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Brad Nails Vs. Finish Nails

Brad nails and finish nails are two important nail types that are extensively used in those areas of carpentry where aesthetic appeal is of importance. In this HobbyZeal article, we shall talk about the difference between brad nails and finish nails.
Satyajeet Vispute
While it is possible to work with both brad and finish nails using a hammer, it is advisable to use a brad nailer or a finish nailer respectively for your carpentry work. These nailers are specially designed for driving each of these nails into wood, and the final product is more likely to have a more professional look.

You know for sure that you are a skilled wood-worker. You cut and chop as precisely as a ninja, and can literally sand and polish a rock to gravel. So why was it that your recent DIY coffee table came out looking a little amateurish? With due respect to your carpentry skills, perhaps it was because you chose the wrong set of nails.

No serious wood work can be completed without the use of nails to hold the cut pieces together. However, it is these very nails that can spoil the aesthetics of the carpentry in the final stages of the work. The appearance of nailheads makes the finish look all blotchy and spotted. To solve this issue, special types of nails have been designed, known as brad nails and finish nails.

Brad Nails

Brad nails are among the smallest and thinnest nails used in the world of carpentry. In fact, they are the second smallest type of nails that can fit within a nail gun. These nails usually have a thickness of 1.22 mm, and a very small nailhead.

Brad nails have a small size and a comparatively blunt tip. They are incapable of providing a large degree of support and structural strength to the woodwork. Hence, they are better suited for decorative purposes, rather than actual functional requirements.

The main advantage of Brad nails comes from the fact that their small nailhead can be hidden from view by applying putty over it. Thus, they are most suitable in applications where aesthetics is of vital importance.

Typically, brad nails are driven into a surface with the help of a special nail gun or specially designed brad gun. However, in the hands of a skilled carpenter, they can even be driven in with the help of a hammer.

Finish Nails

Finish nails, as their name itself suggests, are employed to impart a better finish to your carpentry work. These nails are small in size, and are characterized by nailheads that are only slightly thicker than the nail-shaft. Typically, finish nails come in diameters of 1.63 mm and 1.83 mm.

Though small, compared to brad nails, finish nails are both longer and thicker. This allows them to provide a stronger attachment or fastening to the woodwork. Their narrower head and sharper point allows carpenters to sink them into the wood to hide their presence.

A finish nail usually sports a dimple on top of its head. The carpenter, while driving the nail in the wood, usually places the tip of another finish nail in this dimple, and uses it to hammer the first nail. This makes it possible to sink the finish nail even deeper within the wood, without the surface getting damaged due to the hammer blows.

Brad Nails Vs. Finish Nails: Comparison

1) Brad nails are shorter and thinner as compared to finish nails. They also have a blunter tip. Thus, they are less likely to cause damage to the woodwork, making them more suitable for use on softer woods. Finish nails are longer, thicker, and sharper, and can cause damage to soft wood.

2) For harder surfaces, finish nails, with their sharper points are the better choice, as they can pierce it and get inside of the surface. Brad nails with their blunt tips might not be able to pierce a harder surface.

3) Finish nails are longer and thicker than brad nails. As such, they are able to firmly attach two pieces of wood together, and provide more in terms of structural support to the woodwork.

4) Both brad nails and finish nails have small nailheads as compared to regular nails. However, in case of finish nails, the nailhead is so small that it is possible to drive it completely inside the wood. Brad nails have a slightly bigger head, and therefore, even after being hammered in, may still remain visible on the surface, albeit only to a small degree. Thus, finish nails can offer a cleaner finish as compared to brad nails.

5) In woodwork, the corners and central parts are always the problem areas, as they are the weakest. For such spots, the sharpness of the tip and the gauge size (thickness) considerations of the nails to be used becomes important. Brad nails, being thinner and blunter, can be much safer to use here, as they can get the job done without shearing the wood.

6) Brad nails are more suitable for smaller projects, such as tacking plywood pieces or for building small furniture items. For making larger furniture such as a wardrobes or dining tables, etc., finish nails, with their greater structural strength providing capability, would be the better choice.

Thus, clearly both brad nails and finish nails are useful tools for carpenters who are trying to obtain the right quality of finish on a particular woodwork. Each has its own set of advantages and disadvantages, and have certain specific applications, wherein they are almost irreplaceable.