Specs and Tester's Comments
As a framing contractor, I use medium crown staplers to fasten acres of wall sheeting every year, but they're also invaluable for building interior details like tub platforms, shower seats, fireplace surrounds, and arches. I used to tackle these projects with a framing nailer, building 2-by pony walls and running ledgers to support plywood decks, but I've found that if I prefab everything like a cabinetmaker would, using my table saw and medium crown stapler, I can produce a higher-quality, lighter, and easier-to-build and -install product. This technique allows me to use up scrap plywood and small blocks that would otherwise go to waste, too, so the stapler actually saves me money.
The strength that's developed with staples and plywood is amazing, and, along with creating solid connections, staples are ideal for working with smaller pieces of lumber: Where an 8-penny nail might split a small wood block, the stapler fastens plywood to it securely and quickly with zero damage.
While this test focuses on framing applications, the broad range of fastener lengths makes medium crown staplers ideal for other trades, too. Stucco contractors use the staplers' unmatched speed for fastening metal lath with 1- to 1-1/2-inch staples. Roofers like the fact that 2-inch medium crown staples don't split the 1x3 furring strips they run horizontally over roof decks for concrete tile installation. And, ceramic and stone tile installers use staples to fasten cement board to floors, walls, and countertop blanks.
I tested 10 new models: the Duo-Fast SM-7664, Fasco F45C G-55 SS(CT), Hitachi N5008AC, ISM MC716200, Max TA551/16-11, Paslode S200-S16, Porter-Cable MS200, Senco SNS40, Spotnails XS76-8650, and Stanley-Bostitch 650S5. I ran them hard for two months in sheeting applications where I nailed off 3/8-inch and 1/2-inch plywood, 7/16-inch OSB, and 1/2-inch asphalt impregnated sheeting (AIS), testing each model for speed, power, comfort, and durability. Since many of the projects I build have tough OSB corners and softer non-structural AIS infill sheeting, I was especially looking for good depth-of-drive adjustments for setting staples flush in the different materials. For pickup work like arches and shower seats, I looked for adjustable exhaust, tool maneuverability, and balance. I also considered the types of staples each model accepts, their jam-clearing features, and the general fit and finish of each tool.
Speed, Power, and Depth-of-Drive
Speed and Power. Fastening a sheet of plywood using a standard stapling schedule (6-inch o.c. edge nailing/12-inch o.c. in the field) requires approximately 77 fasteners per sheet. If you're looking down an 80-foot-long wall, it's easy to see why staplers must be fast. Fortunately, all of the tools in the test group satisfied this requirement and there wasn't a single tool even my fastest guy could outrun. The same goes for power: Each unit has plenty of muscle to drive 2-inch staples consistently through plywood or OSB and into solid Douglas fir wood framing.
Depth-of-Drive. All of the tools in the test have depth-of-drive adjustments, but only the ISM, Porter-Cable, and Spotnails adjustments are tool-less, a great feature. If your sheeting specs call for OSB on the corners, you need to punch pretty hard to flush the staples. But if the nonstructural infill sheeting is AIS, you have to lighten up to prevent overdrives, and this is where the tool-less adjustments on these models can make you money.
You adjust the Duo-Fast, Hitachi, Max, Paslode, and Senco depths-of-drive by moving a U-shaped metal plate on the nose of the tool. This requires loosening a bolt and sliding a plate forward for flush-nailing or backward to countersink. These tools are easy to adjust, but the systems aren't as fast or convenient as the tool-less adjustments on the other tools. They're all workable, as long as you have the right Allen wrench.
Adjusting the drive depth on Fasco's tool requires unbolting the safety assembly on the nose then adjusting the safety's length. The process is tricky and it takes more time than the other tools. Likewise, to adjust the Stanley-Bostitch tool, you remove two bolts from the nose of the tool, remove the cover plate, turn the adjustment nut, and replace the cover plate. It's time-consuming and not always easy to get the right setting. It took me about three minutes to adjust these two tools.