In woodworking, you will find two different types of nailers: brad nailer and finish nailer. These are usually used for different purposes but they can be swapped out depending on your project needs.

The most important thing to consider when picking which one is best suited for what type of fastener or material that’s being worked with?

The problem is that most beginners think they are interchangeable and try using them for tasks that aren’t their natural strength. Regardless of how similar they look, it’s important to understand what you’re dealing with before getting started.

In this blog post, we will talk about the differences between a brad nailer and a finish nailer.

What is a Brad Nailer?

A brad nailer can be defined as a battery-powered or pneumatic tool that is used to drive small nails in a similar way as a nail gun. The appearance and operation of a brad nailer are similar to that of a nail gun. The main difference is that it does not shoot nails.

For the case of a brad “nailer”, it shoots brands and not nails. An average brand nail has a gauge of eighteen and has a cross-section area of 0.0475 inches. It shoots very thin and small nails. 

Many woodworkers involved in DIY projects have probably never used nails that are thin and small. For this case, you may be wondering how to use these slim and small nails. Brad comes in handy when putting up extreme thin finishing.

A good example is when you have an extremely thin piece of trim that you need to attach to your furniture. You cannot use normal-sized nails to do this. It would break up the trim. You will need to use a brad to fix it up without breaking it. 

In general, brad nailers are useful tools to have in your toolbox, especially if you are an enthusiastic woodworker. They come in very handy mostly when you need to apply mold or trimming carefully. For this reason, you can use a brad to ensure that the trim does not break. 

They are high-quality tools and will help you in your molding or trimming projects. If you need to apply finishing touches in your carpentry or projects, you need a brad nailer. 

If the brad nail does not get through fully, you should not try hammering the nail head. Since the brads are thin, they can easily get bent or damaged. Rather than hammer the rest of the board through, you should just pull it out and drive in a new brad nail.

Let us have a look at one of the best braid nailers in the market.

Makita AF506 2″ Brad Nailer

The Makita AF506 2″ Brad Nailer is one of the best brand nailers available in the market. It features a powerful motor that drives a range of eighteen gauge brad nails from 5/8” in soft and hardwood applications.

Its body is made of aluminum combined with a magazine and cylinder, enhancing its durability and strength. It is lightweight and weighs around 2.9 pounds. It comes with a narrow nose design that allows you to have easy nailing access in extremely confined areas.

In addition, it comes with a built-in duster that ensures you have convenient airflow to clean the working surface. The Mikita is easy to use. It features a tool-less depth adjustment dial that can fit in a variety of applications.

Pros
  • It is lightweight

  • It is made of an aluminum body that enhances its durability and strength
  • 
It is easy to use
  • 
It is ideal for attaching delicate moldings and trims
Cons
  • The gun part is not durable

What is a Finish Nailer?

A finish nailer is a nail gun designed for attaching finishing materials using finish nails like the crown and trim molding. Just like a brad nailer, a finish nailer also uses headless nails.

A finish nailer functions the same as a brad nailer. However, the role of a finish nailer in a woodworking project is limited. You will only be using it to do most of the finishing parts. When molding or trimming, you may need a finish nailer instead of a regular nail gun.

When it comes to strength, a finish nailer operates as a midway point between brand nailers and those other heavy-duty nail guns like the framing nailers. Note that finish nailers are stronger compared to brad nailers, but framing nail guns come out strongest. 

When it comes to size, the average finish nailer you will find in the market can handle nails that range between one inch to two and a half inches in length. Most of these nails are headless and will not blend well with the surface of the wood. Note that once you fix the nail it’s hard to remove it due to the headless design.

Let’s have a look at the best finish nailer available in the market.

Makita AF635 15 Gauge, 2-1/2″ Angled Finish Nailer

The Makita AF635 15 Gauge, 2-1/2″ Angled Finish Nailer is one of the best Finish nailers available in the market. It has a powerful motor that can drive a 15 gauge “DA” style angled finish nails.

It can handle nails of different lengths ranging from 1.25 inches to 2.25 inches, and Makita AF635 comes with a cylinder, aluminum magazine, and a magnesium body. That makes it an extremely durable and strong machine.

In addition, it features a “tool-less” depth adjustment that allows you to have a more precise countersink and flush nailing. This machine is incredible because it is equipped with a nail lock-out mechanism that protects the work surface and the tool itself from dry fires.

A built-in air duster ensures the work surface remains clean by providing a convenient airflow.

Pros
  • It is strongly built
  • 
It comes with a built-in air duster that ensures the work surface remains clean
  • 
It is safe to use because it features a nail lock-out mechanism that protects against dry-fires
  • 
It is easy to use
Cons
  • It will not use the entire stack of loaded nails

The Main Differences Between Finish Nailers and Brad Nailers

You may have noted that these tools are quite similar. However, they are not meant for general use but, for specific purposes. Both of these tools use smaller nails and do not have as much power as other types of nail guns. There is a clear-cut difference between these two machines.

Here are the key differences between them:

The Size of the Hole

To begin with, both of these tools create holes of different sizes on wood. Every woodworker will agree that once you use a nail gun on wood, you may be required to use putty to fill in the holes that the nail gun has left.

However, that statement is not entirely true. The holes made by finish nailers will require one to use some putty to fix them up.

On the other hand, brad nailers do not leave any noticeable holes in the material used on them. However, if the material you are using is thin or weak, you may leave holes in it. What you need to do on that case is use a little bit of putty to fill them up. 

The Nails

A brad nailer is designed in a way that it can conveniently shoot an eighteen gauge nail. On the other hand, a finish nailer is designed in a way that it can shoot either a fifteen or sixteen-gauge nail. 

The Power

When it comes to power, finish nailers have an upper hand over brad nailers. For instance, let us look at a scenario where you have some thick or heavy trim that you are trying to put up. You can try fixing it up with a brad nailer, but you will be running the risk of not conveniently securing the trim.

In case you happen to use the nailer in the wrong situation, the molding or the trim may fall away eventually. If you are fixing up a thick trim, a finish nailer will do the job perfectly. 

Uses

The difference between these two comes out clearly when we consider the use of each tool. You should know that a brand nailer will not crack or split a thin piece of wood.

Another obvious difference comes in on the effectiveness at which each tool does the corners. Most carpenters prefer using a brad nailer on the corners since they cause less damage compared to finish nailers.

Brad Nailer vs Finish Nailer Comparison Table

Brad NailerFinish Nailer
Type of Nail18-gauge15-gauge or 16-gauge
Hole SizeSmall (approximately 0.0475 inches)Large (up to 0.0720 inches)
Nail Length5/8″ to 2-1/2″1″ to 2-1/2″
CapacityA weaker holding powerWithstands higher payload
BaseboardsNoYes
Crown MoldingNoYes
Window and Door TrimNoYes
Quarter RoundYesNo
Thin MoldingYesNo
Narrow MoldingYesNo

Frequently Asked Questions

Which is Better – Brad Nail or Finish Nailer?

Both are important parts of the woodworking process. It depends on what you are working on to choose either the brad nail or finish nailer. In terms of versatility, the finish nailer is better than the brad nailer.

However, a brad nail performs best with thin trim and delicate workpieces compared to a finish nailer. Other projects need stronger holding power making the finish nailer the preferred tool. Generally, weigh your type of work and decide the best tool to perform it.

Can I Use a Brad Nailer for Baseboards?

Yes, you can. To install baseboards, use an 18-gauge brad nailer, for better results, use 1 1/2 inch long. Baseboards come in different sizes, if you have heavy and large boards, it is wise to use a finishing nailer.

Close the baseboard when using a finishing nailer to avoid the board from splitting. Pre-drilling the hole can be a better ideal and, make sure they are smaller size the nail size.

What are Brad Nails Good For?

Brad nailers are a must-have in different woodworking projects. Use brad nails where large nails may split or crack the wood. Use them to attach thin trim and narrow molding since they have no risk of cracking the workpiece.

Other uses of brad nails include:

  • Decorative molding installation
  • Cabinet trim attachments
  • Shoe molding, doorstep molding, and quarter-round installation
  • Small woodwork assembling
  • Tacking glued wood pieces together as they dry
  • Most of the DIY wood projects

Can You Use Brad Nails in a Finish Nailer?

No. The finish nailer can only use 16-gauge or 15- gauge. Brand nails are 18-gauge nails with a diameter of about 1.2mm.

If you make a mistake and load the brad nails in a finish nailer as people do, you will make a mess. You will notice that the gun is shooting two nails per shot. When smaller diameter brad nails are used in a finish nailer, it will jam.

In worst cases, the nail gun will break or, metal shrapnel starts flying and cause injury.

When Would You Use a 16-Gauge Finish Nailer?

They shoot nails ranging from ¾ -2 ½ inches long hence used to complete multiple tasks. Carpenters use them for interior trimming, crowning and, baseboard. A 16-gauge finish nailer can be used to do stair risers and to nail down the tongue.

In places where the flooring nailer can’t work, like groove flooring in a closet or near walls, a 16-gauge nailer can be used. When dealing with a lot of trim work and you don’t like several guns, 16-gauge is the perfect choice due to its versatility.

What is a Finish Nailer Used For?

Finish nailers can be used in different ways and have strong holding power when dealing with large boards. They can go through thick pieces of plywood, MDF, and hardwoods.

Use them for

  • Door and window trim
  • Crown molding
  • Chair rails baseboard
  • Staircases
  • Heavy and large boards

Can You Use a Finish Nailer For Siding?

No. Finish nailers will split your materials since they cannot handle thin or fragile pieces.

Conclusion

This article has brought out the differences between these two woodworking tools. One can now figure out what they need for their next woodworking project. If you are looking for a finish nailer or brad nailer, consider the ones we have reviewed in this article.