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Ryobi 18 Gauge Cordless Nailer Review

Add Cordless Brad Nailer to Your List of "Must Have" DIY Remodeling Tools

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Ryobi Cordless 18 Gauge Brad Nailer

Ryobi Cordless 18 Gauge Brad Nailer

© Lee Wallender; licensed to About.com
Sad, but true: you have yet one more tool to buy.

If you plan on doing any amount of home remodeling work, you just have to have a brad nailer. My test for Must-Haveness: does the lesser substitute work as well, or close, to the tool that you believe you must have?

For instance, wet tile saws are indispensable when doing one room or more of tilework. The substitute--the snap tile cutter--doesn't come close. Miter work? Sure, you can cut your crown and other trim by hand in a miter box. But the speed and precision afforded by an electric miter saw leaves the manual miter box in the dust.

For nailing trim, it's possible, but exceedingly difficult, to nail by hand. I'll go one further and say that nailing trim by hand is a pain in the rear, and the result often looks like garbage. But with a nailer, you press the trigger, you hear a brief whirr as the tool compresses air, and then smack! in that nail goes. No splits. No exposed heads. No banged fingers. Perfect.

Cordless Visits the World of Nailers

What we're not talking about is a compressed air framing nailer, the very same tool that wakes you up on Saturday mornings because your neighbor is putting on an addition and the workers love showing up at 6:30am. That's a different tool.

What we are talking about is a nailgun that delivers 18 gauge wire brads that come attached in long strips. These brads are meant for finish work, trim, crown, baseboard. Anything where it's important to sink the head.

This cordless brad nailer is powered by Ryobi's ONE+ 18 volt lithium ion battery packs. It claims to fire 60 brads per minute, with a magazine capacity of 105 nails. However, due to its Dry-Fire Lockout feature, which prevents the nailer from firing the last four or so nails in order to extend tool life, you could rightly say that the capacity is more like 100 nails.

The nailer fires brads from 5/8" to 2". It does come with two strips of 1.25" brads. In case you were wondering, this also happens to be the right length for most types of trim that you might be installing.

How Well Does It Work?

Ryobi Cordless Nailer Depth Wheel

Ryobi Cordless Nailer Depth Wheel

© Lee Wallender; licensed to About.com
Being the impatient type, my view of any tool is always predicated on how quickly I can get the thing up and running--without looking at the instructions. Bosch tools are famous for being dead-simple. Ironically, the worst set-up I've had involved a utility knife, of all things. Ryobi tends to fall somewhere in the middle--except that this tool did prove to be exceedingly easy to get running. I unboxed it at 11:27am; by 11:38am, I shot my first test brad into my workshop door. Eleven minutes! It would have been half the time, if not for battery issues (more on that later).

Sixty nails per minute, they say? I tested its speed prior to consulting the product specs, and my speed was exactly one per second. I was able to accomplish this with the tool's Contact Actuation feature.

With Sequential Actuation, you place the nailer, pull the trigger, fire, and back to square one. With Contact Actuation, you keep the trigger depressed and move the nailer down your work. As soon as the plastic No Mar Pad depresses on your work, the gun fires automatically. Fast but less precise than Sequential Actuation.

The tool easily nailed trim, as expected. But how strong is it? I was able to face-nail 1.25" brads into 3/4" red oak hardwood flooring, sinking the heads and everything. This is not the Ryobi's intended purpose, by the way. But it is an indicator of what the tool can do if pressed into hard service.

I appreciated the limited number of features on the nailer. It's a simple tool without a lot of confusing bells and whistles. Really the only things to learn are:

  • Depth of Drive Adjustment. Turn the wheel in one direction or the other to make the nails sink deeper or shallower.
  • Air Pressure Dial. On back, this dial controls internal air pressure, giving you more or less force.
  • Mode Selector. Mentioned earlier, this is the toggle between Sequential or Contact Actuation.

A Few Downers

The biggest issue is the issue I have cordless tools in general, and often, Ryobi in particular: short life span of lithium ion batteries. Of that eleven minute period it took to get the tool running, I spent most of it switching between three of my 18 volt battery packs until I could find one that had not failed.

The two failed battery packs were no more than a few months old, and each had been used for about 2 or 3 hours, max.

Also, I wasn't wild about the Depth of Drive Adjustment wheel. It has no reference points to let you see what depth you have dialed into. A numeric indicator would be great. Failing that, at least it would be nice to have a dial-and-pointer indicator, similar to the Air Pressure Dial.

Buy? Don't Buy?

I believe this nailer is priced fairly at $129 (The Home Depot). If you have any trim to hang, you need a brad nailer, and this Ryobi is a good way to start.
Disclosure: Review samples were provided by the manufacturer. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.

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