The Difference between a Pin Nailer, Brad Nailer and Stapler

In finish carpentry work – like board and batten, base and casing, trim, bead board or wainscoting of any kind – there are certain tools that make the job so much easier, but they also get confused one for another – so today we are going to clear up misinformation and talk about the difference between a brad nailer, pin nailer and stapler!

pin nailer collage

Each gun looks very similar and you use the “nails” on the inside for similar things but they are each different (I use the word “nails” very loosely.)

Brad Nailer

brad nailer

The brad nailer is probably the most common finish nail gun. If you wanted to buy a finishing gun, this would be the one I would recommend. Spencer and I have the Senco Brad Nailer and we love it! It is one of my most favorite tools.

The brad nailer uses brad nails. Brad nails are a lot of thin nails lightly glued together and have a flat head. It sort of seems like the nail is bent over at the top.

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They come in a few different sizes – we use 2” for base and casing, bead board, bead board – all your finish carpentry work. We use 5/8” for decorative molding on cabinets, toe skins and finish ends on cabinets. We use 1” for crown molding.

brad nails 1

Pin Nailer

senco pin nailer

The pin nailer is the least used nail gun – We have the Senco pin nailer and it is pretty tiny compared to all the other nail guns. I have never used it. Spencer uses it for one purpose really and that is to nail up white crown molding on cabinets.

Pin nails come in a sheet and are lightly glued together – but they do not have have a head. They are completely straight and really, really thin. When you shoot these in, you can barely see a hole – so you don’t have to putty – but they also barely hold anything.



ridgid stapler

The stapler is your furniture building gun! We use this Ridgid bad boy to help us with our furniture builds. Because it is a staple it has a more sturdy hold and the material (wood, MDF) won’t come undone as easily. Do NOT use this gun for finished carpentry stuff. The staple has a larger head than the brad nailer and will leave big holes in your base board or board and batten and will be really crappy to putty.

The staples are called “narrow crown staples.” This does not mean you use them for crown molding! They are called this because the top of the staple is rounded instead of straight across so it sort of looks like a “crown.”

staplesstaples 1

Please note: Each one of these is used to secure your material (wood, MDF) until the wood glue is dry. Please do not assume that just because you shot a few brad nails in that you are good to go – your project will be weak and will probably fall apart. You NEED to use wood glue. The glue is what holds the project together. We recommend Gorilla Wood Glue.

All of our guns use an air compressor but they pack a lot of punch and we love them. I would totally invest in a brad nailer if you do your own finish work and if you like to build – buy a staple gun. You will love them too!


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Hey there! We are Spencer and Amanda, a DIY husband and Wife team, sharing projects we build and create together for our home. Since buying our home in 2007 we have had the saying that Spencer builds it and makes it work and Amanda makes it look good. We hope you will stick around because we always have projects in the works!

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  1. Richard says:

    Thanks for your straightforward advice on brad, pin and staple nailers – it was exactly the level of advice that I wanted. A salesman at woodcraft was trying to sell me a pin nailer, but I now realize (and then suspected) that I really need both a stapler and brad nailer.

  2. Thank you for your post, it’s exactly what i looking for. 🙂
    brian recently posted…How to Perform Framing Nailer MaintenanceMy Profile

  3. lori groat says:

    Thanks. I was which one to buy my husband for Christmas now I know , brad nailer.

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