Last updated on
Finishing Nailers are used to quickly fasten trim and timber panels in a way that only leaves a small penetration hole that can be hidden with filler.
The other option is to use a brad nailer, the difference with this tool is that it uses a slightly smaller pin at only 18 gauge. A Finishing Nailer uses a stronger panel pin at 16 Gauge or for the best holding power 15 Gauge. (Note the smaller the gauge the wider the pin)
This review has been separated into 3 sections,
- Best Cordless Finishing Nailer
- Best air finishing nailer
- Best gas/fuel finishing nailer
Best Cordless Finishing Nailer
#3 BEST 16 GAUGE DEWALT FINISHING GUN
DEWALT DCN660D1 Cordless Angled Finishing Nailer Kit 16 Gauge
#4 BEST BOSTITCH FINISHING NAILER
BOSTITCH BCN662D1 Straight Finishing Nailer Kit, 16 Gauge
Best Air Finishing Nailer
#3 BEST PASLODE AIR FINISHING GUN
Paslode 500910 T250A Pneumatic Angled Finish Nailer,16-Gauge
Best Gas Driven Finishing Nailer
Finish nailers are nail guns that are intended specifically for nailing moldings and attaching trim boards to assemblies like joinery units. They use relatively thin nails that are driven through trim boards that are in turn attached to hardwoods, softwoods, or plywood.
The nails used with finishing nailers are so thin that they leave only small holes that can easily be filled with putty or wood filler before the finish is applied. They are also small enough to prevent splitting or breaking of the trim board, unlike other types of nails or wood screws. As thin as they are, finish nails provide an instant hold that can also be backed up with the use of appropriate adhesives.
Finish nailers are much faster to work with than hammers and nails. With a good finishing nailer, an experienced or beginner woodworker will be able to get a lot more work done during the day. Many models are small enough to hold with a single hand, which leaves your other hand free to hold your trim or molding in the correct position.
Nowadays, finishing nailers come in a variety of sizes and designs, from pneumatic and gas-driven models to cordless models powered by rechargeable batteries. But most of them work pretty much the same as the earliest models.
While the principle behind nail guns has been in practice for hundreds of years, the precursors to modern nail guns were developed in the early 1950s.  During this post-war period of frenzied construction in the United States, there arose a need for a more efficient alternative to the hammers and nails used in constructing houses and buildings. Drawing inspiration from the machine guns used in WWII, inventors developed pneumatic staplers. Companies such as Paslode, Bostitch, and Senco then adopted the technology and used it to develop the first pneumatic nailers in the 1970s. Since then, the market has seen the development of even more powerful and more efficient models, many of which are still widely used today.
Finishing Bradder Features
Finishing Nailers Vs. Brad Nailers
Finishing nailers and brad nailers are so much alike that many woodworkers tend to confuse them and use them for the same purposes. But although the two types of tools serve many of the same functions, each is really best suited for different jobs.
Finishing nailers generally provide a stronger hold than brad nailers due to the higher gauge nails used. The nails used in bradders or brad nailers are extremely thin and are better suited for very light trim and molding.
There are reasons to go with a brad nailer instead of a finishing nailer. The much smaller nails leave very tiny holes that less noticeable, you might still cover them up with wood putty afterward. But if you need a stronger hold for house trim, then a finishing nailer is the better option, and they still do leave relatively small holes.
What’s Better An Angled Mag Or A Straight Shooter
Finishing nailers, unlike bradders, are available in 2 major design types. A straight magazine or an angled shaped nail holder.
Both designs are great but personally I prefer the angled tool as it has more flexibility with working in tight corners and shooting at slight angles. A straight shooter is good for easy access jobs with a more comfortable balance but has more limited use in tight spots.
Gas-Powered Finishing Nailers Vs. Cordless Finishing Guns
Gas-powered nailers are pretty popular among professional woodworkers due to their increased power and longer runtimes. They are also a lot more convenient than pneumatic nailers because you don’t need to drag an air compressor or lengths of hose with you.
But cordless or battery-powered might be even better options than gas-driven models. They are just as portable and easy to move around as gas-powered nailers because they aren’t reliant on air compressors and air hoses either.
Furthermore, cordless finishing guns don’t emit unpleasant gas fumes and you never have to worry about running out of gas or your gas canisters expiring. Battery operated nailers are also generally quieter than gas-driven models, which could be beneficial when working at home. 
Air Finisher Vs. Cordless Finisher
As I mentioned previously, I believe cordless finishers are better options than air finishers for many reasons, not the least of which are their portability and convenience. However, there are situations wherein an air finisher might be the better choice. They are better suited for big jobs where you need fast repetitive consistent shooting power, such as when working on cedar panel ceilings. But for general finishing work such as architraves and trims, I would always opt for a good cordless model instead. When the job requires me to move around a lot, I just don’t want to have to bother lugging around a big, bulky compressor.
15 Gauge Vs. 16 Gauge Finisher
16-gauge nailers, on the other hand, are better suited for working with thick trim. They are also generally smaller and lighter than 15-gauge nailers. Most 16-gauge nailers are designed to drive nails up to 2 ½” in length which is still plenty for most trim finishing jobs.
There are quite a few quality finishing nailers out there, but these models stand out for their performance, reliability, and excellent results.
The DeWalt DCN650B is a battery-powered unit that offers power, convenience, and versatility in a compact package. It has a useful micro-nose design that helps improve your line of sight and ensures total accuracy when driving panel pin nails. There is also an onboard LED light that illuminates your work piece and provides diagnostic information on the status of your tool. Two modes are provided–sequential and contact actuation–and there is a tool-free trigger that lets you switch quickly between the two.
In use, the DeWalt DCN650B fires quickly with no lags or hiccups. The tool even stands securely on the battery pack which helps keep your work table better organized.
DeWalt DCN650B Angled Finishing Nailer 15 Gauge
The Makita XNB02Z packs more than enough power to handle even the most heavy-duty jobs. It accommodates 16-gauge nails with lengths ranging from 1” To 2 ½”, so you can do almost any type of finishing job with a single tool. The Makita XNB02Z has a compact center height design that gives you an unobstructed view of the nose tip, so you can drive nails accurately even in tight spots. And to prevent damage to delicate trim and molding, there is an anti-dry fire mechanism onboard that prevents the nailer from shooting blanks. Other features include an LED light, a depth adjustment control, and a two-mode selector switch.
Makita XNB02Z 18V Straight Finishing Nailer Kit, 16 Gauge
Best Compressed Air Finishing Nailers
The DeWalt D51257K is an air-driven nailer that is ideally suited for big jobs that require a no-nonsense straight nailer. This particular model boasts of a sealed-lube dual tech motor that works as an oil-free design or as an oil-lubricated unit. This results in a versatile tool that conforms to your way of working and delivers consistently reliable results every time. Other useful features include an adjustable belt hook, a nail depth adjustment control, and a jam clearing mechanism that reduces downtime. There is also a 360° exhaust vent that you can set according to your preferences. The DeWalt D51257K even comes with a no-mar pad that protects your work surface.
DeWalt D51257K Straight Air Finishing Nailer, 16 Gauge
Best Paslode Fishing Nailer
The Paslode 902400 is a powerful and versatile finishing nailer that lets you drive nails precisely even in the tightest spots. Primarily a fuel-driven model, it also requires a 7-volt Lithium-ion battery to run the electronics. While running off fuel, you could expect the Paslode 902400 to keep driving nails all day. A single battery charge will assist you and you’re finishing nailer to drive up to 12,000 nails before you need to recharge.
The Paslode 902400 is an amazingly lightweight device weighing in at only 4.5 pounds. Easy to maneuver and carry around, it is a great choice for finishing jobs that require you to climb ladders and work in tight corners.
Paslode 902400 Angled Fuel Powered Finish Nailer 16 Gauge
Jobs Best Done With A Finishing Gun
Finishing guns are the best choice when you need to do any kind of precision nailing work. When hammers and nails, and screws just seem to be too heavy-handed, a finishing gun is perfect for the job. They are ideally suited for building trim, attaching crown molding, and attaching baseboards. They are even useful for building fine furniture, especially delicate work when a hammer and nails Straight-out won’t do.
Finishing nailers have more holding power than brad nailers. Although they are often used for the same purposes, finishing nailers are the better options when you need to combine holding power and a more subtle touch.
Should I Choose A Brad Gun Instead
There are some situations for which a finishing nailer might be the better option and vice versa. Finishing nailers are usually preferable when you need more decent holding power and you don’t mind leaving slightly bigger nail holes in your trim or molding jobs. This is often the case and you will be using wood putty to fill in the holes anyway to hide them from being noticed.
Holes left by brads and finishing guns, are much smaller than screws, and panel pins driven by hand, and nail punched by hand.
On the other hand, brad nailers are better suited for situations where you want to leave the smallest possible hole on a natural wood finish.
Keep in mind that bradders work best when driving nails straight. Finishing guns, on the other hand, can drive holes straight as well as at an angle, so they are better suited for working in tight corners.
Finishing Nailer Features
Finishing work isn’t as demanding on the tools as other nailing jobs, so durability isn’t as important. Even so, a finishing nailer should be durable enough to withstand long hours of use when there is a lot of finishing work to be done.
Some of the best brands for finishing nailers are DeWalt and Makita. Paslode also makes a superb line of nailers that deliver excellent performance with an affordable price tag. With these brands, you can expect a high-quality tool that delivers consistently reliable performance and long tool life.
Most finishing nailers use nails gauged from 15g to 18g. These nail sizes provide a secure enough hold for most applications without splitting or breaking fragile trim or molding.
Finishing nailers can be powered by mains electricity, gas, battery or air pressure. Each of these designs has its advantages and disadvantages, so your decision often comes down to your particular preference.
Most finishing nailers aren’t that expensive. You could get a pretty reliable and durable tool that has all the features that you need for not a lot of money. As with all power tools, I always recommend getting the best tool you can afford at the price you are willing to pay, but with a finishing gun even the Ryobi performs pretty well for the price.
Tips For Using Finishing Nailers
Most finishing nailers have safety noses that you will have to push in before the trigger can be engaged. Make sure that this is functioning properly before you use your nailer. It is also a good idea to slip the rubberized anti-marring tip onto the nose of the tool to prevent damage to fragile trim or molding.
When you are ready to start driving nails in, position the tip of the tool on the spot on the trim where you want the nail to enter. If necessary, adjust the nailer’s position to ensure that the nail punctures the workpiece properly. You will probably want the tool’s cylinder and tip to line up to the face of the board in a perpendicular position.
In some cases, it may be necessary to position the tool at an angle to penetrate the proper amount of wood behind the trim. After adjusting the nailer’s angle appropriately, push the tool gently toward the surface of the workpiece while depressing the safety nose. Once you have the tool positioned properly, you can pull the trigger and drive the nail in.
You will generally want finish nails to be sunk into the trim to allow filling with wood putty. If your nails aren’t going in deep enough, check to make sure that your air compressor is providing enough pressure and that your depth adjustment control is set to the right setting.
|DeWalt DCN650B||Makita XNB02Z||DeWalt D51257K||Paslode 902400|
|Gauge:||15 (Bigger nail than 16g)||16||16||16|
|Weight:||6.62 lbs.||7.5 lbs||7.6 lbs.||4.5 lbs.|
Among the models covered here, the best options are the DeWalt DCN650B, the Makita XNB02Z, the DeWalt D51257K, and the Paslode 902400. The DeWalt DCN650B packs enough power for all applications in a convenient and portable form. The Makita XNB02Z is equally powerful and includes features that make it perfectly suited for working in tight spots with a slightly narrower pin, a good balance between the Dewalt DCN650B and a bradder.
The DeWalt D51257K is a great choice also for heavy-duty jobs, with a smaller 16g nail where a straight nailer is more effective. It is a consistently reliable unit that delivers flawless performance. Finally, the Paslode 902400 is a precision tool that works especially well in corners, driving up to 12,000 nails per charge.