How Does a Palm Nailer Work?

Palm nailers might not be the well-known tool that nail guns are, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t useful! In fact, palm nailers are an important addition to your professional toolkit and can add a lot of versatility to your tools.

Instead of overlooking this tool simply because some other alternatives fill almost the same niche, we decided to take a closer look. It turns out that palm nailers are far more versatile than we had anticipated. Knowing how to use one properly has a lot of advantages that we’ll get into in this how-to.

So, why don’t we dive in?


What Does A Palm Nailer Do?

Palm nailers are designed to provide a lot of pressure in a small area to drive nails. They’re smaller than nail guns and hammers both, which makes them a good option in tight corners and anywhere you don’t have a lot of room. Palm nailers can be particularly useful in certain finds of construction and even building furniture since they work well in tight corners.

The Difference Between A Palm Nailer And A Nail Gun

One of the biggest differences between palm nailers and nail guns is their size. As the name would suggest, palm nailers, are much smaller and are designed to fit comfortably in the palm of your hand. A nail gun, on the other hand, is larger with a handle and trigger configuration for firing.

That means that a palm nailer can potentially get into smaller spaces that a nail gun just can’t access. Palm nailers also work with a wider range of nails. They can be used on standard nails of most sizes, unlike nail guns that use a very specific kind of nail and only in a small range of sizes.

That means that you’ll only need one palm nailer because they’ll work with a wide range of nails. But if you use nail guns, you’ll need several to accommodate different kinds of nails and different projects.

Ultimately, it’s useful to have both kinds of tools in your kit since they are used for fairly different tasks.

How To Use A Palm Nailer

Now that we’ve talked a little about what a palm nailer is, let’s talk about how to use one safely and effectively.

Good Posture Matters

One of the first things you need to know to use a palm nailer effectively is that having good posture and gripping the nailer well is critical. Many palm nailers are pneumatic, which means that they concentrate a lot of compressed air into a very small area when activated. Even the battery-powered versions still have to concentrate a lot of force into a small area, they just have a slightly different mechanism.

As you might expect, all that pressure means that you need to be pretty stable to hole the palm nailer in place.

First things first, all palm nailers have a nose. Your user’s manual will tell you which part of the nailer that is. The nose should always be facing out and away from you when you’re nailing. You also need to keep the nailer at least 6 inches from your face, even when you’re working in tight corners.

It’s also important to make sure you’re standing comfortably and that your arm is comfortable as well. Otherwise, the pressure when you fire the palm nailer can stress your joints and muscles and may cause injuries over time. Changing the hand you’re using the palm nailer with, or using slightly different positions while you’re working can also help reduce the risk of repetitive stress injuries if you use your palm nailer often.

Starting Your Palm Nailer

On a pneumatic palm nailer, all you have to do is connect the palm nailer to an air compressor with sufficient pressure and it’s ready to activate.

Battery-powered palm nailers need you to make sure the battery is charged, and properly seated before you turn the nailer on. Most battery-powered palm nailers use either a switch or a button to turn the nailer on.

Once your nailer is turned on, you’re ready to go. Make sure you never have your nailer turned on in your pocket or while in storage. Turning it off when it isn’t in use will help prevent accidental misfires.

Gripping Your Palm Nailer

Your palm nailer should be easy to grip, but it’s still important to get it right. Most palm nailers have a narrower section for your thumb to sit in, as well as another hollow section for your ring and pinky fingers. Gripping the nailer this way helps make sure you don’t accidentally drop the tool when it fires.

Most nailers will have a button to fire with your index finger. Some will also have a thumb-activated firing button, and you can often choose which button to use.

One optional feature that we recommend is hand straps. A strap gives you a lot more security holding your palm nailer and reduces the chances of something going wrong while you’re working.

Using Your Palm Nailer

First, to use your palm nailer you need to know if you have an adjustable tip on your nailer or not. These adjustable tips provide better precision, but they need to be adjusted to the size of your nails every time you switch to a different nail type.

The mechanism for adjusting your palm nailer varies some, so the best resource to find out how you can adjust your palm nailer’s tip is your user’s manual.

If you don’t have an adjustable tip you can skip this step, but your nailer likely has a more limited size range. Check to make sure the nails you want to use will fit in the magazine to make sure they’re a compatible size.

Unlike nail guns, you’ll need to load the nails into your palm nailer’s magazine individually. You’ll also need to make sure the nails are feeding onto the nailer’s magnetic strip properly. If the placement isn’t quite right, you won’t be able to place nails as precisely.

Once you’ve made sure everything is lined up, go ahead and trigger the nailer. Some vibration is normal, but excessive vibration can be an indication that your nail is stuck or that there is an obstruction.

Finishing Work

Palm nailers are great for working in tight spaces and for placing nails quickly and efficiently. However, there are a few drawbacks to this tool. The main one is that palm nailers don’t provide a finished surface on their own. Most of the time the nail will still stick out slightly, and you may have other finishing requirements as well.

Typically a small hammer can finish driving the nails so that the nail head is flush with your material. It’s important not to skip this step because the nails are much more secure after the head is flush with the material. If the nail is still sticking out partway it’s much more likely to work itself free over time.

Some palm nailers are also designed so you can just apply pressure to the tool to push the nail in the rest of the way.

Occasionally palm nailers can cause a little roughness in the material surrounding the nail. Usually, it isn’t much, not any more significant than a nail gun, but you may want to sand down the area after nailing depending on the project.

Safety Precautions for Using Your Palm Nailer

That’s the basics of using a palm nailer. Now that you know how to use them, it’s important to go over a few details to make sure you’re safe while using your palm nailer.

For one thing, you can’t start your palm nailer before the nail has made contact with the material. The nail tip should be in the material just enough that the nail won’t jerk away when you fire. If you start the palm nailer before the tip of the nail is on your material, there’s no guarantee of which direction your nail will go.

You should also always wear eye and ear protection when you’re using a palm nailer, or really any power tools. The protection will help prevent accidents from causing injuries and can help protect from long-term hearing damage due to noise.

It’s also a good idea to wear a sturdy pair of work gloves while you’re using a palm nailer. That’s because a work glove will help minimize some of the vibrations from the palm nailer, preventing hand and arm fatigue over time.

It’s also important to pay attention to the amount of vibration and heat from your palm nailer. They are durable tools, but you can shorten the life of the tool by overworking them or trying to drive nails into materials that are too hard for the tool.

Pneumatic Vs Battery Powered Palm Nailers

The last thing we want to talk about are the core differences between pneumatic and battery-powered palm nailers. Both tools serve the same purpose, but there are a few key differences that might change which version you want to get.

Pneumatic palm nailers are usually a little larger and can be significantly more powerful than battery-powered options. However, they aren’t as portable or maneuverable and rely on having a good air compressor to work.

Battery-powered models are smaller, more maneuverable, and may vibrate less than pneumatic options. But they aren’t as well suited to heavy-use jobs or jobs with particularly hard materials since they aren’t as powerful.

The Takeaway

In this article we’ve gone over what a palm nailer does, the differences between palm nailers and nail guns, the differences between pneumatic and battery-powered palm nailers, and how to use a palm nailer safely. That’s still not enough to get you ready to use a palm nailer, you should always read your user’s manual and look for specific guides on how your palm nailer works.

But, assuming you’ve read your user’s manual, you should be ready to use your palm nailer on your next project!