If you want to build furniture, it’s important to use the right tools. This means the right saws and planers, the right brushes, and the right stain. It also means the right fasteners, which in turn requires you to use the proper nail gun for the job.
What’s the best nail gun for building furniture? For one thing, you’ll typically want to use lighter-gauge nails than you would for framing or flooring. Small finish and brad nails are a far better choice. They’re easier to conceal, and they still provide plenty of strength for 90 percent of applications.
What follows are six of the best nail guns on the market specifically for building furniture. We’ve featured a mix of electrical and pneumatic options, so you can find exactly what you need. Let’s get started, and see how they all compare!
The Metabo HPT Finish Nailer is a fantastic choice for any furniture project. It fires 16-gauge finish nails, which are ideal for shelving, tables, and most other common applications. It also supports a reasonably wide range of nail lengths, for even better versatility so you can nail your hardie trim and shiplap with the same piece of equipment.
This nailer has a switch that allows you to select between single-fire and bump fire modes. Moreover, it sports an adjustment dial for countersinking and tweaking the nail depth. It even has a duster button that redirects air through the inside of the unit. This lets you clear out debris literally at the push of a button.
The Metabo nailer is protected by an industry-leading five-year warranty. It’s also built with an ultra-wide nose that’s easy to clear. This reduces the chances of ever needing a repair in the first place.
Why we like it
If you only buy one furniture nailer, buy the Metabo HPT Finish Nailer. It has everything that you’d need for building quality furniture – from an industry-leading warranty to multiple options like nail depth adjustment and single-fire and bump-fire modes.
As a brand, DEWALT needs little introduction. They’re beloved by professionals, and their 20V MAX line combines impressive power with surprisingly small, lightweight batteries. The DCN680D1 nailer is part of this line, and you can mix and match the batteries with other 20V MAX tools.
This nailer uses 18-gauge brad nails, in lengths from ⅝ to 2 ⅛-inch. This makes it even more versatile than other brad nailers. You can use this nailer as a nail gun for baseboards and crown molding, albeit at a higher price point. However, you’re getting a DEWALT, so you can expect to pay a bit extra for the quality and confidence of buying a DEWALT product.
Like many battery-operated tools, the DCN680D1 has a set of LED lights built into the housing. This helps you work more precisely in dark locations, such as inside a cabinet or under a shelf. This is something a pneumatic nailer can’t achieve since there’s no actual power supply.
Why we like it
This is the best cordless nail gun for professionals who want a reliable, heavy-duty tool. In addition, the LED lights are a great touch for anyone who needs to work in dark or dimly lit corners or spaces.
The PORTER-CABLE 20V MAX Cordless Brad Nailer Kit, 18GA (PCC790LA) is part of PORTER-CABLE’s 20-volt tool series. It comes with one battery by default, but can also be ordered with two. If that’s not particularly important for your project, you can also order just the bare tool. This is a workable option if you already own PORTER-CABLE tools with 20-volt Lithium batteries
The PCC790LA fires 18-gauge brad nails, and supports sizes of ⅝ to 2 inches. This is enough for most furniture applications, from bed frames to shelf veneers. It’s also easy to use. With a tool-free release and anti-jamming features, it’s easy to troubleshoot most issues in the field.
The brushless motor will last for longer than a standard motor without needing any maintenance. It also delivers more torque than an equivalent brushed motor. All of this is covered by a three-year warranty, so you’re protected from any defects in material or workmanship.
Why we like it
The PORTER-CABLE PCC790LA is a versatile, affordable brad nailer that doesn’t require a compressor. If you don’t own a compressor and want a single furniture nailer, it’s a solid choice.
The BOSTITCH BTFP1233 is similar to the previous DEWALT nailer in many respects. It fires 18-gauge brads, and supports anywhere from ⅝ to 2 ⅛-inch lengths. However, it’s pneumatic rather than electric. This means you can get a high-quality nailer for a fraction of the price. It also means you’ll need an air compressor and hose in order to drive any nails.
The front end of the unit is particularly well-engineered. The top plate flips open easily by hand, so you can clear jams without any tools. There’s also a plastic guard on the tip, so you don’t scratch or dent the wood next to where you’re nailing. You even get a simple adjustment dial for setting the nail depth.
All of this comes in a compact form factor, which is lightweight and easy to hold. It also comes with a polymer carrying case to keep your nailer safe on the jobsite.
Why we like it
This is a no-nonsense brad nailer that can handle most projects. But with its plastic tip guard, it’s the perfect choice for trim and veneers.
We return again to DEWALT, this time for an air-driven version of their brad nailer. The DWFP12231 is workmanlike and rugged, just like you’d expect from a DEWALT tool. It has a thick, rubberized handle that’s easy to grip, as well as a magnesium frame that can withstand drops even on a solid concrete surface.
Operation is easy and doesn’t require a lot of messing around. The nailer supports anywhere from 70 to 120 PSI, so you won’t have to fool with most compressors. Just turn it on, wait for the tank to fill, and start nailing. Not only that, but the drive depth is easy to adjust. Just like the BOSTITCH, this nailer has a simple depth adjustment dial you can turn with your thumb.
Additionally, this nailer is surprisingly affordable for a DEWALT. It’s a real bargain for any pro with an air compressor. And with a hand-released jam release lever, it’s also simple to fix on a jobsite.
Why we like it
The DEWALT Brad Nailer Kit is a great choice for anyone who already owns an **air compressor in their home garage**. At a low price it’s easy to use, and it’s easy to adjust.
The BOSTITCH Finish Nailer Kit (BTFP71917) is similar in most respects to the BOSTITCH brad nailer we already reviewed. It has a near-identical profile, along with the same features. The only real difference is that this one fires 16-gauge finish nails instead of brad nails. As a result, it’s suitable for more tasks, instead of just veneers and trim.
Why we like it
The Bostitch Finish Nailer Kit is well-suited for the majority of furniture jobs. Like its brad nailer cousin, it’s also very easy to maintain in the field.
Furniture Nailer Buyer’s Guide
So, what makes a nail gun worth your while — or not? There are a number of factors to take into consideration. Here are a few things you should keep in mind when you’re shopping for your furniture-building nail gun.
Pneumatic vs. Battery-Powered
Automatic nailers can be powered either by compressed air (pneumatic) or by a battery. Pneumatic nailers generally offer the most consistent, reliable results. Because they rely on fewer electrical parts, there are fewer points of failure. You can also fine-tune their performance by adjusting the air pressure.
That said, pneumatic nailers require an air compressor, which in turn requires a power supply — unless you’re toting around a bulky air compressor. For off-grid work, an electric nailer is far superior. In addition, because you won’t have to own a compressor, an electric nailer can be a better choice if you don’t own any other pneumatic devices.
Bump Fire vs. Standard Fire
All modern nail guns sold in the US require two points of activation — usually a trigger and a bump tip. Only when both are depressed will the nail gun fire. This is an essential safety feature, and prevents thousands of accidents every year. However, many nail guns require a separate trigger pull for each nail. This can slow you down and wear you out on bigger jobs.
Some nailers have a bump-fire feature. With this type of system, you can hold the trigger down, and “bump” the front of the nail gun against your furniture to fire a nail. This makes it much faster to drive multiple nails in quick succession.
Keep in mind that bump firing also has its downsides. There’s nothing stopping you from bringing the nailer down on your finger and driving a nail right through it. Be careful with this feature.
Most nailers will allow you to fine-tune the nail depth. You can countersink a nail or leave it flush with the surface. You can also adjust the strength based on the hardness of the wood to get perfect results.
### Nail Gauge
Counterintuitively, larger numbers indicate a slimmer nail. Conversely, “heavy-gauge” nails actually have a lower gauge number. Most good furniture nailers will fall in the 16 to 18-gauge range. 18-gauge nails are easier to conceal, but you’ll need more of them. As a result, a 16-gauge nailer is usually the better choice when it’s feasible.
Finishing nailers have smaller heads, so they’re more discreet. They’re ideal for many purposes, including shelving and tables.
That said, brad nailers and their wider heads do have their place. Because the heads are so wide, they’re great for attaching sheets like thin plywood and veneer that might slip off of a finish nail. They’re also a bit thicker than finish nails, so they’re suitable for heavy-duty applications.
Of all the nailers we looked at, the Metabo HPT Finish Nailer is the cream of the crop. To begin with, it fires 16-gauge finish nails, which will be your go-to choice for most furniture jobs. Not only that, but it supports bump and standard firing, and even has an air release for cleaning. If you already own a compressor, it’s tough to argue for any other nailer.
Then again, if you don’t own a compressor, an electric nailer might be your better choice. In that case, the DEWALT 20V MAX DCN680D1 is an ideal choice. As an 18-gauge brad nailer, it won’t meet all needs. But it will handle a lot of jobs, and it sports a pair of LED lights for low-light work. And just like the Metabo, it fires in both single and bump-fire modes.
I have an unhealthy obsession with contracting and renovation. I’ve been a contractor for over 15 years and I love tackling challenging projects to make them look amazing.