How To Use A Nailer With An Air Compressor [Safely]

If you need to find a way to drive pins, brads or nails into materials, a nail gun is the ideal solution. The most common type of nail gun is one that utilizes an air compressor to fire the nails into the wood or other surface. In this article, we look at how nail guns work, how to use a nail gun with an air compressor and how to stay safe while you work.

Different Types of Nailers

In the construction industry, there are complex, large nailers that are required when you need to nail into concrete or metal. These use explosive charges since such a lot of force is required. These are only suitable for use for industrial purposes and can only be operated by qualified users.

These aren’t the type that are suitable for home use. Most compressed air nailers have an in-built clip loading device which enables the user to use a pre-joined nail strip for ease and speed. The nails are sold in a variety of lengths and thicknesses to suit different purposes and fixing strengths.

How to use a nailer with an air compressor


What You Need To Use A Compressed Air Nail Gun

If you’re using a compressed air nail gun, you’ll also require pneumatic hose lengths which enable you to work in different parts of your work area at a distance from the compressor unit. The majority of pin, brad or nail fixings are sold with heads that need to be filled if carrying out fine works. There are some suppliers however who offer headless fixings that require no filling before you decorate.


Staying Safe When using A Nail Gun

When you’re using a nail gun with an air compressor, you should always take care to stay safe. It’s always important to wear a dust mask, protective gloves and eye protection when nailing since dust and small pieces of wood could fly up and cause an injury.


Connecting Your Nail Gun To Your Air Compressor

There are few power tools on the market today that have revolutionized the production speed of carpentry -and wood products like a nail gun and compressor combo. From roofing and finish nailing to securing your baseboards, this modern invention has enabled carpenters to speed up their turnaround time on all kinds of products.

It is fairly easy to connect your nail gun to your air compressor, however if you do it incorrectly you could be injured, so it’s important to know the right procedure.


What You’ll Need:

  • An air hose
  • Pneumatic tool oil


– First, inspect the barrel’s safety. The safety will slide back enabling the trigger to be engaged and thus shoot the nail. If the safety is stuck, always stop and check for blockages for your safety.


– Next, test that the trigger is working. When the gun has no air pressure running through it, its trigger should feel loose and have a lot of play in it.


– Test your quick disconnects. If you pull the collar back it should snack into place once released.


– Next, connect your air hose onto the connector. Always ensure that the quick disconnect collar is able to snap back when released.


– Ensure that the airline is rigid and pressurized.


– Put 3-4 drops of pneumatic tool oil onto the nail gun’s male quick disconnect. This will lubricate the gun’s sides to prevent potential jams.


– Now connect the gun’s male connector onto the air hose, taking care to ensure the collar has clicked.


– Check that the safety has not engaged while the air is connected.


Warning Advice

  • Always disconnect backwards starting with the gun.
  • Always use both hands during connection to ensure the compressor and hose are both well controlled.
  • Always check to ensure there are no air leaks at the threaded unions.
  • Always empty the gun after it has been used.
  • At all times behave as if the air gun is loaded.
  • When you disconnect your hose from the air compressor, hold it tightly until you’ve expelled the air.

Air compressor powered brad nailer


Choosing The Right Air Compressor For Your Nail Gun

It isn’t easy to select the right air compressor to suit your tasks since there are many on the market today, in different shapes, sizes and specs. There are also many different terms which apply to air compressors such as PSI, SCFM and CFM which you need to understand before buying any air compressor. Just to complicate matters even more, you’ll need to choose between and oiled compressor and an oil free model. These are all things to bear in mind before buying.

First, consider what you need to use the air compressor for. In this case, you’ll be using it with a nail gun, and that means that you need to find the best model to suit that purpose. However, if you’re planning on using your air compressor for other purposes too you’ll need to keep that in mind too. If you’re operating a framing nailer, you’ll need something a little more powerful than a small hotdog or pancake compressor.

You’ll need a model that has a larger tank and which can store sufficient air so that a higher CFM can be continuously produced (CFM means Cubic Feet Per Minute). Since pneumatic tools like nailers require a large amount of air, a bigger tank on your compressor is essential. Always check the CFM of your nailer before choosing an air compressor, add up the CFMs if you’re planning on running more than one at a time and then add another 30% to the total. This gives you the appropriate CFM for the air compressor you require.


Choosing A Compressor For Fastening Projects

If you’re using a nailer to install crown molding or carry out framing, you’ll require an air compressor which is sufficient to power a trim nailer or framing nailer. If you’re only carrying out small scale projects such as installing base moldings or building a fence, you’ll only require a smaller fastening compressor such as a 6 gallon model.

Framing nailers don’t require constant air flow in order to operate and only require intermittent air. This means they don’t need to consume large air volumes at a single time. If you’re going to frame an entire building however, you’ll need a significantly larger compressor. If you need to frame a building or build several pieces of furniture you require something more like a 30 gallon portable compressor.


Oiled Or Oil-Free Compressor?

Although both types function in much the same way, there are significant differences between an oiled air compressor and an oil free one. In order to operate, an air compressor will draw in air using a piston in a chamber. Then the air is compressed even more when the piston’s reciprocating action operates in the chamber. Finally, the air is released to power the tool.

So that the piston can move smoothly, continuous lubrication is required and this means that an oiled compressor is necessary. Alternatively, an oil-free compressor has already been pre-lubricated with long lasting lubration agents like Teflon. This saves you time and effort.

While both have their advantages, an oiled compressor will run much more quietly and last longer but oil-free models are cheaper and require lower maintenance. Oil free compressors suit DIY users who won’t be using their model all the time, however contractors and those who intend to carry out lots of nailing project will probably benefit from an oiled model.


Power Source

You’ll also need to ensure you have the right amount of electrical power to operate your air compressor and nail gun. Compressors require electric power to run and therefore the compressor must be plugged into an outlet so that the tank can be filled with air. A single stage air compressor with a 30 gallon tank (or less) will be fine in a standard 120 volt domestic power outlet, however if you’re going to use the compressor on a very regular basis you’ll need a dedicated outlet specifically for your compressor. If you require an even larger capacity compressor, you’ll have to have a 240 volt supply.



You may need the air compressor to be portable since nailing projects often require you to climb and get into small spaces. This means you might well require a portable compressor which enables you to leave the immediate power site. A 30 gallon compressor will usually have wheels and tires so it can be moved easily around the jobsite for convenience. If you choose a larger compressor such as a 60 or 80 gallon model, it will not be portable which could limit the projects you can use it for.


Using The Nail Gun

  • Nail guns are becoming much more commonly used these days simply because they are quick and easy to use. Hammers are rapidly becoming a thing of the past, even among DIY users. The majority of nail guns have to be in close contact with the surface in order to engage the trigger before the nail is fired. This is primarily for safety reasons since nail guns are dangerous to use if used incorrectly.


  • Before operating the nail gun, activate the power supply and always ensure you have the appropriate nails to suit the job you are carrying out. Next, ensure that the materials have been correctly placed for connection.


  • Put the nail gun against the desired surface firmly then pull the trigger – don’t jerk the gun, a gentle movement will suffice.


  • The gun fires the nail, ensuring the materials are firmly fixed into position. You then repeat until the surface has been secured into the desired position.


  • Once you’ve used the nail gun, switch the device’s power supply off, remove all remaining nails from your nail gun and return it to its case ready for use the next time.



Using a nail gun isn’t especially difficult as long as you choose the right air compressor to operate it and ensure that you stay safe while you are operating the power tool. All you need to do is ensure that the tool is in immediate direct contact with the surface to be fixed and that you have carried out all the essential checks before using the nail gun. As long as you are well prepared and are wearing safety equipment, you’ll find that there’s no quicker or easier way to fix nails into wood than by using a nail gun together with an air compressor.

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