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What Is a Pneumatic Nailer?

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  • Written By: D. Jeffress
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 14 July 2014
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A pneumatic nailer is a construction tool that uses pressurized air to rapidly shoot metal nails into different nailing surfaces. The force with which the nail is fired into a surface has lead to these and other nailers to often be called "nail guns." Pneumatic nailers are used in a number of construction jobs, large and small.

A nailer is powered by a small air compressor, which pumps air into a cylinder. When the trigger is squeezed, a piston quickly moves down the cylinder. The resulting air pressure fires a nail out of the end of the nailer. Another nail is automatically loaded from a compartment within the tool.

There are several advantages to using a pneumatic nailer over a conventional, hand-held hammer. Because they operate quickly, pneumatic nailers increase productivity and significantly ease the strain on a user. Nailers can be adjusted to shoot nails to an exact distance into a piece of material, ensuring accurate and consistent results throughout a project.

Pneumatic nailers are commercially available in a number of different sizes and styles, each designed for specific applications. Roofing nailers are the largest and most powerful, and are designed to nail through tough roofing shingles at a very fast pace. Framing nailers are slightly smaller, but typically just as powerful. They are primarily used to secure wood flooring and other large, sturdy materials.

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Finish nailers are lightweight, small, and less powerful. They are most often used for more delicate projects, such as furniture and cabinet making. Finish nailers are able to get into tight spaces, which comes in handy when attaching wood trim and molding.

The type of nails needed depends on the type of nailer. Most large nailers use heavy-duty nails which come in rolls of as many as 300. The nails are held together by wire or plastic, and easily break apart from one another when loaded into the firing compartment. Many small nailers use a strip of 40 to 100 lightweight nails or brads. Nails that are designed to penetrate wood are often coated with a sticky compound that bonds the head of the nail to the nailing surface, providing extra hold.

Proper safety precautions must always be taken when using a pneumatic nailer. After all, the tool is designed to shoot tiny, sharp pieces of metal at extremely high speeds. Workers should always wear safety glasses and take care never to point the nailer at themselves or others. A pneumatic nailer should be inspected frequently to insure it is proper working order, and any necessary repairs should be performed exactly as outlined in the user manual.

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