Gauging Courses

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Hitachi's exposure gauge is stout and stays put, helping keep coursework straight.

Credit: Photo: David Sharpe

I snap a shingle course control line every five or six courses to keep rows looking nice and straight. Between the courses, I use the exposure gauge foot on the bottom of the tool magazine and the contact tip to space shingles off the previous course. Accurate shingle placement depends on the quality of the exposure gauge and how precisely you hold the nailer to the courses. This is an important feature because even a 1/16-inch discrepancy between nailers will add up quickly and throw off straight coursework. It's important that all the nailers used by a crew are set precisely the same.

All the nailers' exposure gauges are adjustable. You need a tool to make the adjustment on the DeWalt, Hitachi, Max, Paslode, Porter-Cable, Ridgid, Senco, and Spotnails tools. Generally, I prefer tool-free adjustments but since a change is only needed when switching to shingles with a different exposure, pulling out a tool isn't an issue (even though finding it can be). All of these adjusted easily and stayed locked down, except the Max, which came out of adjustment on several occasions.

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Bostitch's single-hinge door opens easily and makes reloading a snap.

Credit: Photo: David Sharpe

Craftsman, Makita, and Bostitch gauges are tool-free. Craftsman and Makita have lever locks that tighten the foot at any position along the slide slot. Makita's foot is nice and wide for squaring up to the butt of a shingle and the contact tip has two small horns in front that keep the shingle from riding up the nose–a problem I run into often gauging shingles on a steep pitch in hot weather; however, the contact tip moved around, which made gauging measurements unreliable while the foot and tip weren't quite parallel. The Bostitch has a spring-loaded squeeze adjustment that locks into preset 1/8-inch settings, which worked well. Ridgid has a slide gauge like the Bostitch, but it fell short. The Ridgid gauge only locks in on the 1/4-inch, the faces of the gauge and nose aren't parallel, and the gauge and nose are in different planes. This amounts to a fatal flaw for me.