Fastener range: 1 1/2" x .148/.131"
Magazine capacity: 30 nails
Fastener type: Bright or galvanized joist
Collation: 33°: paper or plastic
Size (H x L x W): 91/2" x 121/4" x 33/4"
Weight: 4.4 pounds
Street price: $240
1 1/2" x .148/.131" and 2 1/2" x .148/.162"
Bright or galvanized joist nails
33°; paper or plastic
11" x 11 3/4" x 3 3/4"
If there's one part of framing I don't enjoy, it's installing
metal hardware — hangers, hurricane clips, hold-downs,
straps, and anything else we're required to use. Lucky for us
that there are specialized nail guns — hardware nailers
— to make this job faster and easier to do. The
best-known models are based on conventional framing guns and
use either the nail itself or a probe to guide the nail into
holes in the hardware. We've had one of these tools for years,
but sometimes we have to install hardware in places too hard to
reach with a gun. Then we resort to driving bulk fasteners with
a palm nailer or — even worse — by hand.
So I was game when JLC asked me to try out two newer guns
designed for metal hardware, the Grip-Rite GR150 and GR250
joist-hanger nailers. Over a period of months we used these
tools to install joist hangers, hurricane clips, and hold-down
straps on the new houses we were framing. Both guns look and
work like palm nailers but have magazines that take collated
nails. According to the manufacturer, these tools are safer
than conventional models, cost less, and use less expensive
The Grip-Rites performed very well. They're small, light, and
simple to use. They drive nails faster than is possible by hand
but not as fast as a stick nailer. They jammed occasionally,
but no more frequently than conventional guns do.
Remodelers will probably appreciate the compact size of these
tools, which makes it easier to get at hardware that's tucked
away or located where a bigger gun won't fit. (Since we frame
new homes, the size of the tool was not a big issue for
Nail size. These two guns are nearly
identical; the one difference is that the GR250 is taller and
drives longer fasteners. If I were to buy one of them, it
definitely would not be the GR150, which shoots only 11/2-inch
nails. The GR250 would be a better choice; in addition to
driving 11/2-inch fasteners, it shoots 21/2-inch fasteners, a
size we often use.
Smaller and lighter than conventional
hardware nailers, the Grip-Rite guns make it easier to get at
connectors in tight spots.
Single vs. Multiple Blows
Like all palm nailers, these guns have no triggers and use
multiple blows to drive nails. All the user has to do is push
down on the tool. The Grip-Rite joist-hanger nailers have very
few features, but with this type of gun, that's to be expected.
They were designed for a single purpose: nailing on
The negative side to using these — or any multiblow gun
— is that you need to apply pressure while the nail is
driven in. With single-shot guns, by contrast, all it takes is
a squeeze of the trigger. Also, it can be hard to hold a joist
hanger while using a multiple-blow gun because all that
pounding makes the hanger move.
Multiblow guns consume a lot more air than single-shot models
do, which can be a problem if many carpenters are using the
compressor at the same time. Though we didn't notice anything
unusual while driving 11/2-inch nails, we did find that the
compressor ran a lot when we drove large numbers of 21/2-inch
A safer nailer. Placing the nail in
the hole was easy with the GR150 and GR250, and unlike
conventional guns, which drive fasteners with a single blow,
these tools didn't recoil if we missed and hit metal. That lack
of recoil makes multiblow models safer than conventional guns;
there's no chance the tool will bounce back and hit you. (One
time when I was using a conventional hardware nailer, I missed
the hole and the gun flew back and hit me in the forehead hard
enough to leave an imprint of the cap.)
Another argument in favor of multiblow guns is that I have
never heard of anyone getting shot with a nail from one.
The manufacturer claims that these tools are less expensive
than conventional hardware nailers to buy and use. The GR250
retails for about $250; the GR150 is $10 less. Compare that
with the price for Paslode's conventional hardware nailer:
about $350. On the other hand, for $20 more than the cost of a
Grip-Rite you could buy a Bostitch N88RH-2MCN and have a
framing nailer and positive-placement nailer in one.
Less expensive fasteners.
Conventional hardware guns require hardened nails, which cost
more than the regular nails used by these Grip-Rite tools. The
prices vary some depending on who you buy from and where you
are, but we pay about $17 per 1,000 for bright
11/2-by-.148-inch fasteners for our Paslode nailer. For a
Grip-Rite, the same-size nails cost $14 per 1,000.
Given that we use less than 1,500 nails to install all the
hardware in a 2,400-square-foot house, that just doesn't strike
me as a huge savings. If we built decks or did some kind of
structural retrofit work where we nailed up loads of hardware,
the savings might be more significant.
The GR150 drives 1 1/2-inch nails, while
the GR250 accepts both 1 1/2-inch and 2 1/2-inch fasteners. The
fasteners shown here are galvanized, but they also come
Both Grip-Rite joist-hanger guns are excellent products; if
they were the only hardware nailers on the market, I'd think
they were some of the best tools around. But since I already
own a single-blow hardware gun, I have something besides a
hammer or a regular palm nailer to compare them to.
I like that these tools are light, but their small size is no
great help to us framing new homes. I might feel different if
we remodeled or framed complicated custom homes. And although
it's nice that the guns cost less than conventional models, we
don't install enough hardware for the slightly lower fastener
price to make much of a difference.
So, all things considered, I'd still rather use a single-blow
hardware gun, because it's faster.is a lead framer for Pioneer Builders in
Port Orchard, Wash
Toolsby Patrick McCombe
Freedom from Exhaustion.
the very real risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, it's generally
a bad idea to use a gas cutoff saw indoors. Instead, most
contractors settle for less-powerful electric versions. But
there's another option: hydraulically powered saws like Atlas
Copco's 14-inch LS 14, with a 51/4-inch depth of cut, and
16-inch LS 16, with a 61/4-inch depth of cut. Both models draw
power from a portable hydraulic power pack (approximately
$4,100 to $8,200, depending on size) and feature adjustable
blade guards; for longer or more precise cuts, they can be
cart-mounted. The LS 14 lists for $1,700 and the LS 16 for
$1,750. Sound too steep? Check for these and similar machines
at a local rental yard that caters to professionals. Atlas
Copco, 800/760-4049, www.atlascopco.com
Clear the Air.
What's worse than
chasing mortar joints with a dusty handheld grinder? My answer:
Nothing. Fortunately, though, you can cut down on the mess with
Bosch's specialty 5-inch grinder. The maker claims that the
see-through blade guard on the 1775E makes prepping masonry for
tuck-pointing virtually dust-free — and safer for the
operator. The grinder's 81/2-amp soft-start motor spins at
11,000 rpm and contains sealed bearings and epoxy-coated
windings for longer life. The tool weighs about 51/2 pounds and
sells for about $200. Bosch, 877/267-2499,
Mega Mortar Mixer.
Mixing mortar or
concrete by hand might be a good way to keep a brain-dead
helper out of trouble for a while — but then again, maybe
you should just send him home and rent a mixer. If you own a
skid-steer loader, inquire at your local rental yard about a
Bobcat Concrete Mixer Attachment. The model shown has a
1/5-yard batch capacity and — so you don't need a second
person inside the cab — remote control. It works with
most of the machines in the company's line of track, skid, and
all-wheel steering loaders and sells for about $4,000. You can
rent it for between $100 to $200 per day. Bobcat,
Toolbox: Tool Storage
Want your tools
organized and within easy reach? Try a soft-sided tool
organizer, such as CLC's new offerings. These specialized tool
rigs have some cool features: an integral small-parts tray on
the 1535 ($60); plenty of vertical tool pockets on the 1539
($88); and a drop-down parts organizer on the 1544 ($55). All
three packs have heavy-duty shoulder straps and roomy interiors
for larger tools, safety gear, and snacks. CLC, 800/325-0455,
Ever find yourself
envying your auto mechanic's cool roll-around tool chest
— but just can't bring yourself to shell out thousands
for your own? The Stanley four-drawer FatMax Rolling Tool
Center may be just the ticket. Equipped with ball-bearing
slides, an eight-outlet power strip, and a solid-birch top,
it's touted as the manufacturer's "most durable and robust"
tool-storage unit. It measures 27 inches wide, 18 inches deep,
and 42 inches high; full-height corner bumpers protect walls
and doorways. It costs $300, NASCAR stickers not included.
Stanley, 800/782-6539, www.stanleytools.com
Walk-In Tool Storage.
contractors who leave their tools on site use some kind of a
steel box to secure them. A box that's too small, though, makes
things even easier for thieves: They can grab all the tools at
once. For a toolbox that'll challenge even the brawniest
bandit, check out Knaack's Model 91 StorageMaster Chest. At 47
inches tall, 30 inches deep, and 72 inches long, this 409-pound
behemoth isn't going to leave the site without a fight. The
16-gauge steel body has a deadbolt-style locking system and a
unique drop-down ramp that makes loading and unloading big
tools a bit easier. It costs about $1,100. Knaack,