Shop Talk

Straight Versus Angled Finish Nailers: What's the Difference?

  • Everyone has their preferences – summer, winter, chocolate, vanilla, breakfast, dinner, and of course, the list goes on and on. When it comes to angled and straight finish nailers, though, the dividing lines are not so cut and dry, nor are the rivalries so playful or pedestrian. Instead, they are a far more serious matter involving blood, sweat, and concrete loyalty. Before you decide which finish nailer you’ll fight for, let me lay down a few bona fide facts about straight and angled pneumatic finish nailers.

    You might be wondering, “what are the real differences between straight and angled finish nailers, and will those differences really effect the quality of my work?” Well, the answer in a nutshell is “plenty” and “yes.” In another nutshell, the terms “angled” and “straight” refer to the angle of the tool’s nail magazine. Angled guns have better access into small areas, they are generally more accurate, more expensive, and shoot a thicker nail. Straight guns are less expensive, are generally more bulky, and shoot a thinner nail.

    Outside of that nutshell, and a bit more comprehensively, we’ll begin again with angled guns. The angled finish nailer is perhaps most well known for its uncanny and superior access into tight spaces and corners. Having a smaller front end, the nailer provides greater access for trimming and any other nailing application where especially tight spaces are a factor. This sleek, angled design also provides more accurate and simpler nail placement. The angled driver of the angled nailer has the ability to focus your shots more acutely, and it’s more “D” shaped nail heads are arguably more secure than the more “T” shaped heads of the straight nailer (it’s up for debate which fastener type is actually more effective, but it’s a fact that the “D” shaped fastener is more popular and simpler to find). The biggest downfall of the angled gun, though, is its fat nails. The 15ga nails in the angled gun are thicker than those of the typically 16ga straight nailer’s nails. Not only are these thicker nails more expensive, but they also pose a problem for more delicate finishing jobs
    . These thicker nails may split smaller, more delicate trim or other fine projects, and they also leave a larger hole behind them. This means, at least in the cases of your most delicate procedures, that with an angled gun, you risk material splitting, and will certainly have a larger nail hole to fill.

    On another hand, the straight finish nailer, although sworn by by a mountain of professional craftsman, is a bit more bulky and cumbersome than its angled counterpart. They don’t offer the same access into tight spaces and therefore lack the generally superior accuracy and agility of the angled nailer
    . Of course, though, there are some benefits to using a straight nailer, mainly, their thinner nails leave smaller holes behind them, they leave far more delicate entrance wounds in fragile projects, and their price tags are substantially smaller
    . Both the straight nailer and their straight, thin nails are far less expensive than the more specialized angled guns and nails.

    Ultimately, although it seems clear to me that the benefits of the angled finish nailer outweigh the costs (and outweigh the benefits of the straight nailer as well), the finish nailer you choose is a matter of personal style, preference, loyalty, and necessity. Choose wisely, and happy crafting!