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I'm looking into buying a nail gun to help when assembling my projects - holding them in place while glue dries or I have the chance to secure with screws; the only issue is that I have no experience with nail guns so I'm not exactly sure which avenue to go down.

I understand that all things 16 gauge is a no-go when it comes to finer woodworking, so it comes down to 18 or 23 gauge. Naturally I would like as few holes to fill as possible however I am unsure of the viability of using a 23 gauge nailer for all of my needs.

For context, I am a hobbyist with no workshop - I set up an occasional table in the garden that I try to put as few holes in as possible. The things I build are never too extravagant and I never usually go above 18mm plywood/MDF.

Any help/guidance would be much appreciated.

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    This is hardly going to sway you but I can assure you, you totally don't need a nail gun. Plenty of woodworkers don't own one and haven't felt the lack. That said, if you want one you want one so I can recommend looking at the gun Adam Savage has and how he uses the brads, that might help make up your mind about the one to pick.
    – Graphus
    May 6 at 22:37
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    In place of a nail gun, have you thought about working up different strategies for workholding of the type you need? Inexpensive plastic corner clamps or clamping blocks (or the DIY plywood equivalent), plus more here. Also in general, more (or just better) clamps might solve many of your issues while simultaneously providing great benefits in the long term..... the adage being you can never have too many clamps :-)
    – Graphus
    May 7 at 8:38
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You are bound to be disappointed by the limitations of a 23g pinner. (Headless or not.) Pins just don't have the holding power. Plus, you're paying a premium to get one that'll handle long (>1-3/8) pins. And they break faster than an 18g gun.

18g, on the other hand, is a workhorse. Baseboard? Yup. Casing? Yup. Holding things in place while the glue sets? Mostly. Holding the tiny return piece on the end of the stool while the glue sets? Nope. (That's where the pinner comes in.)

Everybody is different, and your needs can vary. You'll probably end up with both guns eventually anyway.

In my world, my 18g guns come out at least 20 times more often than my 23g.

PS, @graphus is right that you don't need a nail gun.

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  • +1, but re. holding power: toenailing or dovetailing (or both)? Re. breaking faster than an 18g gun, wouldn't this be strongly affected by the brand chosen?
    – Graphus
    May 7 at 8:09
  • I was momentarily tormented when I wrote that part about breaking faster (because I didn't want to clog up with a long diatribe), but I'll stand by my opinion. A high quality 23g pinner is less durable than a high quality 18g gun. And a low quality pinner is way less durable than a low quality 18g gun. The tolerances on the pinner are tighter; the piston/driver assembly are thin... it's just not as robust a tool. May 7 at 13:52
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    And to the OP, you might want to retract the 'accepted answer' and see if anyone else weighs in. There's plenty of smart people with good opinions here and an accepted answer will sometimes dissuade them. May 7 at 13:54
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    Thanks for the details, makes sense.
    – Graphus
    May 7 at 19:46

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