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Palm Nailers Explained – What Are They, How Do They Work, What Are They Used For & Buying Guide

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There are several types of nail guns available, each of them providing specific uses and characteristics. However, the palm nailer is rather unique when compared to others, and occupies its own place in terms of nail gun uses.

This article will provide you with all the relevant information on palm nailers, how they work, how to use them, and a buying guide.

For more information on other nail guns, visit our Types of Nail Guns Guide – Brad Nailers And More.

Table of Contents

What is a Palm Nailer?

A palm nailer, otherwise known as a mini palm nailer, is a small handheld power tool that is typically used for driving nails into wood, plywood, MDF, plastic, etc. Unlike a regular nail gun, the palm nailer works more like an impact hammer, delivering continuous hammer blows on the nail head to drive.

Other types of nail guns generally use a long single stroke to drive the nail into wood. The palm nailer operates on the same principle as a manual hammer and nail. The key difference being that with a palm air nailer, you are able to hit the nail on the head several times per second.

It’s essentially an air hammer in your palm. To learn more about air hammers, visit our Air Hammers Explained – What Are They, How Do They Work, What Are They Used For & Buying Guide!

One great advantage of palm nailers is that you’re capable of using them in confined spaces where you would not fit another nail gun, or a hammer to strike the nail. The advantages of palm nailers are obvious, but rather limited.

You must load the nails one by one manually. This is their biggest limitation as they are not designed for heavy construction use where speed is very important. Because of their ergonomic design, they can be used repeatedly with far less exertion. This means that you can use a palm nailer more often during the day compared to a larger framing nail gun without tiring out.

Palm Nailers Explained

How Does a Palm Nailer Work?

A palm nailer is a tool that is mostly used for framing, but also for other purposes. It is a long rectangular-shaped tool that has a head on one end and a handle on the other to comfortably fit in your palm. They have an angled head with a sharp point on one end and a flat side on the other. The sharp point helps to puncture the material that is being nailed.

The flat side provides the user with more control over the nails as it is used to push them into the material being nailed down with your palm, which makes it easy to make straight lines or even curves in your work.

A palm nailer essentially works by moving up and down using your hands, which causes the tool’s weight to move from one end of its shaft to the other, driving nails into whatever material you are working on. They use a piston to push nails into wood or other materials.

The piston pushes the nail into the wood or other material by using a handle with a trigger that is attached to a shaft on the piston head, which leaves an indentation in the material. The device then releases the nail from its position, so it can be removed easily.

How to Use a Palm Nailer

The main difference between a palm nailer and standard nail gun is that the palm nailer is designed to load and drive nails one by one. Using a palm nailer generally consists of the following steps:

How to Use Palm Nailer

  1. Connect Palm Nailer to Compressor

    The first step is to connect the palm nailer to the air compressor unless it is cordless – then hook up the battery. It’s important to wear safety glasses and ear protection.

  2. Secure the Palm Nailer

    Place the tool securely in your palm. Don’t forget to wear anti-vibration gloves to help protect your wrists.

  3. Load the Nail

    Take a single nail and place the head of the nail into the anvil shaft of the nail gun. A magnetic collet inside will hold the nail onto the tool. You are now ready to fire the nail!

  4. Fire the Nail

    Now, place the nail along with the nailer on the location where you want to drive into the material and press the trigger. The nailer will operate the small hammer inside which then drives the nail quickly into the material. A typical palm nailer will drive the hammer at least 10 to 30 blows per second. This results in a quickly and efficiently driven nail.

What is a Palm Nailer Used For?

Palm nailers are used in tight spaces where other types of nail guns and hammers are unable to reach. For example, nailing between existing studs. They are very useful tools for overheard nailing since they are much easier on your hands and wrists compared to heavy nail guns.

The uses for a palm nailer include but are certainly not limited to:

  • deckings
  • fencing
  • framing
  • roofing and ceiling work
  • metal connector straps
  • installing joist hangers
  • constructing pole barns

Palm Nailer Buying Guide

When selecting the right palm nailer for you, it’s important to consider the following features to ensure you get one suitable for your tasks:

  • Interchangeable head
  • Power source
  • Nail size
  • Attachments
  • Magnetic nose
  • Depth Adjustment
  • Size & weight

Palm Nailer Interchangeable Heads

You may need to use different sizes of nails, depending on the job so that you can strike them to different depths, and even at different angles. Some palm nailers have interchangeable heads which enable you to swap, for example, from a standard head to a finishing head, or from one that is suited to decking to one for roofing. This is often a desirable option when selecting a palm nailer.

Palm Nailer Power Source

Nailers can be powered in multiple ways, with the two most common being either a pneumatic palm nailer or battery palm nailer. Pneumatic palm nailers use compressed air as their power source, meaning you are restricted by the air hose length and a suitably sized compressor to provide power. But, they are more powerful, dependable, cheaper, and have less ongoing costs.

In contrast, an electric palm nailer, or battery palm nailer, tends to be heavier and more expensive, along with being prone to breaking down and needing expensive maintenance. One benefit is that they do not require an air hose to use.

Palm Nailer Nail Size

Nail sizes generally range from 1″ to 6″, and you will need a palm nailer capable of coping with the size of the nails and the types.

Palm Nailer Attachments

You may wish to consider any palm nailer attachments and accessories that you may need to purchase along with the palm nailer. These may include heads, carry cases, covers, and straps.

Palm Nailer Magnetic Nose

Palm nailers do not use a cartridge or magazine, they fire a single nail and then you have to place another nail into the device. Because of this, you need to load the nail into the device via the nose where it fires from. Good devices include noses that have an indent, which allows for the nail to rest and ensures far greater accuracy when firing.

Those with magnetic noses can be used to hold the nail as you move it to the work material. Most palm nailers nowadays will have magnetic noses to help make your job considerably easier, but it’s important to still look out for.

Palm Nailer Depth Adjustment

Different jobs require hammering nails at different depths into the wood. How much pressure needs to be applied is determined by the length of the nail, but there are instances where you want a sunken head or one that sits proud from the wood.

Some palm nailers offer depth adjustment, allowing you to determine exactly how far into the wood, the nail can be secured.

Palm Nailer Size & Weight

One of the big benefits of a palm nailer is that it is generally lightweight and easy to carry. It causes less fatigue than other nail guns, especially in the hands and wrists, and with it being lighter, the longer you should be able to hold it and use the nailer. However, if the palm nailer is too light, it may take more effort to actually force the nail from the nailer into the material.

The lightest palm nail gun weighs less than a pound, while the heaviest weighs more than 5 lbs. For regular and longer use, I would recommend something around 2 lbs or less. For brief and shorter use, heavier palm nailers are fine.

Size also matters. The key benefit of the palm nailer is its ability to get into tight and confined spaces. However, the bigger the palm nailer, the more cumbersome it is, which means that it will weigh more and cause additional user fatigue. It will also be more difficult to get your nailer into tight corners and difficult spaces.

Palm Nailers Available on Amazon

I have picked out some of the best palm nailer readily available on Amazon. First up is this Bostitch Palm Nailer which 360° swivel air fitting for maximum accessibility and is capable of driving most common bulk finish, framing & timber nails.

This Senco Palm Nailer has a soft rubber palm pad for comfortable grip with a magnetic nail guide for faster and easier driving.

This Porter Cable palm nailer is a mini palm nailer that offers multi-blow function to drive any length of framing or metal connecting nail. It contains a magnetic nose with recessed nail slot.

Here is a Ridgid palm nailer which also boasts terrific reviews on Amazon.

Other notable ones are Milwaukee palm nailer, DeWalt palm nailer, Metabo palm nailer, Hitachi palm nailer, Ryobi palm nailer, Makita palm nailer.

Other nail gun related pages you may be interested in reading:

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

What would you use a palm nailer for?

Palm nailers are used for deckings, fencing, framing, roofing, ceiling work, metal connector straps, installing joist hangers, and even constructing pole barns amongst many more.

What nails does a palm nailer take?

Most palm nailers are designed to drive large framing nails, joist hanger nails or other bulk nails that are similar in size.

Can a palm nailer drive finish nails?

No, it’s not possible to use a palm nailer to drive finish nails, even if they’re small sized as they may cause the nails to bend. Hence why palm nailers are not suitable for nailing delicate trims. Using a finish nailer or brad nailer is the correct option, as the nail is guided inside the nose through the full strike – hence the nails will not bend.

Will a palm nailer work with roofing nails?

Some palm nailers are specifically designed to work with roofing nails. If this is a requirement, you must select the right palm nailer as not all of them will be designed to work with roofing nails.

If you have any questions regarding palm nailers, please leave a comment below, with a photo if applicable, so that someone can help you!

By Aidan Weeks

A passionate Mechanical Engineer with endless enthusiasm for fluid power - building off the back of over 18 years of high quality contribution and discussion stimulated by Bill Wade here at About Air Compressors. With both practical and theoretical experience in pneumatics and hydraulics, I'm putting my knowledge to work - and working my grey-matter through my research, assistance and publishing work here at About Air Compressors. Feel free to reach out any time! P.S. A HUGE shout out to Doug who really offers such great value to all visitors to About Air Compressors - once again, feeling like I'm standing on the shoulders of GIANTS by getting to work alongside such a great community

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