My upcoming cabinet carcass calls for 1" crown staples to butt join 1/2" plywood pieces. It's a fast build for garage cabinets.

What's a suitable alternative if I don't have a compressor/nailer? Everywhere I read calls for pin nails or something automatic. Nails would be ideal, but maybe not a good choice?

It's a butt joint into plywood so I'm wary of screws. Open to suggestions! Someone said pre-drill and use confirmat screws, but it would be a lot of extra work and money over nails.

  • Thanks, I had thought cabinetry would go well here, maybe DIY is the best spot for it. I'll review DIY. Aug 6 at 2:37
  • WW.SE mostly want to hear about your project, and how your project fits with woodworking. So, if you can edit some stuff about cabinetwork into your question and what it is you want to do, you'll get a lot more interest.
    – jdv
    Aug 6 at 2:40
  • Thanks for updating the question. Now I see this is perfectly suited for WW.
    – jdv
    Aug 6 at 15:15

My upcoming project calls for 1" crown staples to join 1/2" plywood pieces. What's a suitable alternative if I don't have a compressor/nailer?


Reason I'm not specifying a size is it's up to you, since it's not just the size/gauge of a fastener that's important, but how many of them you use and how they're driven — with nails the correct way to maximise holding power is to drive them in 'dovetail fashion'. So if you for example use six nails along a joint then three would lean to the right, three to the left. This gives a direct mechanical hold beyond just the friction of the nails in the material.

Open to suggestions!

Ideally glue and nail.

Adding glue to a joint can add greatly to the strength once the glue has cured. Technically you won't need to use clamps if in addition to the glue you use nails or screws as the fasteners act like a clamp. It is generally very helpful if you can clamp the piece up for assembly though, but you can release the clamps immediately so that they're freed up for the next task if you'd prefer.

Note: very lightly sand both the end and the face of the plywood where the glue will be applied to freshen the surface, for this reason.

  • Yeah, I'm definitely considering nails but concern with splitting. So just some finishing nails on a bias? That's doable. Aug 6 at 12:18
  • Do you know of Archive.org? There are numerous woodworking-related public texts there — scanned books you can read or download without being a member, although you can join for free now if you want access to the (growing number of) titles that have to be taken out on loan and can't be downloaded to your HD, making it well worth joining. So anyway, there are a number of the earliest books on working with plywood there that are worth having a look at. One name to look for is John G. Shea, but a generic search for just plywood in the title field will bring up more.
    – Graphus
    Aug 6 at 12:44
  • You know, I've been meaning to ask the question answered by your link. Guess I don't need to!
    – FreeMan
    Aug 6 at 13:28
  • My only comment is that driving nails by hand into plywood can sometimes feel like a Sisyphean effort, especially when you can't just go for it like I would with sub-flooring. Maybe it's my technique, but the material really resists nails sometimes, and a lot of the energy bounces back. Renting or borrowing a power stapler of some kind would solve that.
    – jdv
    Aug 6 at 15:18
  • @FreeMan, well that's good :-) I feel this is one of the most under-the-radar key facts in woodworking, because it seems virtually nobody knows it despite how long ago it was identified in industry and by tests run by the FPL. Other than one or maybe two people showing (but not explaining why they're doing it) sanding wood lightly before glueing I can literally bring to mind only one person addressing this in any way on YT. And I think you'll agree, there does appear to be a blanket assumption that old breaks with no visible dirt or dust in them are fine to glue, when clearly they ain't!
    – Graphus
    Aug 6 at 17:39

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