By Jeff Stanley

I remember exactly when I decided to start using pneumatic staplers on my jobsites. I was freezing my tail off installing 3/8-inch fir plywood underneath a roof overhang while standing on an aluminum plank in the middle of a Chicago winter. The job originally called for two men to install the plywood with 4d galvanized box nails. Sounds simple enough, right? Now add sub-zero wind chill and a nice thick pair of gloves, and you have a recipe for two guys doing a little work really slowly.

To speed things up on the next soffit, we replaced the box nails with narrow-crown staples. The staples held just as well as box nails, one man and a pneumatic stapler did the work, and we completed the job in record time.

Lots of builders overlook staplers when they're outfitting their pneumatic force. Considering staples' great holding power, their low cost, quick installation, and neat finish, those guys are missing out. At our company, Prestige Homes, we use narrow-crown staplers on just about anything requiring superior holding strength in thin materials like soffit plywood, floor underlayment, cabinet backs, and countertop blanks. So we knew what to do when the 13 tools in this test showed up at our shop.

Test Criteria

We tested the Airy ADA 0637, Craftsman 18435, Fasco F26C 90-40 SS (CT), Grizzly G6043, Interchange ICB-SF9040B, ISM 18NC150, Jamerco JTS061838A, Makita AT638, Paslode 2125-N18, Porter-Cable NS150A, Senco SLS25, Stanley Bostitch SB-150SX, and UNI LU-9040LAC.

First we fastened 3/8-inch fir plywood to 2-by material to evaluate the tools' firing ability, depth-of-drive adjustments, and feel. Then we shot staples into double 3/4-inch particleboard countertop blanks to test power. We also sized up the tools' features, exhaust adjustments, durability, and ease of use.


Power: The 3/4-inch particleboard we use for countertop build-ups is hard stuff to fasten. Two pieces are even harder. When we fastened two sheets with 11/4-inch staples to create countertop blanks, I had my hammer ready to set the proud staple crowns. Remarkably, all of the tools performed this task equally well. They had no problems seating staples in dense materials.

Loading/Reloading: These staplers have three types of magazines. The Airy, Craftsman, Interchange, ISM, Jamerco, Porter-Cable, and Senco tools have top-load, exposed fasteners; the Makita and Paslode tools have top-load, enclosed fasteners; and the Fasco, Grizzly, Stanley Bostitch, and UNI tools have bottom-load, enclosed fasteners.

I like top-load, exposed fastener slides best because you can always see how many staples are left. That minimizes dry-firing–if you pay attention. I also liked the Makita and Stanley Bostitch staplers' magazine windows. Al- though the slides are enclosed, you can still gauge how many staples are left.

I've never been a big fan of bottom-loading tools. Reloading them forces you to point the tools in the air. That makes me nervous–unless you unplug them every time you reload them. How many of your guys unplug their nailers to reload?

Bump/Sequential Firing: I like the switches lots of manufacturers put on their pneumatic tools that help fine-tune fastener placement and prevent double taps. The Airy, ISM, and Stanley Bostitch staplers are single-shot (sequential) tools. The Grizzly, Makita, Paslode, Porter-Cable, and UNI tools are all bump-fire. The Senco stapler's a bump-fire tool, too, but you can order a part that converts it to single-fire. The Airy, Craftsman, Fasco, Interchange, and Jamerco models offer the convenience of bump- and single-fire; flipping a lever gives you the best of both worlds. The Craftsman tool's switch also has a lock setting so it can't be fired at all. What a simple but great safety feature.

Jam Clearing: It never fails. You're flying along with your work, thinking you're going to be able to knock off early–and then your tool jams. As you know, it's tough enough to remove a crumpled-up staple from a small nosepiece without fishing around in the toolbox for an allen wrench. I'd rather flip a lever.

You need an allen wrench to open up the Fasco, Grizzly, Paslode, Makita, Stanley Bostitch, and UNI staplers; the rest open with latch mechanisms. Three latches caught my eye: The Airy and ISM latches are stiff and must be pried out with something like a nail or screwdriver. That's a little better than using an allen wrench, but it's still too much work, especially on a busy jobsite. Porter-Cable's superior, side-mounted spring latch is very solid and simple to use.