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Homework: Using nail guns

An air-powered framing nail gun.

An air-powered framing nail gun. Credit: Tim Carter

* Nail guns are enormous time savers, and they're wicked machines that can be deadly. They must be treated just the same as you would treat a loaded handgun or a rifle.

* Most nail guns shoot an assortment of nails, which allows you to do just about every rough carpentry task. You can bang together stud walls, laminate structural headers, attach plywood or oriented-strand board (OSB) sheathing to walls, roofs and so forth.

* The tools can be adjusted so that you drive the nail the proper depth. Be certain that you always follow the building code requirements for both the type of nail, the shape of the head and the depth to which it must be driven. Be sure the nail gun you decide to purchase will work with code-compliant nails.

* Before you make your final purchasing decision, be sure to calculate all the costs. If you decide to go with an air tool, you'll need a compressor, hoses, fittings, etc. Think what will happen if you need to use the tool somewhere else and how you will get all that gear to the job site.

* With an impulse nailer, the entire tool and everything you need fits into a small case you can easily carry with one hand. You can take it anywhere you want. You can even use it at a remote site all day where there is no power. You just need to charge the battery pack at night back home.

* Safety is something you must think about all the time with nail guns. They call them guns for a reason. People have been killed and seriously injured with them. Treat these tools with the utmost respect.

Don't use these tools when you're fatigued. Always read the instruction manual, especially all the safety warnings. Don't ever leave these tools around children of any age. They're highly curious about tools, and these nailers will fascinate them.

* If you keep your new nailer clean and follow all maintenance instructions, it should give you years of great service.

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