What is a Palm Nailer and How to Use It

What Is A Palm Nailer And How To Use It

You need to drive some nails, but you don’t want to whip out the big guns.

It’s just not that big of a task. Either that, or there’s not enough space to fit your finish nailer in. There are a lot of reasons you could end up needing a palm nailer, especially when you see what they can do.

With a palm nailer, there’s a lot of power in a little package—these miniature nailers possess excellent operating pressure and power, but you will run into issues with capacity and power supply at times.

We’re going to go over all the pros and cons of palm nailers, and teach you exactly how to use it to your advantage.

What Exactly is a Palm Nailer?

palm nailer in workers hand

Palm nailers are generally pneumatic tools that fit in one hand.

They aren’t going to fit in the palm of your hand, but you can cover enough of one with a single hand to gain leverage.

Palm nailers commonly have a strap that you’re supposed to fasten to your hand. While the nailer rests in your palm with your fingers going down it like a dome, the strap connects just below your knuckles and just above your wrist, giving you plenty of leverage and eliminating the possibility of your fingers slipping.

Palm nailers need to be connected to air compressors through a hose. While there are some air-less palm nailers available, they’re not quite as powerful as compressor-driven nailers. For most, a one gallon compressor will do the trick.

Unlike most other nailers, you don’t actually hold the nail inside of a chamber. Instead, there’s a miniature piston that acts like a jackhammer for the top of your nail.

This means that most of the time you’re going to position the nail on top of the wood yourself, and then use the palm nailer to drive it into the wood.

Most palm nailers don’t come with a magnetic hold for the nails, though some of them allow you to position the nail head inside of the piston to help with positioning.

These little wonders can actually drive nails into wood with extreme force, because it’s not all one swift motion. The piston does one full revolution, which will push the nail down by about a quarter inch.

It’s your job to apply pressure to the nailer and guide that nail down. A standard 1 ½” nail can take about ten to twelve thrusts to go completely into the wood, which takes less than a single second depending on the nailer you’re using.

How to Use One Properly

holding palm nailer

This is a brief, step-by-step way to use it from safety right on down to driving your first nail with this new tool.

1. Safety First

You want to use earmuffs, because these things get surprisingly loud for being such a small piece of machinery.

Most likely, you’re using a palm nailer with an air compressor, so you’re going to run into noise from both of them.

Most one gallon compressors aren’t going to be too loud, but if you have a larger compressor, it might actually mitigate some of that draw noise from your palm nailer.

2. Strap It Down

Slip your hand into the strap on top of the palm nailer, and tighten it until you feel some resistance.

You don’t want it to constrict your hands and squeeze on either side, leaving red lines: you just want enough resistance to keep your hand nice and firm so that it can withstand all the incoming vibrations.

3. Positioning

Take whatever nail you’re going to use, and position it on top of the wood.

You could just be driving a simple nail through wood to test out your nailer, or you could position this upside-down as if it were going into a ceiling.

Hold the nail in place, and apply pressure or press the button on the back of your palm nailer.

4. Drive

Now it’s time to actually drive your nail into the wood. This is going to be a simple thing depending on what nailer type you have.

You can either apply pressure with your palm onto the back of you5r nailer, or press the button, and get ready.

Brace your hand and feel the piston move up and down as it pushes the nail into the wood, which will be about ten to twelve pumps.

Palm Nailer vs. Brad Nailer, Finishing Nailer, and Framing Nailer

Let’s go over what each of these nailers are used for in the first place to know how to gauge whether or not a palm nailer will be good for your specific task.

Palm Nailer – General use, replaces hammer, good for tight spaces

Brad Nailer – Light trim, molding, flooring

Finishing Nailer – Flooring, light framing, crown molding

Framing Nailer – Framing, heavy-duty use

In the short-term, a palm nailer is basically replacing your hammer. They aren’t used for baseboards or flooring, but they can be used for renovations and repairs.

One of the best uses of a palm nailer is to get into tight spaces that you just don’t want to drag a full finish nailer, such as if you’re doing interior roof repairs.

Nobody wants to put that heavy metal weight on their wrist and just weigh it down, especially if you don’t have to.

Can You Use a Palm Nailer to Sink Finish Nails?

palm nailer for finishing nails

Yes, you absolutely can.

While there’s going to be a big pricing disparity between a finish nailer and a palm nailer, you’re going to find a few hidden gems that actually cost more than your average palm nailer.

Why is that?

Most framing nails are about 3.5” in total, and most simple, inexpensive palm nailers are sinking 1.5” or 2” at the very best. If you get a high-powered palm nailer, you can actually use it to replace your framing nailer for certain tasks.

I say certain tasks, because you’re not just  going to retire your entire framing nailer after using this one time.

A palm nailer is powerful, but not designed for high volume use. Because of its small size and the fact that you’re using a piston, which is like a mini jackhammer, you’re going to feel the vibrations rattle through your hands in no time.

It’s not going to be a pleasant experience, especially if you drive a few dozen nails in, one after another. It can drive heavy finish nails, but it should not be used in place of a finish nailer.

What is the Difference Between a Pneumatic Palm Nailer and an Electric Palm Nailer?

palm nailer differences

In short, it goes like this:

Pneumatic

These use air compressors, and are the most common types of palm nailers.

Most homeowners that have done renovations in the past will already have an air compressor handy, so this will be a simple plug and play type of palm nailer to get.

Electric

Electric palm nailers are more expensive, because they come with an internal power source.

Pneumatic palm nailers aren’t priced together with their air compressors. You’ll find a lot of 18V or 24V units, most of which will work well with aftermarket batteries.

The difficulty here is that you’re going to have to charge your batteries and keep them handy, but this can actually be more convenient than an air compressor for carpentry and professional uses.

When do You Use a Palm Nailer Over a Brad or Finish Nailer?

palm nailer for nailing specific placese

Think of a palm nailer as an automatic hammer.

You don’t have to do the physical hammering, but it works in a similar fashion.

A brad nailer uses thinner nails that are very easy to bend if you use a hammer (at least in comparison to other gauge nails, like 15s and 16s from a finish nailer), so you wouldn’t want to hammer them.

Brad nails are used to hold up lightweight molding and trimming, and they do their job effectively. You run a higher risk of splitting the wood of lightweight, fragile molding when you use a palm nailer.

If you’re building a deck or small frames for a planter box or something similar, you could use a palm nailer instead of a finish nailer.

Palm nailers are situational, so depending on what your usual tasks are, you’ll either get minimal or moderate use out of it.

For Those Specific Tasks

Will you use a palm nailer more than your brad or finish nailer? No, I don’t think so.

Is it useful and applicable to multiple situations? For sure.

Have a palm nailer in your arsenal can make the mundane tasks seem bearable, and bring down the stress surrounding a large-scale project by streamlining the entire process.

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