September 18, 2022
As you kickstart your woodworking career, you will soon learn that nails come in various types. You’ll find common nails, box nails, roofing nails, finishing nails, cut nails, spiral flooring nails, and many other types of nails. Yet, one nail would strike you most as having an unusual name. This nail is Brad nail which could make you more curious about it. So, what is this unusually named nail?
Brad nails are unique finishing nails (brads) with thinner dimensions or gauges. They are 18GA wires fashioned out into sharpened nails. These nails are much thinner than the ordinary finishing nails. Moreover, they easily bend as you drive them using a brad nailer. They also have small heads. Yet you can likewise find headless variations for specialized applications.
Brad nails are perfect for craft projects and many other tasks that require less holding strength. They are also easy to remove and leave a tiny hole. Thus, they are perfect for temporary applications. You would need a brad nailer to drive a brad nail.
What is a Brad Nailer
If it is your first time seeing a brad nailer, you will indeed mistake it for an ordinary nail gun. Yet, it is more than a nail gun because it doesn’t shoot nails. Instead, it shoots “brads.” Brads, as mentioned above, are wires that got transformed or fashioned out into something like nails. So, it is safe to say that they are thin nails. The average brad nails have an 18-gauge and are around 0.0475 inches thick. Thus, it is smaller than the average nail.
If you’re an amateur woodworker, you might not have used any brad nails likewise. So, you might be wondering what they are for. Well, if you’re working on very thin finishing, you will find the use of brad nails handy. However, using ordinary thicker nails, you might split or damage the material you are trying to attach. The thin piece could even break or crack.
Thus, you got the best option of using the thinner brads to ensure that your delicate workpieces will not break. Brad nailers—the tools that drive brads—are handy tools to have around. You will find them very useful when working on delicate workpieces.
What Are the Applications of Brad Nails?
I use brad nails to attach small ornamental parts of furniture and shoe moldings when I build furniture. I also find the brads handy when connecting delicate wooden parts and gluing them together. Gluing the pieces, you would like to join with brads is helpful to add strength to the joints.
- If you want to use brad nailers, you can choose from brads ranging in length from 3/8″ to 2.” Brads leave behind a smaller hole because of their smaller heads. Hence, they are not likely to splinter the materials, even if they are delicate.
- Brads get primarily used for detail trim works, wall paneling, small moldings, furniture making, and cabinetry. You can also use them for fine jobs that necessitate a small hole.
- Brads, however, provide lesser holding power, so you need to complement the brads with glues more often. You can also use brads to attach narrow and thin wood pieces to larger wood.
- Therefore, brad nails are perfect for many home improvement projects. They are also ideal for repairs and renovation applications. You can use brads to attach stop, cove, rail, and shoe molding.
- You can also use it to install detail trims on your cabinet’s face. Plus, they are perfect for small wood furniture projects. The most common uses of brad nails include paneling, fine trim work, fastening moldings, casing, detail works, baseboard, furniture making, cabinetry, and crafts.
Brad Nailer, Finish Nailer, and Framing Nailers: Which is Better?
If it is your first time seeing the brad nailer, you might mistake it as a finish nailer, for it almost looks the same as the finish nailer. The main difference is that the finish nailer drives 15-gauge and 16-gauge nails, whereas the brad nailer drives brads with 18-gauge — wires made into nails.
The brad nailer thrives in attaching delicate workpieces, but the finish nailer that drives thicker nails provides better holding power. But if you would use the finish nails on thin materials, you might likely split or damage the materials.
Using the brad nailer, you can attach thin moldings and trims using brads sans using putty. On the other hand, the finishing nailers thrive in other woodworking jobs that require more substantial holding power.
You might also need to use putty to patch the holes left by the finish nails. In a way, the finish nailers are anywhere between heavy-duty nail guns and brad nailers. Finish nailers, of course, are more powerful than brad nailers but less powerful than the framing nail guns.
Advantages of using Brad Nails
As mentioned above, the brad nails are designed for fine and detailed works. Their thinner body allows them to burrow into the wood or material without causing the materials to crack or split. Below are some of the known advantages of using brad nails:
- Perfect for attaching thin or delicate wood that would break if you use larger diameter nails.
- They don’t produce larger holes.
- Ideal for projects that require less holding power like picture frames, jewelry boxes, and small trims.
- Excellent for moldings.
Disadvantages of Using Brad Nails
Brad nails are not without cons or drawbacks. They are not ideal for many applications. Below are the disadvantages of their use:
- You can’t use them with thick and large wood pieces
- They are incapable of penetrating MDF and thick plywood.
- You will need a compressor if you purchase a pneumatic brad nailer.
- You can’t use it with heavier materials.
- Not advisable for attaching thick crown moldings.
Sizes of Brad Nails
As mentioned above, the gauge range of brad nails is from 18-gauge to 21-gauge. Yet, the most commonly used brad nails are the 18-gauge brad nails. This gauge provides a better bond for your wood projects than other thinner-sized brad nails.
Brad nails also come in lengths ranging from 5/8″ to 2.” When choosing the length of brads, the ideal choice, of course, should be three times the material thickness you would like to nail. Such a length will ensure that you can securely attach the materials well.
When Should You Use Brad Nails?
The ideal use of brad nails is when attaching lightweight and delicate materials. Brads are perfect for these lightweight applications. If you are wary of splitting the materials you would like to connect, you can count on brad nails for split-free nailing.
Besides, if you want to hide the nail holes, you can use brads that only leave small and unnoticeable holes. You can also use brads to glue fragile wooden parts together. As mentioned above, gluing add strength to the attachment of delicate materials.
When Should You Not Use Brads?
It will help if you refrain from using brads when you desire a stronger hold. You should also not use it when nailing through thicker materials. Moreover, if the nails will be exposed to excessive moisture, you should refrain from using brads because they are not galvanized, meaning they are susceptible to rusting.
Frequently Asked Questions on Brad Nails
After learning more about brad nails, their applications, and pros and cons, it will also help to be familiar with the following FAQs about the use of brad nails, for they may also be the questions you have in mind:
Is It Okay to Use Brad Nails for Framing?
Brad nails feature lengths ranging from 5.8″ to 2.” As such, they might not be perfect for framing or finishing jobs. Brad nails make use of brad nailers to drive them. The magazines of brad nailers aren’t angled compared to framing nailers and finish nailers. This makes the brad nailer not perfect for framing works. Thus, it is better to confine brad nails to smaller projects and other precision works.
How Will You Figure Out that Brad Nails Are Not Fit for a Task?
Figuring out if the brad nail fits a task is not that easy. It takes experience and commonsense more often. There are some materials that the brad nails will fail to hold. So, you should quickly figure out these materials to not waste resources and effort.
Generally, the nail should be long enough to enable 3/4 of its length to burrow through the wall after you shot it. Hence, if your trim piece is 1/2-inch, you need to use a 2-inch brad.
But when it comes to the weight that brads can hold, you only need to use your common sense to determine whether brads will hold material or not. You can do a test that requires you to install a sample piece of the trim using brad nails. Try to rip off the trim using your bare hands. If you can rip it off, the brad nails aren’t effective attaching it.
Can Brad Nails Provide a Firm Hold?
Well, brad nails are weaker than the finish nails. So, if you expect them to exert solid holding power, you might get frustrated. Brad nails are not designed to hold large and heavy materials. Yet, they got designed for preventing splitting or damage to your materials when attaching them.
Is It Okay to Use Brad Nailer on a 2×4?
Yes, you can, but it depends on what you are attaching to the 2×4. If you would attach an MDF to the 2×4, well, using the brad nailer would be fine. Moreover, you would not want to use a finish nailer for this purpose.
Can You Utilize the Brad Nailer for Roofing?
I would not recommend you use a brad nailer for roofing projects. You can use other large-body nailers for such projects to ensure enough power to drive through thin sheets of roofs.
Is It Okay to Use a 16-gauge Nail for Framing?
The nail’s size is usually the main difference between framing nails and finishing nails. The framing projects require larger nails ranging from 0.113 to 0.162 inches. The finishing nails generally come in gauges of 14 to 16 gauges. So, if you want to be more accurate in the nails you use for framing, go for framing nails.
After reading this post, you might have figured out the main applications of brad nails. They are pretty much perfect for small and delicate projects as well as fine trim works. You don’t want to overtax brad nails and use them for attaching larger and thicker materials. Brad nails can come in a variety of sizes and shapes likewise. Yet they all perform the same function.
Of course, when selecting the brad nails you should use, you should determine first the appropriate length, size, made (galvanized or not), shank patterns, and other features. Lastly, you should also consider the materials you would work on to ensure that your choice of brad nails will be the appropriate choice for your project.
Jason is a 40-year-old woodworker, carpenter and author who have been involved in the woodworking and woodcraft industry with 17 years of experience. He is expertise in technical aspects, woodcraft and furniture building projects.