Loading Nails, Exhaust, No-Mar Tips, Extras
These are less critical features, but still worth mentioning because they make the tools more versatile.
Loading Nails. There are two types of nail-loading designs: rear-load (Porter-Cable and Senco) and top-load (DeWalt, Duo-Fast, Fasco, Hitachi, Spotnails, and Stanley-Bostitch.) For top-load units, you pull the follower back before dropping in nails. Rear-load tools are the opposite–you insert nails, then pull the follower back past the nails to engage them. I like rear-load systems because the tool head naturally hangs at an angle that makes sliding in a rack of nails simpler; then just pull the follower back to catch them. Also, when I'm going fast I sometimes forget to pull the follower back on top-load units before dropping in nails. With rear-load tools, I never have to think about it. All the nail-loading mechanisms in the group worked fine.
Exhaust. A tool-free exhaust is nice. It can keep debris that's blown up by the tool's exhaust from blowing into your face. This is good for work near the ground or in tight spaces. The Porter-Cable, Senco, Spotnails, and Stanley-Bostitch tools have adjustable exhaust ports that spin without tools. Spotnails was hard to move. You can adjust the Duo-Fast exhaust with a wrench. The DeWalt, Fasco, and Hitachi have fixed exhaust ports.
The DeWalt and Senco nailers have convenient foldaway hooks for hanging on ladders and framing.
No-Mar Tip. Each nailer's nosepiece has aggressive barbs for good grab while toe-nailing, but for nailing work that shows, the teeth can damage it. The Fasco, Porter-Cable, Senco, and Stanley-Bostitch come with no-mar tips, basically a rubber sleeve with a metal clamp to hold it in place. On all these tools except the Stanley-Bostitch, impressive tip-holder designs allow the tips to be stored on the tools when not in use. All the tips stayed put on the tools over several months of review.
Extras. DeWalt and Senco include a foldaway tool hook. This is great for hooking the tool onto some framing or onto your tool belt. Maybe most notable in this Extras category is Stanley-Bostitch's metal-connector nosepiece converter. You switch out the standard nailer nosepiece for the metal connector converter, which has a probe for finding the holes in framing hardware. This is a great 2-for-1 kind of feature. While I like the system–and it worked well–a framing nailer is a little bulky for work between joists.
The comfort and safety features on these framing nailers are good advancements from even just a few years ago. I appreciate the thoughtful feature packages on the Hitachi, Porter-Cable, and Stanley-Bostitch nailers. They make it easier to adjust the tools and get the most out of them. Beyond the features, these nailers are tough and powerful.
For a different but excellent feature package, the Senco stands out. It is well-designed and has nice tool-free features. It also has a smart foldaway hook. I also like the Fasco and DeWalt tools. Fasco's select-fire trigger and depth-of-drive adjustment work well and the "off" switch on the DeWalt is a good idea.
The more basically designed tools also performed well, providing excellent service. The Duo-Fast is a workhorse that stood up to everything we threw at it. The Spotnails was the most basic of the bunch and delivered dependable power and speed.
–Steve Veroneau owns Transformations, LLC, in Falls Church, Va., and is a contributing editor to Tools of the Trade.
Hitachi's selective activation switch is nice. It adjusts between bump- and single-fire easily and quickly.
Porter-Cable's high-pressure nailing system is a huge advancement. It's beautifully designed, very small, and light. It has great power, normal recoil, and the best tool-free adjustments: depth-of-drive, select-fire trigger, and exhaust deflector. It's comfortable for all-day use.
The tool has some challenges, though. It sinks 3-1/2-inch nails at 150 psi, which makes running other nailers off the same compressor impossible, resulting in important choices on many jobsites: operate only one nailer, set up two compressors, or invest in all high-pressure tools. Also, with multiple carpenters and nailers on site, it could be easy to unknowingly connect a standard nailer to a high-pressure compressor–especially if you use 3/8-inch fittings instead of 1/4-inch. Still, this tool is so nice and easy to use that I want it on site.
Note: This tool can run off Porter-Cable's CPFC2TV3520W 20-gallon Site Boss compressor, but is presently sold only in the CLFCP350 kit with a 4-gallon, high-pressure side-stack compressor. –S.V.Porter-Cable Corp.
800-487-8665 www.porter-cable.comEditor's Note: Porter-Cable's high-pressure nailing system received a Tools of the Trade 2004 Editors' Choice Award.