Carrying wet treated lumber gets old quickly, so the faster we can get out of the framing phase, the better. Standard woodworking tools are the mainstay during this stage of the project, but there are a few specialized tools we have come to rely on.
Joist Jaw. On those occasions when we need to flush frame joists to girders, we use a Joist Jaw (5) to support the pieces. Made by Grabber, the tool is a refined version of the old carpenter trick of using a bent nail to hang the end of a joist from a girder or rim while you fasten the opposite end. The Joist Jaw clamps on with a quick turn of the handle and provides a large, flat contact area where the joist can bear on the girder, so that perfectly flush top alignment is guaranteed.
The tool boosts productivity by making it easier for a carpenter to cut and set joists alone. It's also very durable and will pay for itself in less than a day. Price: $50 per pair. www.grabberman.com.
Hardware nailers. A code-compliant wood deck requires dozens (or even hundreds) of metal framing connectors. Nailing them off takes time, so we are always on the lookout for ways to speed the work. Many of the carpenters I hire are accustomed to nailing hardware with palm nailers, but that method is far slower than using a single-blow gun. I have long used single-blow guns and avoid using palm nailers except in instances where space is tight and it's the only tool that fits.
We currently have a Bostitch StrapShot MCN150 (6) and a Hitachi NR65AKS (7). The MCN150 is small and easy to handle but drives only 1-1/2-inch fasteners. The NR65AKS is more versatile because it drives both 1-1/2- and 2-1/2-inch nails.
There are many other hardware guns on the market as well. I haven't used enough of them to say which brand or model is best, but I do know that the two things I will look for the next time I buy this type of gun are a rafter hook (neither of my tools has one) and locally available fasteners. I can get 1-1/2-inch galvanized hardware nails from local vendors but have to mail order the 21/2-inch size. Prices: MCN150 $200; www.bostitch.com. NR65AKS $400; www.hitachipowertools.com.
6-Bostitch StrapShot MCN 150
M12 Palm Nailer. New to the scene is Milwaukee's M12 Red Lithium 12V battery-operated palm nailer (8). I was skeptical at first about using a battery-powered tool but ended up pleasantly surprised at how well it works. Though slower than a single-blow gun, it's as fast and powerful as a pneumatic palm nailer — especially with a six-cell XC battery. The tool can be used in extremely tight quarters, and it's liberating to be able to duck over, around, and through joists without having to deal with a hose.
Since we use a single-blow gun for the bulk of the hardware, the M12 palm nailer only comes out when we need to fasten a small number of hangers. For example, we install stair stringers after the main deck surface is complete, and by then we no longer have a compressor on hand. So instead of nailing by hand or setting up pneumatics, we fasten the stair stringer connectors (Simpson LSCZ) in place with this tool. Price: $130. www.milwaukeetool.com.
8-Milwaukee M12 Palm Nailer