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Nailgun History Lesson – lockdown – GUN in 2020

When you want to drive a nail into wood fast then the nailgun is the way to do it. Here we look at different types of nail gun available in 2020 and a brief historical look at how the nail gun evolved.

What is a Nail gun?

The nail gun is also referred to as a nailer but essentially it is a tool to predominately drive nails into the wood but some nail guns are designed to drive specially hardened fasteners into steel or concrete.

  • Air nailer
  • Gas nailer such as a Paslode
  • Battery nailer like the Dewalt
  • A hammer!

How does a nail gun work?

A nail gun works by driving a specifically designed nail into wood or other material by force. This force is provided by either:

  • Compressed Air provided by a compressor
  • Electromagnetic force charged via battery or mains electricity
  • Gas-powered explosion by controlled ignition of butane gas
  • Gun powder cartridge (similar to a firearms blank amo)



This is my tool of choice mainly because I function from my workshop which is kitted with a large compressor. Air-driven nail guns are a good option which comes in a few different formats. 

  • Brad’s nails
  • Angled nails
  • Bostitch coil

My workshop choice is the simple straight brad nails. My nails come in strips of 

  • 16g
  • 18g
  • 22g

The air nailer is the most economical nailgun system by far. The air-driven nailers are very good value and the strips of nails are cheap. For example, 2500 16g 38mm long nails cost 8 Euros which are similar in Dollars.

Who invented the nail gun?

It is widely considered that the ‘Robbinsdale Hand-Held Bulk Nailer’, circa 1907 is the first handheld nail gun. This machine was basic in nature and relied on the nail being driven by a mallet or hammer, not air or by an explosive charge.

Robbinsdale bulk nailer
Robbinsdale bulk nailer

First factory nail gun

1862 brought Doig Manufacturing Company into bulk manufacturing with the development of a mechanical nail driver. A Stationary machine that drove multiple nails by bulk was used in crate and pallet manufacturing.  

First Pneumatic nail gun

Morris S. Pynoos who died in 2002 at an age of 84 was the inventor who was trained as a civil engineer invented the first pneumatic nail gun. 

The Purpose of the first Air Nailer

The intended purpose of the Morris Pynoos nail gun was for the rapid nailing of the Howard Hughs world famous Spruce Goose seaplane. The air nailer played a huge part in constructing this Birchwood H-4 Hercules because of the 98m wingspan seaplanes massive size.

The Spruce Goose h-4 Hercules air nailed
The Spruce Goose H-4 Hercules was air nailed

Sadly the Spruce Goose made only one flight as the intended purpose for this plane was to transport troops and materials to Britain during WW11 but the war ended before commissioning of this $2.5 million.




Gas Driven Nailer – Paslode

The Paslode has earned its place as the go-to site power nail gun. There are other very capable options but the Paslode has become the icon. If anyone talks about the nailgun Paslode seems to be on their lips.

What is Paslode?

Paslode is the name that is given to any first or second fix gas-driven nail gun on the construction site. Like Skil and their name has been adopted to all handheld circular saws such as the SKILSAW. 

Where is Paslode made?

Paslode was founded in 1935 is an Acronym for PAcking Shipping LOadin DEvices. This may clear up some confusion as the name sounds European but they are American. ‘Illinois Tool Company’ ITW is a global company is a parent company to Paslode. ITW has plants in Australia, Malaysia, Canada, Denmark, Korea and Shanghai.

How does the Paslode work?

Nails are driven by butane gas charge cells. The Gas is ignited by the cordless battery triggering an explosion. This explosion replaces the need for compressed air to violently drive the piston. At high speed, the piston drives the nail home via a striking hammer attached to the piston.

Brief History of Paslode Nail Guns

  • 1935 Paslode was founded by J.W. Paslode 
  • 1959 Paslode embraced the pneumatic nail gun after Morris Pynoos’s original tool
  • 1988-09-12 patent applied for Non-flagging collated nail strip
  • 1995-04-19 patent applied for Portable fastener driver using inflammable gas
  • 1920 both 1988 & 195 patents Expire


Electromagnetic Nail Guns

Electric nailguns have come a long way since the offerings from yesteryear. I have used a few of the cheaper brad nailers with limited success. 

I find my old electric nail guns are

  • Slow recharge
  • Small capacity
  • Fires only up to 30 mm
  • Short life

Our modern electric nailguns worth it?

I hope so as the cost of capable electric nailguns are still more expensive compared with a pneumatic nailgun and compressor combos. 

The Airnailer is great but I am tied to the bench by its coiled airline. I have to admit the Paslode is best when first fix carpentry is in play.

The Dewalt cordless nailer is great at the bench and on-site

Dewalt Battery nailer

I will focus on the Dewalt rechargeable cordless finisher. This is because the Dewalt has made a superb tool which I have used on many occasion. I find this machine is a better option as the running cost is low yet it is very capable. 

I am sold on the Dewalt cordless nailgun

Since my experience of owning an electric nailgun has been less than favourable compared with my airline attached pneumatic nailgun collection. There is a BUT I have recently had the chance to test the Dewalt cordless nailgun and I have to admit it performs as is expected. 

Sadly the Dewalt was a bit pricey for me

I mainly work in my workshop and the pneumatic nailguns I own work fine for me. If I had a need for a cordless system or I was moving away from an air compressor I have no doubt the Dewalt or even the Porter-Cable would be a consideration.


Let’s leave it there!

1 thought on “Nailgun History Lesson – lockdown – GUN in 2020”

  1. I think first people have to know which nail gun they will go for. The beginner should go with a pneumatic nailgun and compressor combos for the price. Overall it’s well described. Thanks, Marcus Kett, for this informative article.

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