy a cordless nail gun and are unsure which one suits the job you’ve got lined up? Here’s what you need to know to get the right tool.

Electrical vs fuel/gas powered

There are two types of cordless nail gun available: fuel/gas-powered and electric. Both require a rechargeable battery to operate but have different methods of driving nails.

Fuel-powered nail guns have a replaceable fuel canister that contains combustible gas. When the trigger is pulled, the battery sends a charge to the end of the gas canister, where a very small amount of the gas is released. The electrical charge from the battery will be converted into a spark, which ignites the gas, causing a small explosion. This drives a piston, forcing the nail into the material.

Battery-powered nail guns use electromagnetic energy to drive nails. Similar to modern brushless tools, which we covered in a previous blog, the battery creates an electromagnetic field around a coil known as a solenoid. Within this solenoid is a piston which is used to fire the nails. Once significant force has been generated by the solenoid, it forces the piston down, which drives the nail.

Most companies producing cordless nail guns are trying to move away from the gas-powered method, as this not only reduces tool weight but also eliminates the additional cost of fuel cells needed to drive the nails.

Benefits and disadvantages of cordless over pneumatic

The benefit of any cordless tool over a corded one is portability. Without the restriction of a cord, you can work anywhere without the worry of trip hazards or stretching and potentially snapping cables or hoses.

A pneumatic nail gun requires an air compressor in place of a regular power cable. Once switched on, they take time to pressurize before they can be used. With a cordless nail gun, the tool is ready to be used the moment it’s switched on, decreasing downtime.

Conventionally, pneumatic tools are more powerful than cordless tools due to the method of firing nails. This means that not all cordless tools can be used for all applications. More robust surfaces will require a pneumatic nail gun over a cordless one. Pneumatic tools can also run all day without any drop in efficiency or power. Cordless tools are reliant on a fully charged battery to operate at maximum efficiency.

How to use a nail gun

It’s worth doing some basic research before you attempt to use a nail gun for the first time. With the speed and velocity both electrical and fuel-powered nail guns can achieve, safety is paramount.

Depending on the toughness of the materials you’re nailing into, you may need to change the strength of the tool and nail depth. Most nail guns will have a switch or lever to adjust strike strength and another switch for depth adjustment. On the Ryobi 16GA nail gun, the strength adjustment lever is on the back of the tool, while the depth adjustment wheel is just behind the firing piston on the front of the tool.

Once everything’s set, you’re ready to load the nails. Make sure your gun is switched off or disconnected from power before loading. Most nail guns will have a release catch that you pull to the bottom to allow loading. Pull this catch down to the bottom until it clicks and the loader opens up. Insert the nails, making sure they are the correct way around, and then either pull the catch to release it or press the release button located on the opposite side of the loader.

You’re then ready to start nailing. Line up the tool with the material in question and press the nozzle against the surface. This engages the mechanism inside the nail gun, letting it know it’s safe to fire. Without pressing the nozzle in, the gun won’t fire. Then simply pull the trigger and keep it pressed until the gun has finished firing. If you release the trigger too early, you may cause the tool to stall or misfire.

Main types of cordless nail gun

A quick Google search for cordless nail guns will usually show up with two main types: framing nailers (also referred to as 1st fix nail guns), and finish nailers (referred to as 2nd fix nail guns). Although there are many more variants available, these are the two most common types and are predominantly used by DIYers and handymen.

Framing nailers are the more powerful of the two nailers and are used for structural/construction purposes. Most framing nailers use 15 or 16-gauge nails, which are thicker and have larger heads than the 18-gauge nails used in finish nailers. This does mean, however, that they tend to leave larger, more visible holes in the wood. Most DIYers would only use framing nailers for fence building and outside structural builds (pagodas, canopies etc).

Finish nailers, on the other hand, are the go-to tool for interior DIY jobs such as door frames and skirting board fixing. These use 18-gauge nails, which have very tiny heads that are almost invisible when driven into the wood.

Outside of these options, there are nail guns specifically designed for certain jobs. These include roof nailers, pin nailers, flooring nailers, and even palm nailers for hard-to-reach areas. These are trade specialist tools which wouldn’t usually be required in DIY applications. For more information on the extended range of nail guns available, check out House Grails’ blog post.

Ryobi has recently extended its range of cordless nail guns to better suit the needs of its customers. They offer very cost-effective 16 and 18-gauge nail guns, and have recently released a 15-gauge gun for tougher applications. When compared to the offerings from DeWalt and Milwaukee, they are far cheaper, without compromising on quality or performance. In many cases, the Ryobi nail guns have outperformed their more expensive counterparts.

If you’re looking to expand your tool collection outside of your usual brand, with a Badaptor, there’s no need to purchase a new battery system and charger. A Badaptor will convert the 18V batteries you already own to work with DeWalt, Makita, Milwaukee or Ryobi 18V tools.

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