Woodworkers might not need a nail gun very often, or all the time depending on what you make. Nevertheless, no matter how often you use your nail gun, all woodworkers need a consistent high-performance tool.
Nail guns are one of the easiest and fastest ways to attach two different pieces of wood. They offer a firmer and more secure connection than simple wood glue, but aren’t as firm as a screw or some good joinery.
The best nail guns for woodworkers are consistent, powerful, and suited to a wide range of wood types and projects. Those are the features we looked for while putting together this review of the best nail guns for woodworkers. We’ll go over the best features of each nail gun and what makes each model a great choice for woodworkers.
PORTER-CABLE 20V MAX 16GA Straight Finish Nailer (PCC792LA)
This nail gun is one of the best options if you’re looking for something that offers the power and consistency of a pneumatic gun without needing an air compressor. It’s a fully battery-powered option that minimized the extra equipment you need in your workshop. That’s great for hobby woodworkers and anyone who doesn’t have a lot of extra space in their shop.
It’s also a quieter option than a pneumatic nail gun, which is good if you’ve already got a lot of noise and loud tools in your shop.
Most of the settings on this nail gun are tool-free settings. That’s perfect for woodworking since it’s common to need several different depth settings during a project or to need to make other adjustments as you work. It also means that you don’t have to worry about losing the tools you need to use this nail gun.
The battery is rated to place up to 1,000 nails per charge. That’s more than enough for most woodworking projects and means that you won’t have to charge your batteries as often. This is a great cost-saving feature since it also means you won’t need to replace the batteries frequently.
The whole nail gun only weighs about 6.5 lbs, slightly more when it’s loaded with nails. The included magazine can hold up to 100 nails at a time. Also, this nail gun features an effective jam clearing mechanism and a rapid-fire design that helps prevent jams in the first place. With its LED lighting feature, it’s easier to work as it can illuminate your work area for more precise nail placement.
Overall, this lightweight little nail gun offers a lot of power and versatility in a woodworking shop. Its design is small enough for most small projects, but the larger 16-gauge nails and a powerful battery are suitable for large projects and hardwood projects as well. It’s a great battery-powered addition to any shop.
CRAFTSMAN V20 16GA Cordless Finish Nailer Kit (CMCN616C1)
Craftsman is likely a familiar brand name thanks to their high-profile reputation for impressive consistency and performance. Their tools are durable, effective, and usually pretty cost-effective as well. That makes them a great manufacturer if you’re looking for a good nail gun for your woodworking shop.
The 16-gauge nails are large enough to be fairly durable and powerful. They are good for both hardwoods and softwoods, and come in a wide range of lengths and designs. This allows you to customize your tools according to each project.
This cordless finishing nailer is a fantastic option if you don’t want to add an air compressor or other equipment to your workshop. Its battery-powered design allows it to travel with you and can be used in any part of your workshop. It’s not limited by the length of the power cord or the reach of an air hose.
A contoured over-molded handle is another huge and important addition to this model’s design. It sits comfortably in your hand, provides good grip points, and has an ergonomic design for greater comfort. With its lightweight and well-balanced build, you’ll be able to use it for extended periods.
Just as importantly, this nail gun has incredibly consistent firing power. That means that this model will provide precised results every time.
Craftsman has managed to come up with another good nail gun in this 16 gauge finish nailer. Its design is easy to use and highly precise, with tool-free adjustment settings that make it easy to adjust what you’re doing. This nail gun is also compatible with longer nails than average, which is good for woodworkers that focus on larger projects.
Metabo HPT 16 Gauge Finish Nailer (NT65M2S)
Metabo is another one of those reliable manufacturing companies that have been recognized for their durable and consistent tool designs. Like the other nail guns we’ve reviewed so far, this nail gun is compatible with 16 gauge nails. It’s also compatible with a wide range of nail lengths, so you can customize the nails to the project much more closely.
This design is a little different though because this isn’t a battery-powered finishing nailer. Instead, it’s a pneumatic version that needs an air compressor and a reliable air hose to work. That’s perfect if you’re already working with pneumatic tools and have the right equipment, but it might mean you need to invest in more equipment if this is your first pneumatic tool.
Don’t be too discouraged by needing that extra equipment though, this nail gun is an award-winning option. It’s been rated as one of the best nail guns out there from 2014-2020. That means that this design is a fantastic option for woodworkers who are looking for high consistency and a powerful new nail gun.
This nail gun also has an additional feature of a built-in dust management system. A small port on the nail gun helps blow dust and other small debris away from your work area, keeping the area clear and easy to see.
Since this is a pneumatic model, this gun also has a small exhaust port to handle the leftover air pressure after firing. The exhaust port is fully maneuverable and can be positioned with 360-degree mobility, so you can choose the best angle for your project and avoid getting sprayed with the air as the nail gun decompresses.
This Metabo nail gun might need an air compressor, but that doesn’t make it any less effective. It’s a durable and lightweight option that works well in most woodworking settings. The selective activation trigger is easy to use, and a lot of the settings are easily adjustable and effective.
Makita 16 Gauge, 2-1/2" Straight Finish Nailer (AF601)
Makita might not be quite as well known as some of the other manufacturers in this review, but they tend to be a very reliable manufacturer that use high-quality materials for good performing products. Like the other nail guns we’ve reviewed, this is a 16 gauge nail gun. It’s a finish nailer that’s designed to give you more detailed performance and to work well in a wide range of contexts.
It’s a fantastic option if you’re looking for something that works effectively and consistently in your woodworking shop. This design is also effective for a wide range of projects, be it large or small, as well as a wide range of materials.
This model is another pneumatic option, which means that you’ll need an air compressor to use the tool effectively. Fortunately, it also uses that compressed air to provide an effective dust blower system to help manage sawdust and other debris. Its exhaust port, like the last nail gun we’ve reviewed, is flexible up to 360 degrees, and works well in most spaces and with most kinds of projects.
Plus, pneumatic tools are highly precise and consistent, so long as the air compressor can keep up with demand. Since nail guns have a relatively small demand for an air compressor, it shouldn’t be much of a concern in most workshops even if you’re already using your air compressor for several other tools.
This design is also great for larger shops where you need to move between different workspaces in a day. That’s thanks to a belt hook design and other small features that make this a highly portable nail gun. As long as your air hose can reach where you need to go, you’re in good shape with this nail gun.
A no-mar tip and a great tool case also come with this nailer. The tool case is effective and works well for most workshops, including mobile woodworkers who travel from one site to another. Like other pneumatic nailers, this model is incredibly lightweight and easy to use.
This design is a good lightweight and portable design. It’s a little smaller than most of the finishing nailers we’ve talked about, but still packs the power you need for more durable materials and bigger projects. That said, this nailer is best balanced for woodworkers on the go, there are more powerful and versatile options for your home workshop.
PORTER-CABLE 20V MAX 18GA Cordless Brad Nailer Kit (PCC790LA)
This option takes us back to the same manufacturer that builds the first brad nailer in this review. It’s a similar design overall and uses the same 20V batteries. That means that you can actually use both of these nailers in the same workshop, with the same set of batteries. Like more 20V battery lines, this feature adds a lot of flexibility to your toolset as long as you stick with the same manufacturer and similar product lines.
The main difference between this nailer and the first nailer we reviewed is that this is an 18-gauge nailer. That means that the nails from this nailer are a little smaller and less durable overall. They’re better suited to detailed work and finishing work, but aren’t going to have as much load-bearing strength as a 16-gauge option.
Most woodworking shops will eventually need both of these options to be able to handle a wide range of projects. Brad nailers are an excellent choice when your finishing nailer is still too large and noticeable for the finish you want to get.
However, the smaller design does mean that you’re not going to get the same connection security from nails placed with this model.
Overall, this nailer does a great job for what it does, but it is a little more limited than larger 16-gauge nailers. It’s a great addition to your woodworking shop, but probably shouldn’t be the first nail gun you buy, unless you specialize in smaller and more delicate kinds of woodworking then need a more delicate nail gun.
DEWALT 18GA 5/8-Inch to 2-Inch Brad Nailer Kit (DWFP12231)
The last nail gun on this review is another 18-gauge smaller brad nailer. This model comes from DeWalt, which is one of the most well-recognized manufacturers for reliable power tools. DeWalt is one of the most widely available manufacturers as well, which makes their tools a good option if you want to be able to get tools from the same manufacturer in your local area or want to take advantage of tools lines that use the same batteries and other advantages.
That’s a little less important with this particular nail gun though. Since this is a pneumatic nail gun, you’ll need an air compressor, not a DeWalt battery, to make this nailer work. However, it’s maintenance-free motor and other durability guarantees make this nailer a particularly attractive option. Its design is meant to work in high-stress situations, like your woodworking shop, for years without breakdown or needing maintenance.
The rear exhaust port is a good option for keeping excessive airflow away from your project. But, since this exhaust port is less mobile than other options, it can sometimes send that excess air back in your face.
This nail gun also has a relatively wide range of compatible air pressure. It offers the same performance anywhere between 70-120 psi from your air compressor. That’s perfect for shared workshops where a lot of pneumatic tools are likely to be used at the same time.
Tool-free depth of drive settings and other adjustment settings make this brad nailer easier to use and more effective overall.
If you like working with pneumatic tools and want a more detail-oriented nailer that works best for smaller or more ornate projects, this is a good option. It’s a powerful nailer that works well in individual and group workshops, with low maintenance requirements and high durability. Tool-free setting adjustments and other standard features are included with this nailer, but it does have a drawback in the non-flexible exhaust port on the back of the nailer.
Nail Gun Buyer’s Guide
Now that we’ve looked into a wide range of the best nail guns for woodworkers, let’s talk about some of the features that make these nail guns so effective. This is a short list of some of the most important features, but it’s not complete. Always make sure you’re thinking about what features matter most to you, and where you might be willing to compromise for tools that are great in other respects.
Power source is one of the most important features of any power tool. Without power, your new nail gun won’t work, so it’s important to make sure you’re getting a consistent power source that works wherever you’re likely to be working.
When it comes to nail guns for woodworking, we’re going to focus on two power sources. There are also some gas-powered nail guns, but they are much rarer and usually don’t work as well for woodworking, so we’ve excluded them.
Electric nail guns are either corded or battery-powered. Battery-powered options are more common and are more portable, which makes them the more popular choice for most woodworkers. However, corded options have more consistent power, even if they are limited to working near an outlet.
Pneumatic nail guns tend to be powerful, consistent, and incredibly effective. However, they need to have a good source of compressed air, which means that they work best paired with a high-quality air compressor. That makes them the more expensive and slightly less portable option.
Woodworkers typically don’t have to worry about the size of their nail guns as much as other professions since you’ll be working in your workshop on smaller projects on average. However, large nail guns can be difficult to maneuver for the exact angle or location you need, especially if you’re having to work from in interior of a project out. Smaller models are more versatile and maneuverable, but also tend to be less powerful.
It’s common for woodworking shops to have several nail guns to serve different projects well, but it’s still important to think about the size of your first couple of nail guns to make sure you’re getting the range you need.
Lightweight nail guns are typically the most effective option for woodworkers. That’s because they are more maneuverable, easier to work with and cause less stress for your arms and shoulders. Pneumatic nail guns tend to be the lightest option, but battery-powered models that come in under 8 lbs. total weight are still a good option.
Settings and Adjustability
Tool settings and adjustability are critical for woodworkers since you’ll likely have a wide range of project needs. Being able to clear a jam without a tool, change the depth of fire, and make other on-the-go adjustments is critical for your nail gun’s performance and success. Look for tools with as many adjustment settings, and the widest possible range within the settings, to make sure you’re getting a versatile and effective setup.
Of all the nail guns on this list, we’d have to say that the PORTER-CABLE 20V MAX Finish Nailer, the 16-gauge model, is probably the most versatile and useful for woodworkers. This model is durable, effective, and versatile to meet a wide range of different projects. It also requires a minimum of additional equipment to operate and is part of a battery-powered tool line that all use the same kinds of battery. All those features make this tool more valuable and cost-effective to use and own.
Plus, it’s a good fit for smaller workshops that don’t have a lot of room to store additional equipment. 16-gauge nailers are also incredibly versatile for woodworking projects, making this a good first nail gun option as well as a versatile addition to your existing tools.
Of course, all of the nailers on this list are highly effective for woodworking. Pay attention to which features and functions are most important to you, and whether you’d rather work with a battery-powered or pneumatic system most of the time. The features of these nailers can make a big difference in how well they work for you, and whether they address your woodworking needs.
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.