Brad Nailer vs. Finish Nailer – Which One Is Better and Why

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Best Brad Nailer

Hitachi NT50AE2

Second Best Brad Nailer


Best Finish Nailer

Hitachi NT1865DM

Second Best Finish Nailer

As we go about our daily tasks, many of us get excited about the large and strong power tools. Core cutters, gutters and what have you; these seem to be on the lips of everyone. Rarely do people get the functions or qualities of these products wrong. This guide is dedicated to something different; tools more delicate and designed for intricate tasks. It is about finish nailers and brad nailers.

Consider this: You have cut those big blocks of concrete and drilled sizeable holes in them. Do you stop there? The final touch is always meant to be the best. Brad nailers and finish nailers come into focus. Unfortunately, many users are unable to tell the difference between the two types of nailers.

As any professional will tell you, the main difference lies in the nails used. Brad nailers are smaller and are normally headless. If they come with heads, then they should be very narrow. This is just the basic difference, but professionals have many other ways of telling which one is which. By the time you complete reading this guide, you should have it easy choosing either of the two for a specific application.

Brad Nailer vs Finish Nailer

Brad Nailers

What is a brad nailer and how do you use one?

Welcome to this review of the best brad nailers in 2018. The brad nailer is a very common tool in the workshop and jobsite. If you ask professionals who have handled this product, no tool assortment is complete without this small and lightweight finishing tool.

The simple definition of a brad nailer is “a handheld power tool for driving 18-grade nails into wood or any other material.” These nails are popularly known as brad nails and come tightly glued together. A brad nail has a recognizable flat head that make it appear bent at the top.

For a better understanding of what a brad nailer is, it is worthwhile to note that there are several types of brad nailers in the market. The most popular of these is the pneumatic brad nailer. As you can predict from the name, this tool draws its power from compressed air. One of the most notable components of the pneumatic brad nailer kit is a portable air compressor for the power. Also in the kit is a lightweight air hose.

Driving the nail using this tool is a simple mechanism that involves a valve, a cylinder and a piston. The moment you fire the nail, the valve opens, thereby loading the cylinder. This prompts the piston to fire the nail into the work piece.

Users value the pneumatic brad nailer for its unmatched efficiency. Professionals specifically cite the neat finish offered regardless of job complexity. Like for any other power tool, safety is a key requirement of using a pneumatic brad nailer effectively. Many accidents and deaths have occurred because of the highly compressed air.

Overall, the pneumatic brad nailer is a highly effective power tool that you would definitely want to add to your collection. Remember that the pneumatic brad nailers come in different shapes, capacities and of course, from different manufacturers.

The electric brad nailer is also common in the market. It relies on electric motor power to shoot nails into the work piece. Because of the reliable power source, this nailer works perfectly on a wide range of surfaces and materials. Unfortunately, this added capability comes at a little cost; the equipment is heavier than the pneumatic type. We attribute this extra weight to the motor, which can be quite bulky in some instances.

Considering the efficiency and usefulness that the tool offered, many users do not even find the higher weight a big hindrance. As long as you are keen on safety and know how to operate the equipment, no major incidences should occur.

Another option is the battery powered brad nailer, which is already gaining immense popularity especially for those remote hard-to-reach jobs. Professionals may not identify so much with this kind of tool, but hobbyists and do-it-yourselfers are buying into this tool because it is easy to use, lightweight and affordable.

Even if you are a do-it-yourselfer, you want your projects to be as professional as possible. Only being comfortable with the nailer will guarantee your window frames, crown molding, doorways and similar tasks turn out excellent. The following simple instructions will help you get started with a brad nailer.

  • Choose Power Supply

Choosing the right type of brad nailer early can save you a lot of heartache. For example, you want to go with a battery-powered device is bouncing from jobsite to jobsite.

  • Observe Safety

You need to wear appropriate protective gear that includes eye protection and gloves

  • Correct Measurement

Nothing is as tiring as working backwards to cover a blemish or fix some mistake. Before you start nailing, mark up the material, adjust air pressure and set fastener depth

  • Control Clutter

Once the job is done, remove debris from tool and place it back in its case. You do not want to it jam or corrode.

While most nailer designs are straightforward and easy to use, incorrect use may lead to disastrous outcomes.  Here are a few tips to help you get the best from your brad nailer:

  • Proper lubrication before use
  • Always test the device on some unimportant surface before proceeding to main project
  • Use the right hose adaptor
  • Maintain the correct distance between surface and brads
  • Use the correct brad length
  • Shut the magazine carefully to avoid jamming the device

When to Use a Brad Nailer instead of a Finish Nailer

From the description so far, we do not expect the brad nailer to handle the main woodwork of your project. It is not that the tool is useless in this kind of scenario; the problem is that the preciseness of the results will not be satisfactory.

Brad nails are some of the thinnest nails you will ever use. They are designed for precise jobs, and they are so tiny that you do not need to use putty to cover the holes. One simple unique aspect I have found in the brad nailer is that it uses brads, instead of nails used in the finish nailer. Nails and brads are very different from each other, whether you look at their applications or their appearance. Brad nails normally come with 18-gauge thickness and up to 2 inches length. Since nails are longer and thicker, you will want to use the brad nailer in a different project, probably a more intricate one.

While the two tools are applicable for finishing jobs, their specific usages differ because of the nail differences. If you are trimming or just handling lightweight finishes, you want to use the brad nailer. Trim carpentry is the ideal area of application of this small-sized tool. Essentially, the equipment comes in handy in construction of trims, frames and molds. Molds and trims are particularly very delicate so they may not withstand the larger 16-gauge nails of a finish nailer. Use brad nails for such jobs and you will never complain. This also means that brads are ideal for cove molding, stop molding and baseboard shoe molding.

The thing here is that a brad nailer offers more accuracy than the finish nailer does. For its extra power and durability, the finish nailer is rougher. You probably would want to avoid it when dealing with overly delicate materials. If you have ever tried driving a 16-gauge nail into a trim, you know how easy it is to shatter the material into pieces. Fortunately, you have the finer brad nailer for such jobs.

Price may be a weak compelling point for choosing between the two tools, but it is worthy to mention it too. As the performance levels vary, you also expect the prices to differ a bit. Whether you are looking at brad nailers or finish nailers, you can get both cheap and expensive models depending on the features you want. Generally, brad nailers tend to be more affordable than finish nailers are. This means that you can go use the brad nailer is price is your motivator. It is recommendable that you rely on price for guidance if the applications of the two tools match.

Lightweight and compact tools are desirable for most projects. For the brad nailer, this is one area where it beats the finish nailer by some margin. It is extremely easy to use and carry around. Related to this advantage is that the tool rarely leaves marks on the work piece. The user does not even have to use putty to cover the nail openings.

Because of their small design, brad nails come in handy when you are gluing two pieces of wood together. They suit this application because they do not leave significant marks on the material. Once the glue has settled, you can remove the brads without any damage on the pieces. These are some of the areas we believe suit the brad nailer and not the finish nailer. Where else would you prefer the brad nailer to the finish nailer? We would love to hear your views.

Best Brad Nailers

When you are choosing the best brad nailer, a few key features come up. As we have already discussed, there are three major types of brad nailers. It is important to determine which type is most suitable for your applications. Some of the features to look out for include portability, price, swivel attachment, brand and warranty. In view of these considerations, the two products reviewed below impressed us the most. Go through the details and let us know which side you lean on.

1. DEWALT DC608K 18-Volt 18-Gauge 2-Inch Brad Nailer Kit


Sequential operating mode allows for precision placement and the bump operating mode provides the user with production speed.

Are you dealing with a lot of woodworking such as detailing, trim and cabinetry? This Dewalt product would be the ideal pick. It has a lot up its sleeve, starting with the 18V NiCAD battery. It only relies on battery power, which is a feature that impressed us a lot. Many competitor products come with a combination of battery and gas systems. What you will note is that any DeWalt 18V battery will work with this brad nailer. This means that you can nail continuously if you have a pair of packs.

This gun may be pear-shaped, but it becomes nicely balanced once the battery is in place. Save for the diameter that tends to exceed the average in this class, the depth and height is comparable with the other products. It will not take you long before you start firing. Charging the battery takes 1 hour and you have a battery charger in the set. With the product’s fast firing mechanism, productivity even on heavy-duty jobs should be impressive. The product has you covered for accuracy and shooting. Just click a button and you are switched between bump and sequential mode swiftly.

Another reason we are convinced the DEWALT DC608K 18-Volt 18-Gauge 2-Inch Brad Nailer Kit is among the best in its class is how easily it handles different kinds of materials. While bump and sequential modes play a role in this capability, it is the accommodation of 5/8-inch to 2-inch nails in the straight magazine that completes the magic. It can hold a massive 110 brads.

Another plus of the product is the ease of transportability that the DC608K offers. For a battery powered brad nailer that provides enough power, 7.4 pounds weight is unbelievable. No attachment hose or heavy compressor getting in the way so using this nailer has to be very enjoyable. Owing to these qualities, you manage to handle diverse projects within a short time. The straight magazine is convenient for frequent loading and unloading, and taking the tool to different locations does not translate to frequent stops.

Many top brad nailers are shaped the way they are for a reason. The nose size is important. The tapered design that Dewalt has featured on this brad nailer serves to fit the tool in tight spaces-a reason to consider this awesome tool for those intricate jobs.  

Other features that every buyers guide will mention that we find in the DEWALT DC608K 18-Volt 18-Gauge 2-Inch Brad Nailer Kit are:

  • Safety contact lock-off
  • Precise depth control mechanism
  • Swing open nosepiece
  • Reversible belt hook

Every feature on this brad nailer seems well thought out. Your preference for this device will be rewarded with a 3-year limited warranty and a ninety-day money-back guarantee. Whether you are a beginner or pro, we do not see any reason why you should not consider this brad nailer.

The DEWALT DC608K 18-Volt 18-Gauge 2-Inch Brad Nailer Kit is worth buying, especially if you are constantly doing repairs and trim jobs. We do not think the slightly higher weight compared to the average pneumatic 18 gauge brad nailer should be a turnoff. Remember the pneumatic one has to be connected to the cumbersome compressor and hoses. For its versatility and portability levels, this product is a winner and deserves all the accolades it is receiving.


2. Hitachi NT50AE2 18-Gauge 5/8-Inch to 2-Inch Brad Nailer

Hitachi NT50AE2

Elastomer grip adds comfort and prevents slippage

For the second product on this shortlist of the best brad nailers, we head to The Land Of The Rising Sun. Hitachi is a popular company that has stood the test of time producing exciting power tools and electronics. The dominance portrayed by this brad nailer is true testament to the company’s history of producing quality products.

If you need a convenient and easy-to-use tool for a bargain price, then pick the Hitachi NT50AE2. Its quality and performance will make you check the low price again in disbelief. It handles a wide range of projects with accuracy and precision.

Low weight is clearly the highlight of this product. When was the last time you came across a quality brad nailer weighing in at just 2.2 pounds? With the low weight comes easy maneuverability and ability to work all day long. The small weight combines excellently with an ergonomic design that is characterized by a soft Elastomer grip and 10 x 9-3/16 x 2-3/8 inches dimensions.

Electric models within the same price range offer less power than the Hitachi NT50AE2. The magazine can hold up to 100 brad nails, so your reload intervals can be few. We like the fact that this tool comes with a yellow indicator to let you know you are running out of brad nails.  

The manufacturer added practicality to this product through the 360-degree exhaust vent. Protection of the owner and work piece comes in the form of the no-mar nose cap.  

By the slide of a knob, you can choose between different firing levels, specifically continuous and irregular modes. The continuous firing mode is ideal for consistent finish where quick pace is necessary while the irregular setting suits accurate nailing because it pauses to adjust the control. Transition between these firing options is smooth ensuring downtime is minimal or non-existent.

One drawback we need to point out is loud operation, something a number of reviewers have already identified. The NT50AE2 tends to be louder than other options, but this shouldn’t stop you from ordering the product. With some ear protection, you can enjoy all the good qualities, even in enclosed spaces.

The Hitachi NT50AE2 is not a new tool in the market, so amassing over 4.5/5.0 in leading major retail sites is a good impression. The good with a tool like this one is that over time, the price goes down, so users get excellent quality for the best prices. You can never go wrong with Hitachi. They have masterfully combined low weight, comfort and performance to build one of the best brad nailers in the market today. Whether you are building furniture or doing a small home project, this product offers the help you need. We highly recommend this brad nailer to any do-it-yourselfer or pro out there.


Finish Nailers

What is a finish nailer and how to use one

Are you looking for a tool that is slightly stronger than the brad nailer is, but one that is still able to perform some intricate nailing jobs? Your best bet is the finish nailer. This nailer accommodates nails of gauge 14 to 16. Normally, the nails are between 1 and 2.5 inches in length. The finish nailer is designed for efficient driving of nails through trim board. It can be used for attaching the boards onto a wide range of manufactured wood products including plywood, softwood and hardwood. This excellent tool normally finishes the job faster than a hammer. Like the brad nailer, the finish nailer allows for one-handed use.

Would you also want to choose between angled and straight finish nailer? These two terms should not confuse you; they refer to the magazine of the tool. How is it oriented to the nail direction? It could either be perpendicular or at a small angle, say 20 degrees, hence the two categories.

Like the brad nailer, the finish nailer design lays a lot of emphasis on safety. Several features are added to prevent user injury. Others safeguard the integrity of the work piece. An example is the safety nose, which must be engaged for the trigger of the nailer to engage. To prevent damage to molding or wood being nailed, some of these tools also feature an anti-marring tip.

What source of power do you intend to use for the finish nailer? You will find three major styles of finish nailers in the market in regards to what powers them: Corded electric, cordless and pneumatic. If you have an air compressor and want to pair it with the tool, the best pneumatic finish nailer will do. Alternatively, you can choose the cordless tool that works with compressed air canister and rechargeable battery. The corded electric may have ready power, but the cord affects maneuverability. It is all up to you to choose a version that suits your situation.

Other important aspects of the finish nailer are gauge type, depth adjustment, jam clearing and magazine type. Together, they all give the tool its popular versatility. To touch on magazine type, the tool can come with either nail stick magazine or coil magazine. Most finish nailers used in workshops or home settings will feature the nail stick magazine, which is extremely versatile. For the heavy-duty tools, the coil magazine comes in handy for its high speed and ability to accommodate many nails (up to 300).

With the basic aspects of the finish nailer out of the way, we can now describe the tool’s operation. Like all power tools, getting the drift about this tool is about practice and willingness to follow some simple guidelines. Most newbies encounter a few avoidable challenges. The first one on the list is called blowout. In simple terms, blowout refers to the nail going in the wrong direction. Countering this problem is very simple: make sure the finish nail tip is placed correctly at the point of nailing before firing.

As a beginner, you may also experience a problem called a nail jam. As the name suggests, the nail fails to get out after you have fired. This is a rarity, but you need to know how to get around it. Like other nail guns, the finish nailer features a latch that you can open easily. For your safety, remember to disconnect the air compressor first, if you are using you are using a pneumatic finish nailer, and disconnect from power if a corded electric tool. For the cordless nailer, you will need to remove the battery.

You might want to note several firing methods of firing exist. The method mostly depends on the design of the safety tip and trigger, two important controls in the tool. Common methods are Contact, Single-Sequential, Single-Actuation and Full-Sequential.

When to Use a Finish Nailer Instead Of a Brad Nailer

Crown molding, cabinetry, baseboards and other heavy jobs demand a tool with incredible holding power. You certainly cannot rely on a brad nailer for such level of power. The finish nailer becomes the tool of choice because generally, it is more suitable for “finishing”, as the name rightly suggests.

Talk of jobs such as installation of door casings, crown molding, windows and baseboards. These require thick nails for the best results. What size of nails do you think get into the finish nailer? 15-Gauge and 16-Gauge are the most suited for these tasks. Those who have been following the history of finish nails know that 15-gauge nails came about specifically to handle the needs of hardwood trims. Oak and other hardwoods are notorious for bending nails. Chances of bending are minimized by using a thick nail. As for 16-gauge nails, their application in less hardwood is still intact. Only a finish nailer can accommodate these types of nails, and hence the equipment is synonymous with the projects mentioned.

Some work pieces have thin cross sections, but still demand the use of a finish nailer. A good example is moldings that work with 18-gauge nails. Thicker nails will most probably split the material. The good thing with 18- gauge nails is that they combine structural integrity with aesthetics.

Sure, some nails are not designed for big weights, but they still suit the finish nailer. This is because of their discrete nature. Consider the 23-gauge nails. In their use to install delicate trims, these nails add more aesthetic value than structural value. Your finish nailer will help you handle such too.

As much as we have indicated that the name of the finish nailer suggests where you can use the tool, what you will also realize is that this nailer comes in handy for internal carpentry. Applications that fall in this category include chair railing, crowning and base boarding.

When looking at the finish nailer vis-à-vis the brad nailer, you also need to consider kind of versatility you are interested in. some users consider the finish nailer more interesting in this case because it can accept some brad nails. With this tool, you are able to complete a wide range of jobs in the workshop or around the home.

The whole point is that a brad nailer may not offer enough width or depth to hold every finishing piece together, so a finish nailer becomes the better option. For example, a heavy molding calls for a finish nailer because a bigger nail is involved.

Best Finish Nailers

1. BOSTITCH N62FNK-2 15-Gauge 1 1/4-Inch to 2-1/2-Inch Angled Finish Nailer


Tool-free removable and angled magazine; adjustable depth control; bypass nail pusher

This pneumatic finish nailer may appear relatively small-sized, but it has some of the most amazing power ever. Weighing in at just 3.8-pounds and measuring at 3.13 x 11.63 x 14.69 inches, this tool will never disappoint you on overhead jobs such as hanging shutters and installing cabinet.

The first thing that will probably catch your eyes is the nice color and design. Yellow is the color and it honestly looks fantastic on all power tools. When we thought that was as far as niceness would go, we picked the tool and felt it. Very few nailers (if any in this category) offer the user comfort of the BOSTITCH N62FNK-2. The handle material is soft and comes with anti-slip and felling marks.

Your home deserves a flawless finish that can only come from a tool that can go to finer details. The standout effects of the BOSTITCH N62FNK-2 show on trim, crown molding or even major furniture projects. To achieve that perfect finish, make use of the four angled profile tips. Remember that this tool comes with an oil-free design, so instances of stained work pieces are rare.

That the product also comes with a depth adjustment feature means that you can tackle different types of projects conveniently and quickly, thereby maintaining a high level of productivity. A 400 in/lbs-power means that even the hardest woods will not stand in the way. Your 15-gauge finishing nails just found a machine to drive them into the toughest of work pieces. Considering that the nailer features tool-free magazine capable of holding up to 130 nails, it is safe to say that no project is too big for the N62FNK-2 Angled Finish Nailer.

Nothing is as fulfilling for a wood worker than having a tool that is not strong, but also comfortable to use. The couple of features we have discussed above paint a picture of nailer that could be applied for continuous projects. Using this tool all day is made possible by the low weight (only 3.8-pounds). The aluminum tool is therefore suitable for cabinets, shutters, crown molding and other overheard applications.

What makes the finish nailer even more interesting is how ensures proper depth and angle of the nail. The name “Angled” comes from the fact that the product features four profile tips that are angled for correct nail angle and depth. The product also comes with sample fasteners, a sturdy carrying case, and no-mar tips. If you feel you need any warranty or support for this yellow pneumatic tool, the lines of communication with the manufacturer are open.


2. Hitachi NT1865DM 2-1/2″ 18-Volt Cordless Brushless Lithium Ion 16 Gauge Straight Finish Nailer with 1 Battery (Lifetime Tool Warranty)

Hitachi NT1865DM

Straight magazine holds 100 16-gauge fasteners from 1

We know that some projects have no access to electric outlets to power corded nailers. In such scenarios, battery powered tools such as the Hitachi NT1865DM 2-1/2″ 18-Volt Cordless Brushless Lithium Ion 16 Gauge Straight Finish Nailer come in handy. Introduced to the market towards the end of 2016, the Hitachi NT1865DM is one of the newly introduced products alongside the 15-gauge NT1865DMA angled finish nailer and the NT1850DE 18-gauge brad nailer. The reliable 3.0Ah lithium-ion battery characterizes this series. This battery comes with Protection Circuit that prevents overload and charging problems. To enhance portability and ease of use, the manufacturer designed this compact battery to be lighter (0.8 pounds) than the conventional battery (1.4 pounds).

Within the few years that the Hitachi NT1865DM has been in the market, it has already endeared itself to pros and beginners across the globe. Once you check its performance and specs, the reasons for this popularity immediately become clear. We have already mentioned about the battery, being a cordless device, this finish nailer offers a myriad of other benefits related to weight and size. For example, the NT1865DM may not be the smallest product in its category, but the design enhances storage and transportation. You do not need gas cartridges or compressor to operate this finish nailer. Moreover, this lightweight tool will give you the easiest time and total freedom when driving nails in various materials.  

Brushless motor technology is at the center of the success of this finish nailer. The motor gives the NT1865DM longer run time and more durability with minimal maintenance. This product uses a nail driving system that is similar to that of their pneumatic line. This gives improved flush driving, higher shooting speed and zero ramp-up time. it can drive 3 nails per second!

Regarding performance, the Hitachi NT1865DM 2-1/2″ 18-Volt Cordless Brushless finish nailer works with 16-gauge fasteners of between 1″ and 2-1/2″ inches length. To load the machine, simply pull the lid and place a set of fasteners inside. Once you have closed the magazine, you are ready to go. Simple as it gets. The firing force will drive the nail to the end of the work piece, whether drywall or hardwood.

One of the qualities we value a lot in nailer and we are sure you do is user friendliness. Starting with the handle to the weight and inclusion of several features, it is evident that Hitachi wants the users to have fulfilling nailing projects. An ergonomic soft handle offers not only comfort, but also a secure grip. If nails jam in the device, you do not have to sweat as the tool-less nose latch helps remove them at the blink of an eye.

Safety –for the user and work piece – is a priority in this finish nailer. For example, the no-mar nose cap reduces instances of work piece damage. For your safety, the product features the power button in a strategic position- on the control panel. Accidental firing is a concern for many in regards to nailers. Go ahead, grab the Hitachi NT1865DM, and stay safe with the side-lock switch. We are sure you will also love the Pivoting Belt Hook that removes the only-right-hand-user sort of design we see in many nailers.

Overall, this powerful, reliable and safe product has earned its place among the great finish nailers available in the market. We seriously think you should try it.

Brad Nailer vs Finish Nailer Summary

Having gone through the different sections of this article that include two reviews each for brad nailer and finish nailer, we believe you are now in a better position to choose the next nailer you add to your tool portfolio. From the discussion, we can deduce that the finish nailer is the best all-round nailer for small and medium-scale tasks. Okay, its power may not match the requirements of framing or roofing, but this equipment’s miniature size makes it perfect for odd jobs all over the compound.

If you are interested in smaller version of the above nailer, then get a brad nailer. Brad nails are small, but they are strong. The brad nailer generally suits projects where the finish nailer is slightly more powerful, such as small construction projects and furniture upholstery. You can easily identify this machine by its straight magazine and handheld nature.

No matter which one you choose, wear personal protective equipment and read the manual to protect you, other people and the work piece. If this guide has been helpful as it has been to many others, please click the share buttons to spread the word. You can also drop your questions or sentiments in the comments section and we shall react to them.


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