Here’s How to Use a Nail Gun

It’s not hard to wear out your arm doing any kind of carpentry job that requires hammering more than a few nails. Nail guns are perfect for framing out rooms, building furniture, installing trim, and …


It’s not hard to wear out your arm doing any kind of carpentry job that requires hammering more than a few nails. Nail guns are perfect for framing out rooms, building furniture, installing trim, and lots of other big carpentry jobs. But many do-it-yourselfers are wary of nail guns, and not without good reason.

Nail guns can be dangerous. They fire a sharp projectile, after all. It’s not unheard of for nail guns to fire nails all the way through the material being nailed, or for a nail to hit a knot in the wood and come out the side of the material instead of going in straight. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t use a nail gun safely. Make sure you take nail gun safety seriously, and use the right technique to fire your nails successfully and clear jams as they occur.

Take Safety Seriously

As has already been stated, nail guns can be dangerous and should only be used with the right safety precautions. You should always wear protective goggles when firing a nail gun, in case the nail misfires and sends shards of wood flying towards your face. It’s also a good idea to wear ear protection, as nail guns can be loud – more than 100 decibels. When firing your nail gun, make sure there’s no one standing on the other side of the material you’re nailing, because the nail can go all the way through the material. And you should never hold pieces of wood in your hand while firing a nail gun with the other hand. Instead, use a clamp to hold pieces of wood in place so you don’t risk firing a nail into your free hand.

You should also make sure you use your nail gun in sequential mode, which has been found to be safer than bump mode. Sequential mode requires you to complete a two-step process – depressing the safety nosepiece and then pulling the trigger – in order to fire a nail. Bump mode allows you to fire a nail by holding the trigger down and pressing the safety nosepiece against the material to be nailed – every time the nosepiece is pushed in, the gun will fire a nail. While bump mode is faster, sequential mode is much safer, as there’s far less risk of firing a nail accidentally.

Clear Nail Jams without Hurting Yourself

Another important part of using a nail gun safely is knowing how to clear nail jams without hurting yourself. Nail guns will jam occasionally, usually when they hit something denser than the surrounding wood, like another nail, a knot, or even a bullet. To safely clear the jam, disconnect the gun from its power source – unplug it, take the battery out, disconnect the air hose, or remove the butane cartridge. Then open the safety cover on the front of the gun and remove the jammed nails with a pair of pliers. (Always make sure the safety cover is in good working order before using your nail gun.) Once you have cleared the jam from your nail gun, you can continue firing nails.

Use the Right Firing Technique

There are all kinds of power nailers available to buy, including brad nailers, finishing nailers, floor nailers, roofing nailers, and staple guns. No matter what kind of nailer you’re using, it’s important to use the right technique and adjust the fastener depth according to your needs.

When firing a nail gun, always make sure to press the gun against the material to be nailed at a 90-degree angle. You don’t want to shoot at an angle, so hold the gun firmly against the wood. Then press the safety nosepiece and depress the trigger to fire a nail.

Nail guns can fire fasteners to different depths, and you might want to adjust the depth of your fastener according to the type of job you’re doing. If you’re framing out a wall to finish a basement, for example, the nails that you drive into your two-by-fours can be a little proud, since they will be hidden inside the wall. But if you’re building a piece of furniture, you’ll want a smooth finish, so you’ll want your nails to be a little countersunk. You can usually adjust the depth of the fastener using a knob near the trigger, but read your owner’s manual carefully to make sure you know how to adjust the nail depth.

Using a nail gun can be intimidating, but used properly, a nail gun can be a safe way to tackle large construction jobs without wearing out your arm swinging a hammer. Once you’ve gotten used to using a nail gun, you’ll wonder how you ever got by without one.

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