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How to Use a Framing Nailer

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In woodwork, equipment is everything. They can make or break the project. Their absence can also make your work a nuisance.

One of these essential tools is a framing nailer. Framing nailers are nail guns used to fix material together. They’re incredibly handy in several construction projects, including building fences, installing cabinets, and framing a house.

One problem though is figuring out how to use a framing nailer is a bit challenging. I’m writing this guide to walk you through the process of learning about framing nailers and how to use them.

Types of Framing Nailers

There are two main types of framing nailers:

Person using a framing nailer for his woodworking project
  • Pneumatic
  • Cordless framing nailers
    • Cordless with an air canister
    • Cordless battery-powered

Although they share some similarities, there are some decisive differences you need to consider. Pneumatic nailers are better suited for professional construction workers, while cordless nailers are more convenient for beginners.

Pneumatic Framing Nailers

Pneumatic framing nailers are connected to and powered by an air compressor by a long hose. Similar to pneumatic brad nailers, when a nail is shot out, a burst of compressed air pushes a piston that drives the nail into the wood.

This mechanism has some pros and cons. On one hand, it allows for faster and more powerful work. On the other hand, the air compressor isn’t a convenient machine to have around. It makes your nailer less portable and makes it harder to work in tight workspaces. 

Cordless Framing Nailers

Cordless framing nailers with an air canister work in the same way as pneumatic nailers, but the compressed air comes from a small, disposable canister that fits inside the nailer.

The built-in battery is used to activate a charge propelling the nail out of the gun. This gives the same power as with the pneumatic nailer, but occupies less space and is more accessible to carry around. 

However, working with this nailer can be quite demanding as it requires both a battery and an air canister.

As for the battery-powered cordless canister, it’s trouble-free, especially for the average home-owner. It’s a great option for beginners.

The battery is the principal force discharging the nail. Although they come with the huge advantage of user-friendliness and practicality, they tend to be slower and less robust. 

With that being said, the best cordless framing nailer should have enough power to handle the job at hand. 

Types of Nails

Cartridge of nails for a nail gun

Another thing you should consider is the type of nails you’ll be using with your nailer. The two main options are stick-style and coil-style nails. These are fixed styles and aren’t interchangeable.

Stick-style guns pack the nails in a line or a rectangle. This gives them a smoother look. On the other hand, this style requires frequent reloading.

As for coil-style nailers, the nails are packed in a coil, enabling you to load more nails. However, the nailer tends to be heavier and bulkier.

Safety Tips

Nailers are certainly tempting to use. However, there’s no substitute for rigorous safety precautions. The nailer doesn’t care whether it’s your first or hundredth time.

Nail guns are responsible for an estimated 37,000 emergency room visits each year. Here’s what you can do to avoid that:

  • Always wear gloves, goggles and a helmet to avoid any injuries from flying wood shards.
  • Never use your nailer if you’re feeling tired or drowsy.
  • Unplug your nailer when not in use and store it in a safe place.
  • Never remove the nailer’s tip to boost up your speed.
  • Make sure you’re working with the right angle before firing.
  • Don’t work with the nailer if the nails are jammed.

How to Use a Framing Nailer

After identifying the kind of nailer you have, the next step naturally would be to learn how to use it.

Framing nailers are pretty easy to use once you get the hang of it. Follow these steps to use your nail gun:

Step 1: Load the Nailer

This is for all the newbies too embarrassed to ask, you load the nail strips at the nailer’s magazine, which is usually found at the back or at the bottom, according to your model.

Man using a framing nailer in construction work

It’s a pretty simple procedure. All you have to do is:

  1. Slide the nail strip in
  2. Secure them well
  3. Close the magazine 

Step 2: Practice on Scrap Wood

It’s smart to try the framing nailer once or twice on an old piece of wood first. It helps you get a feel for your nailer and prevents any damage to your work

Step 3: Fire the Nail Gun

Framing guns fire nails in 4 different ways:

  1. Bump-firing
  2. Single-nail
  3. Full-sequential
  4. Single-sequential

Bump-Firing

Bump-firing is a method usually used by professional construction workers. Although it’s faster than other methods, it carries a higher risk for accidental discharges and injuries. It’s not recommended to try it unless you’re experienced in woodwork using nail guns.

The procedure is that you have to pull the trigger and depress the safety tip, in no particular order. If you want to fire another nail, you release one of them.

This is very different from how you would use a crown stapler, for example. It is one of the big advantages of a framing nailer, as it allows you to work very rapidly if you perfect this technique. 

Single-Nail

The single-nail method is considered safer yet slower than bump-firing. That’s mostly because to fire a second nail you’d have to release both the trigger and the safety tip and then repeat the whole process all over again. 

A pile of nails

Full-Sequential

Full-sequential is the slowest and safest way to fire a framing nailer. Consider trying it out if you’re a complete beginner.

What you do is basically depressing the safety tip first, then pulling the trigger. Next, if you want to fire a second nail, you release both and repeat.

Single-Sequential

The single-sequential method has a bit of everything. It’s faster than full-sequential and safer than bump-firing.

In this method, you’ll need to follow the same order of steps described. Depress the safety tip,  then pull the trigger, in that order.

However, to fire the second nail, you don’t have to release both the safety tip and the trigger. You can just release the trigger while keeping the safety tip depressed.

Fastening with a Nailer for Framing

There are two techniques of nailing that are exclusively achieved using a framing nailer:

  • Toe-nailing
  • Thorough-nailing

Toe-nailing means placing a nail at a 45-degree angle between two pieces of wood. Here’s how you do that:

  1. Place your studs on the layout markings
  2. Drill the teeth of the nailer’s nozzle at a 45-degree angle.
  3. Pull the trigger.

Here’s the trick though. You want the nail to go through both pieces without the nail shaft projecting at an angle. So what you do is line the nail with both the plate and the stud without the stud moving out.

Man holding a framing nailer while on top of a roof of a house under construction

Through-nailing is a technique used to provide framing the strength it needs to hold up. It’s simpler than toe-nailing.

What you have to do is line the stud and fire a nail into it with a perpendicular angle. So technically you just shoot a straight nail at a straight angle.

Conclusion

All in all, once you go for a framing nailer, you can’t go back to using a hammer. Although nailers are complex machines with challenging utilization, they’re definitely worth it. They make woodwork faster, more manageable, and more enjoyable.

As soon as you decide on the type of nailer and nails you’re going to use, it’s time for carefully going through its instruction manual.

If there’s something you should take out of this article, it’s this: always start with safety precautions. Every time. Even if it seems like a hassle. Especially when it feels like a hassle.

The rest is just practice. The more you do it, the easier and more natural it gets. Only then you’ll find the true joy of operating a framing nailer.