Of all the pneumatic nailers I own, the
basic brad nailer gets used the most in the workshop. Gone are the days of
hammers and bruised thumbs... there is a tool for everything! In fine
woodworking and cabinetry work, and for many general workshop tasks, a
brad nailer becomes a very handy tool to have in your toolbox.
A brad nailer is at the 'small' end of the range in terms of nail
guns in that it fires some of the smallest nails - or commonly called
"brad nails". A brad nailer is not generally suitable for fencing,
framing, roofing or other heavy duty tasks. It is used to pin items, or as
temporary holding clamps in gluing tasks. The brad nail itself is small
in diameter, is not terribly strong itself and has a rather small T-shaped
head. You can even get headless nails (pins) for use in pin nailers.
If you are looking for a nail gun to do
large trim or molding work, baseboards and the like, look at a 15 or 16
gauge finish nailer. If you want to do basic framing, look for a larger
frame nailer. For fencing and roof work, look for coil nailers, and for
decking or fastening wood to concrete etc, look out for the larger T-nailers.
So as you can see, there is almost a nailer
for each type of task. Since woodworkers commonly need to glue things up,
make jigs and temporary clamp or pin items together, the brad nailer
should almost be the first nailer you buy. Brad nailers typically fire 18
The Fasco GN-40A Nailer
Ok let's take a good look at this brad nailer model by Fasco. Firstly,
the nailer is made in Italy, which makes a bit of a change to many of the
chinese/taiwanese import nailers flooding the market in recent years. It
has achieved a CE standard rating, which is a quality and safety rating
endorsement in Europe.
The package comes shipped in a box (no
molded case) simply with the nailer, instruction manual in English
and Italian, and a test certificate saying the product has been tested and
has passed Fasco's quality control program.
To get started using the nailer, you will
need to supply a compressor or compressed air source, some brad nails, a
3/8" male threaded quick connect air plug (I used a 3/8" to 1/4" adaptor
as I couldn't find a 3/8" threaded quick connector in the style I needed
locally - this worked perfectly fine) and eye protection.
Begin by screwing in your quick connect fitting into
the base of the nailer. Wrapping the threads with plumber's
sealing tape will help eliminate air loss or leaks. The GN-40A has a minimum
working pressure of 60PSI (4 BAR) and a maximum recommended operating
pressure of 100 PSI (7 BAR). It is wise to stick to this max limit to
prolong tool life and enhance tool safety. Naturally, you will probably need a
regulator fitted to your air supply line to regulate air to this pressure.
Once that is set up, and we have a full tank of air ready to go, we can
load up some nails. A note of caution - Never load up nails, remove nails,
clear jams or make any adjustments to the tool with an open air line connected
to the tool!
To load up nails, we must first release the
magazine cover. This is done via a small spring loaded latch at the
bottom, back side of the magazine. Simply push in, and slide the top cover
down. Within the magazine is a spring loaded nail feeder which ensures the
brads are held to the top of the magazine ready to fire at all times.
The GN-40A uses 18ga brad nails with the
following listed specification:
According to the Fasco America website,
specific item numbered nails that can be used with this brad nailer are:
Given that Senco and DuoFast nails are
available very widely, there should be no problem finding a local supply
of nails to use with this gun. Other generic brad nails may also be used
if they closely match the stated specifications listed above. We can load as many as 105 brad nails into
the magazine. This is about an average figure for most brad nailers of
this size. Brad nails are often sold in lots of 1000, 3000 or 5000, so even if
you have to mail-order them in, there shouldn't be a problem, as long as
you order extras well before your current box starts running low.
Fasco America's website state they will
also ship "Any Tool, Any Fastener, Any Quantity, Anywhere" so you can
order supplies direct from them if necessary.
Ensure the spring loaded feeder sits below
the last nail in the stack so it is pushing up on the nails from the
bottom. Slide the nails as far forward as possible, naturally, with the
"pointy, sharp ends" facing toward the front of the nail gun. I've seen some DIY'ers get this wrong!
A nice feature on the GN-40A bradder that
is missing from my other brad nailers is a small nail magazine viewing
window toward the top of the magazine. With nails loaded, you get full
view of the nail stack, so you can visually see if you are running low on
nails. Once the number of nails falls to a low level, a red indicator
starts to appear in this window. This is an effective way of warning the
user that it is time to load up some more ammunition and means you do not
have to strain your eyes peering into the window to see how many nails
remain. This neat little system will avoid the problem of "firing blanks" and
unnecessary wood filling work
later on. A nice added touch.
We are almost ready to go... Before you
hook up your air supply however, take a moment to check the no-mar rubber
tip is attached to the safety catch on the head of the tool. If it isn't insitu when you receive the tool,
the no-mar tip is attached on a holder
on the lower reverse side of the nail magazine. Remove from there and
apply it to the safety catch before you begin work. This will reduce the
incidence of marking/denting your timber from the head of the safety catch when
working with very soft material.
Ready to Nail!
Ensure your air supply is regulated to between 70 and 100 PSI before
you begin. Put on your safety glasses and ear protection before you begin.
Firstly, it is important to know that
whenever you are hooked up to an open/flowing air supply, the gun will
fire when both the safety release and trigger are depressed together. This
is not a toy to try and knock down cola cans in the back yard or worksite (ala that
"Happy Gilmore" movie). Nail guns are dangerous tools. Have respect for
In saying the above, the tool is able to be
used as a bump fire device, although I do not recommend it - it increases
the risk of injury. Unless you have a need to rapidly fire brad nails
without a high degree of placement accuracy, use the nail gun in the
following manner. Firstly, decide where you want to shoot the brad nail.
Place the tip of the nail gun on that mark, pushing it into the wood to
depress the safety release, then squeeze the trigger for a brief moment to
fire a nail. Do not hold the trigger in as there is a chance of unwanted
additional firing if you knock/depress the safety release unintentionally.
The same process is repeated for further
nailing. It's very simple to use. We performed a number of tests using
hardwood and softwoods to see how well the GN-40A could drive drives into
We tested using some scraps of pine to perform multiple, repeated nail
gun use in quick firing succession, as well as general shop use with a
variety of softwoods for trim attachment, moldings, as temporary clamps
for jig making... the list goes on. There is a photo in the right column
showing a close-up shot of the results of our repeated firing test. Given
that the GN-40A (like most other brad nailers) has no mechanical
adjustment feature for driving depth on the tool itself, the depth can be
loosely (and often inaccurately) controlled by air supply pressure. It's not
really ideal, so it is critical that the design and function of the brad
nail gun allows a consistent, even nail driving depth in all types of
softwoods and hardwoods within the specified recommended operating
With softwoods, we had excellent success
with nails being driven roughly 1/32" to 1/16" below the surface
consistently, even when we bump fired nails rapidly we achieved the same
consistent result. With the grain, or cross the grain, the results were
all pretty similar. Points scored in this area. The advantage of a brad
nailer over heavier gauge nailers is that the nail hole is much
smaller, easier to fill and, ultimately, less noticeable in the end
product. If you are going to be firing nails very rapidly, ensure your air
supply hose is of sufficient diameter to keep up. Brad nail guns (and air
nailers in general) use very little air compared to pneumatic tools like
air sanders, air grinders or sprayers. As a result, most nail guns can be
run off small compressors, even the 'pancake' variety, although these will
cycle more often due to the smaller tank.
We performed similar repetitive tests on a variety of hardwoods
including maple, oak, merbau and Ipe. Driving into hardwoods is a tougher
task for the nail gun. I have a Chinese made brad nailer I bought years
ago at a sale, and while it works fine for softwoods, it can give
inconsistent results in more dense hardwoods, often not burying the nail head all the
way into the wood, particularly close grained woods that offer
increased resistance. While you can use a nail punch to complete the job,
it is not ideal from a time perspective, and you risk spitting the wood
from repeated blows with a nail punch.
I was hoping the Fasco GN-40A would solve
those problems for me. After the first test run, we repeatedly fired nails
into dense Ipe hardwood across the grain. We fired 10 nails in succession.
9 out of the 10 nails were driven to the same depth as in our softwood
tests (roughly 1/32" to 1/16" below the surface). The tenth nail was not
driven all the way in, remaining slightly proud of the surface. I
suspected my narrow coil hose may have been the culprit in this case, so I
switched to a larger diameter non-coiled hose and repeated the test. It
came up trumps second time around with 10 out of 10 nails driven
consistently below the surface. I repeated a third time and again a
perfect result. I switched back to a softwood and repeated again with the
same end result. I would conclude that during the first rapid bump
fire test with the narrow coil air hose in use, the small diameter was
restricting air supply in continuous rapid firing tasks. No fault of the nail
gun itself, but interesting all the same. I guess the moral of the
story... if you are going to rapid fire, use a supply line that can handle
General Use, Features and Findings
Firstly, the rubber overmold grip on the handle is a definite asset,
although all nail guns I have come across so far have this. It prevents
slipping, however, this is not such a problem with a brad nail gun that
has little recoil. On the subject of recoil, very little was experienced
in both softwood and hardwood driving tasks. The GN-40A is comfortable to
use in this regard. Given its light weight of 2.73lbs (1.24kg), you can
use it for extended periods of time, even for overhead work, and not need
to book into a chiropractor the day after.
missing is a rubber overmold on the trigger. Some may say its not needed,
and functionality-wise, it really isn't, but I have been spoilt by the
rubber molded trigger on the
Senco 41XP Finish Nailer which adds additional user
comfort. We had no problems with the trigger on the GN-40A despite this -
perhaps a consideration for future versions.
The safety catch is sufficiently small to
get into tight corners, such as when toe-nailing dado joint shelves. While
it is not as effective as some of the narrow pin-type safety release
mechanisms available, it was still able to drive the nail slightly below
the surface in most cases. The GN-40A's safety release design does allow
for the inclusion of the no-mar rubber tip however.
In use, we could not detect any signs of
air leaks in the tool. The exhaust port on the back of the head can be
rotated 90 degrees left and right from its upright position, however, this
requires use of a hex-head/allen key tool. In most cases, there will be
little need to rotate it from its upright position, as long as the
exhausted air is not being blasted directly toward you or others in
close vicinity. A rubber gasket is used to improve sealing between the
body and cap of the tool. This provides added re-assurance and durability.
Speaking of durability, a nice feature of
the GN-40A is that it uses a reversible bumper for extended life. If the
bumper wears out through extended use over time, you can simply reverse
it instead of having to send it to the repair shop for replacement. We
don't expect to have to reverse the bumper any time soon.
Another excellent feature of the GN-40A
(patent pending) is the "quick clear device". With many other types of
brad nailers, if you suffer a nail jam, you need to pull out the tool box,
loosen several nuts or fittings to disassemble the safety catch before you
can get access to the jammed nail to remove it. With the GN-40A, a rear
latch between the inside edge of the nail magazine and the handle can be
used to draw the entire nail magazine assembly downward, exposing the
bumper firing channel and the jammed nail. This can be done within seconds
(once air hose has been disconnected for safety) and the jammed nail can
be removed easily without tools! This is certainly going to save a
lot of time and frustration if a nail jam does occur. I must admit that I
rarely do get a nail jam with my brad nailers, even the cheap Chinese one.
I have not had a jam with the GN-40A as yet either. I expect this feature
of being able to remove a jammed nail almost effortlessly to be a smile
generator rather than a frown generator if and when a nail jam occurs in
The brad nailer is quite a "simple" tool compared to others we use in
our woodworking endeavors. Despite this, Fasco has come up with some very
user-friendly additions and improvements to the basic brad nailer that
place it higher up in the pecking order of "bradders". Features like the
nail magazine viewing window and quick clear nail jam system are well
considering before you make your first, or next brad nailer purchase.
On the whole, the results we achieved were
very encouraging, with consistency being the key element.
Check out the Fasco America website for
more information about this item, other Fasco items and how and where they
can be purchased -
*Note that if purchased within the USA, the tool model number is actually
F21T GN-40A and is blue in color, rather than the red H21T model shown
here. Feature-wise, both are identical. The nail gun is sold through
Fasco's distributors - contact them for details of a local distributor.
Prices can vary but the nail gun usually runs about US$169.00 (price
estimate as at 10/7/2004).
Fasco GN-40A Photos
All photos copyright onlinetoolreviews.com. Use without prior
written permission prohibited
The H21T GN-40A Fasco Brad Nailer
Brad Nails from 15mm to 40mm can be used in this gun.
Ergonomic lever releases the magazine clip to load up nails. Because the
entire magazine assembly has no welded parts, it is easy to fully
disassemble if needed.
Loading up some 40mm brad nails...
Note the "running track" shaped window which lets you
see when your nail supply is running low.
With my thumb pressing on the rear latch, I can
implement the "Quick Clear" feature, pulling the enture magazine down away
from the firing head. This allows you to clear nail jams very quickly
without the use of additional tools. Very cool!
You will need a 3/8" male fitting to use the GN-40A. Here I have used a
3/8" to 1/4" adaptor fitting, and this worked perfectly fine. Seal threads
with plumber's thread sealing tape.
The no-mar rubber tip installed.
Good consistent firing depth in softwood. Nails are buried just
below the surface evenly, even
We fired into this very dense piece of Ipe decking wood
and achieved the same consistent result. A good test of the strength of
There are plenty of uses for a brad nailer in the
workshop. Here we are pinning to clamp a glue-up.
Here we are making a smaller panel cutting jig for the
Toe-nailing dado seated shelves is a popular use for a
brad nailer, and this technique adds some strength the the joint.