Friday, November 4, 2011

Tales of a New Gun

To anybody who does even a modest amount of carpentry, I strongly recommend at some point getting a nail gun for doing finishing work.  There are many times when glue just isn't secure enough, and even more when manually hammering in a finishing nail just knocks around the pieces too much for precise work.

A few years ago, I got my first 18-gauge pneumatic nailer to do some fence repair work at the old Monkey Cave.  I got it for next to nothing at Harbor Freight Tools (of course) and marvelled at how quickly I could staples or brads up to 2 inches and use them to fasten the redwood trim in a fraction of the time that hand nailing would have taken.  Not only was the process fast, but the nail holes were so much smaller and cleaner than anything I could have done manually.

When we acquired our new Monkey Cave, however, it was the interior that needed some carpentry work.  The windows had no casings, and looked sad in their moulding-free nakedness.  I realized that I didn't want to lug a compressor and dirty hoses throughout the semi-furnished house, so I started looking into cordless options.

In the end, I purchased the Firestorm FS1802BNB, an 18V, 18-gauge nailer from Black and Decker.  In a class of its own, the Firestorm is priced very affordably (about $180), but is powerful to shoot a 2-inch nail into solid wood.

The Firestorm was a lifesaver when putting up the window casings.  While slower than an air-powered nailer, this gun was clean, powerful, and lasted forever on one charge.  The process was simple;  push the gun "nozzle" up against the work, press the trigger, then wait about a second for the unit to wind up and shoot the nail into the work with muffled "bang".

Alas, before long, the fun was gone.  The nailer suddenly stopped working one day for no apparent reason.  Luckily, it is backed by Black and Decker's full 2-year warranty (for non-commercial use), so I brought it into a local shop for repair.  After three months, I was informed that the unit was not repairable, and since B&D has since stopped producing the unit, they offered to send me a check for a full refund.

Now that I had been spoiled by hose-free nailing, I immediately started looking for a replacement for the Firestorm that hopefully wouldn't break the bank.  Since the Firestorm was designed for home use, it was designed to be affordable.  However, other nailers are designed for contractors, and tended to use more expensive technology.  The Firestorm used some sort of "wind up" mechanism that started when you pressed the trigger.  This caused a delay in firing that no contractor would tolerate. 

I found that many of the other "battery-operated" nailers only use the battery to control an air valve, and that a small compressed-air cartridge actually provides the driving force.  The cartridges are consumable, however, so they're another thing to constantly have to use up and buy.  Hmm. Do not want.

Fortunately, Dewalt makes a fully cordless nailer that gets good reviews.  It doesn't need air cartridges, and seems to use some sort of internal flywheel that spins up as soon as you press the nozzle against the work.

The DC608K "kit" version includes a battery, charger, and case, and normally sells for about $280.  I was able to get a refurbished unit of for only $180 (about the same as the Firestorm!) and this is even covered by Dewalt's three-year warranty.  I'll report back later after putting it through its paces.

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