The Online Magazine For Amateur Boat Builders














John's Tool Crib
by John Cupp

Porter-Cable Twin Power 18 Gauge Nailer

Well friends most of us have heard about stitch and glue seam boat building but I think I have come up with a different twist on that application. It started last year when I tested the 18 volt Wood Workers Combo Kit by Delta tools. In that kit it had a 18 volt battery operated 18 gauge nailer. I found a supplier who makes stainless 18 gauge brads for nail guns and they do not leave rust stains so they are better alloy than the low grade that is usually sold. One way to figure if they will stain before you use them is to hold them to a magnet. The higher the carbon content the more they stain and the more they draw the magnet. If in fact they do not draw the magnet then they are good 316 alloy stainless you can use for boat building. That’s all nice but what has that got to do with this new dual powered 18 gauge nailer?

I sent the Delta wood workers cordless kit to Chuck Lienweber for further testing because he was making a series of small boats and it had a brad nailer so I decided to test this dual air nailer. It has a tiny compressor built in to it and it runs on a Porter-Cable 12 volt rechargeable battery. In fact they give the mini compressor 120 lbs of pressure like a regular air compressor and you do not need to hook up to an air hose but you can so it can use dual power. Well back to my story. They make the nails in 2” length so I thought if you took the nailer and fired down through both sides of the plywood in an X formation close together and then twisted the two ends together you would be stitching the wood together as well as drilling and trying to push the wire through both holes after drilling. I tried a few sample seams from different pieces of plywood to see how it would work. I found that was unable to tie two of the brads together when I used two pieces of ¾” plywood but with the X system the wood held very well anyway and you could still make the seam. The only reason to do it this way is that it I dramatically faster to stitch the two panels together.

On a seam that might take and hour to stitch the old way it takes only a couple of minutes now but you must be very careful with alignment of the plywood panels or you’ll have to take them apart and that is the hard part. If you try to use brute strength you’ll end up tearing out big chunks of plywood. But wow, is it fast and with two people making sure it has the right alignment you could stitch and tape a whole boat like a kayak in one evening. You can also set the depth of the brad to below the surface of the wood or sticking out so you can pull it out if you’re gluing something together and you need a quick holder when you have no clamps. I have another 18 gauge nailer and it seemed every time I used it I was just a couple of inches short on my air hose and the air hose always got in the way in tight places.

The Air Nailer is built to very high standards and comes with a nice case, oil for oiling the nailer each and every time you pull it from the case to use and a few packs of brads. It takes brads from ¾” to 2” and the stainless brads are much tougher than the regular Porter-Cable brads. If you where building cabinets the Porter-Cable brads would be perfect. It has one twelve volt battery pack and a quick charger that charges the battery in an hour. I would buy one more battery because the nailer runs for just about one hour when in hard usage. With the nice carrying case you can keep it all together and there is plenty of room in the case for eight packs of brads along with everything else.

I priced this nailer from many places and it varies as much as $70.00 more retail in some online stores. So shop around and get a great deal because they are out there but being an independent writer I cannot let you know the stores that gouge their customers but you will see from the prices when you look. Even at its very highest price the tool is well crafted and worth every penny but if you’re like me you will want the best deal. During all my testing I had no malfunctions, my other brad nailer that is a no-name made in Taiwan gets stuck about every thirty or forty brads and when it does it tend to mark the finish. That is not a good thing so that is why I suggest you purchase a good nailer for this purpose. Of course you are going to put a layer of putty and cloth across the top of any mess you make but if you are building anything nice it could wreck a finish you worked on for a week, I know.

I will tell you though that I bought the brads from what I think is a good company and that is McFeely’s Square Drive Screws but when I looked online now it looks like they have dropped them as a stock item but there are other suppliers. I am sure that you can find a million uses for this brad driver in boatbuilding without even trying, I know I have. I cannot get over how quickly it works and the driving force that the brads have. I found a few mouse holes in the flooring in my shop so I used galvanized flashing to cover the holes and nailed it down with one inch 18 gauge brads that didn’t even flinch. I even joined two pieces of oak together with the stainless brads to see how they would work. I had it set to drive below the surface. It drove them just as if I had been using pine. So where does this stand in my list of must have tools? Well since I build other things besides boats at times I think it can be placed near the center of must haves. If your new to boat building you should have some good hammers, a few good saws like the Japanese pull saws, screw drivers and an electric screw driver either corded or cordless, a jigsaw and then measuring tools. From there you can fill your garage with thousands of tools like myself and others that write articles here or you can stay small and spend your money on other pleasures.

I can say with truth that I do like sailing and fishing just about the same as building and I also like to play guitar. If you must have hobbies it is good that they compliment each other as sailing and building boats do. The bigger and fancier the boat the more tools you’ll need so you have the cost of materials plus the cost of any new tools you must buy. With tools like this Porter-Cable dual power driver you can have a tool that will easily last 30 years or more. My father always told me to buy the best tool you can afford so you’ll do a better job. Better also means for a longer amount of time. I inherited some of my dad’s tools and after years of wood working they still perform very well and all I have done to most of them is change electric motor brushes, they wore out faster than any other parts usually. I have a skill electric 3/8” drill that is 70 years old but it cost him more when he bought that drill than the others but he knew it would last.

Almost every inexpensive, cheap, no name tool I purchased to do a particular job gave me fits while using it and most never did finish their first job I bought them for. The other 18 gauge nailer I have is a no name made in china and if it does not jam on the third brad it will fire two brads t half the depth. I bought it for $30.00 and I might as well taken out a ten and twenty dollar bill and burned them with a match ( no sales tax in Oregon). If you need a brad nailer even if you do not pick this particular one the other porter cable brad nailers are still very good tools and will cost slightly less without the built in air compressor. So buy well just like you should marry and your life will be much better in every way.

From the just warming up tool crib,