Pin Nailer vs Brad Nailer — Key Differences and Uses Explained

yellow brad nailer and green pin nailer

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Professional woodworkers and people into DIY projects will agree that having the right equipment is integral to the success of their plans.

To help you achieve the best in your woodwork project, this comparison from our resident woodworkers will shed light on the key differences between brad and pin nailers and their uses. Also, we will answer frequently asked questions about these nail gun types.

What is a Brad Nailer?

In a nutshell, a brad nailer is a power tool used for shooting brad nails into place. In fact, they are not so different from other finish nail guns. If you are not conversant with what a brad nail looks like, they are small thin finishing nails that have a narrow head that pokes out at one end.

These types of nails are very difficult to drive manually into wood trims because of their miniature nature, thus the need for a brad nailer. A brad nailer generates a strong electric force that helps drive the brad nails into the wood trim, making them almost invisible.

yellow brad nailer

Today, brad nailers have phased out conventional hammers to become every woodworker’s choice. In fact, many woodworkers believe that this tool is specifically crafted for detailed woodwork projects.

When to Use a Brad Nailer

A brad nailer is used for projects where you need little holding power or strength. This can be when working with softwoods, or when you need to fix your wood project temporarily while the wood glue dries. 

In some other cases, you can use them for the following woodwork projects:

using a brad nailer to build a shelf

Pros

Cons

What is a Pin Nailer?

Pin nailers are power guns that shoot pin nails easily into thin pieces of wood. A pin nail is 1-inch long, 23-gauge, and almost the same diameter as a needle, making them much smaller than a brad nail. Many pin nailers shoot out inch pins, but some specially made ones can top out at 2 inches.

Similar to brad nailers, the pin nailer also generates ample amounts of electric force that helps drive the pin nails easily through the surface of the wood. The force generated by this tool is enormous enough to drive the pin nails through several surfaces, leaving a small hole that is invisible. 

green pin nailer

Pin nailers are power guns that shoot pin nails easily into thin pieces of wood. A pin nail is 1-inch long, 23-gauge, and almost the same diameter as a needle, making them much smaller than a brad nail. Many pin nailers shoot out inch pins, but some specially made ones can top out at 2 inches.

Similar to brad nailers, the pin nailer also generates ample amounts of electric force that helps drive the pin nails easily through the surface of the wood. The force generated by this tool is enormous enough to drive the pin nails through several surfaces, leaving a small hole that is invisible. 

When to use a Pin Nailer?

As we have stated earlier, having the right tool for your woodwork project is pivotal to success. Therefore, it is important to ask questions like this. 

So, when should you use a pin nailer as a DIYer or professional woodworker?

pin nails

For our pro woodworkers, pin nailers are ideal for woodworking projects that are not permanent. In fact, they design this tool to drive nails for temporary wood connections or to provide extra support for wood glue. Therefore, ‌we can say that a pin nailer is ideal for delicate and tiny furniture trim and thin finishing work.

Pros

Cons

The Differences Between Pin and Brad Nailers

Do you know that a brad nailer and pin nailer differ in terms of usage and applications despite their similarities as a finish nailer? Yes, you read that right. 

yellow brad nailer and green pin nailer

Although both sink small nails into wood, they are different in terms of how and when you can use them. Here are some notable differences our team of expert woodworkers has made between the two nailers:

Nail

One of the distinct differences between these two nailers is the type and size of nails they shoot. The pin nailers drive 23-gauge headless nails. While brad nailers shoot an 18-gauge flat nail head.

The size of nails these tools shoot determines the mark they leave on the work. Here, the pin nails excel because it is thinner and leaves little to no mark on the surface of the wood.

Gauge Range

In terms of gauge range, pin nailers shoot 23-gauge nails, which come in a variety of sizes ranging from ⅜ inches to 2 inches. Most pin nailers can shoot ⅜ to 1 inch. While they specifically design some to accommodate 2 inches.

18 gauge brad nailer

Brad nailers ‌shoot 18-gauge nails which come in different sizes ranging from ⅝ inches to 2 inches for different usage.

Convenience

For convenience, both tools are actually very convenient. They are both lightweight and very handy. But if we are to make a choice of the most convenient, that will be the pin nailers. This is because they shoot small pin nails.

Versatility

In the contest of versatility between a brad nailer vs pin nailer, the brad nailer comes out on top. It is the most versatile. This is because you cannot use pin nailers for permanent projects.

We only use them to join wood together temporarily or to provide little finishing touches. We believe this cannot beat the versatility of brad nailers, which can be used for almost any type of project.

Strength

In the aspect of strength and holding power, pin nailers have very little holding power because they shoot very tiny nails.

using a pin nailer for paneling

Although they provide great cohesive forces which makes them suitable for delicate pieces. Nevertheless, you will need to add wood glue or adhesive before you can achieve a strong bond.

On the contrary, brad nailers are strong, and they provide more holding power. You can use them on woodwork projects without having to add wood glue or any adhesive.

Similar topics: 

Brushed drills vs brushless drills 

Nailer Safety Tips and Reminders

Nailers, also called pneumatic nailer guns or power tools, are effective woodworking tools if handled safely. If used improperly, they can cause serious injuries.‌

With safe work practices and the usage of the right PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) [1], you can mitigate these risks.

loading nails to a brad nailer

Here are some nailer safety tips and reminders from OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration): 

FAQ

What is a pin nailer good for?

A pin nailer is good for wood pieces that are very delicate like thin veneers. The reason they are most suitable for this kind of wood is that they have a little driving force. Plus, they use small gauges that will not leave any visible nail holes. This is unlike other nail guns that leave large nail holes that you need to fill with wood putty or wood filler that are suitable for large holes and gaps.

Should I use a brad nailer or a finish nailer?

You should use a brad or a finish nailer according to the nature of ‌your project. 

If you are working on large trims such as crown molding, installing baseboards, or building cabinets, you should consider using finish nailers. This recommendation is so because finish nails have more holding capacity, and they are superior in terms of gauge. They make them out of 15-16  gauge wire, and they shoot larger nails.

Can you use a pin nailer for baseboards?

No, you cannot use a pin nailer for baseboards. It is not advisable because a pin nailer is light duty and it does not sink well into the base.

With baseboards, a brad nailer is advisable, because of its holding capacity. However, if all you have is a pin nailer, you can use glue to support the strength of the pin nail. This is because pin nailers work with 23 gauge nails. But you don’t want to do that with trim work.

Conclusion

In selecting between a pin nailer vs brad nailer for your woodwork or DIY projects, a brad nailer is our pro woodworkers’ ultimate choice. The reason is that they can join two wood surfaces together with enough holding power as with every other traditional nail gun. 

In fact, you can use them as temporary and permanent support in your woodwork project, in installing crown molding, wainscoting, etc.

Robert Johnson is a woodworker who takes joy in sharing his passion for creating to the rest of the world. His brainchild, Sawinery, allowed him to do so as well as connect with other craftsmen. He has since built an enviable workshop for himself and an equally impressive online accomplishment: an extensive resource site serving old timers and novices alike.
Robert Johnson
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