Early this year, Hitachi introduced a new round-head framing
nailer, the NR90AE.
As soon as the gun came out, JLC sent me one so I could test
it. I was immediately struck by its distinctive styling —
it looks like something out of a Spiderman comic book. I was
eager to see if its performance was equally distinctive. I
especially wanted to know how the new gun compared with other
nailers, like Hitachi's earlier NR83A, which has been around
forever and is — according to our repair guy —
The NR90AE drives fasteners of up to .148 inch in diameter,
which is convenient if you work in a wind or seismic zone where
fasteners of that size are required.
Hitachi NR90AE Specs
Weight (with air fitting): 7.6 pounds
Size (H x L): 12 11/16" x 18 3/16"
Nail type: round-head; 21-degree; plastic collated
Nail length: 2" to 3 1/2"
Nail diameter: .113" to .148"
Capacity: 64 .131" nails
Street price: $320
Like most framing nailers, the gun has a tool-free adjustable
depth-of-drive mechanism, in this case a thumb-wheel near the
trigger. Above the trigger, a switch allows the user to go back
and forth between bump and sequential firing modes.
Unlike some other guns, the NR90AE does not have an adjustable
exhaust cap, a rafter hook, a swivel air fitting, or a built-in
air filter. Of all those features, the only one I really missed
was the rafter hook. The fact is, though, few manufacturers
include one on their framing nailers.
Aside from its appearance, the most unusual thing about the
NR90AE is how light it is.
We weighed it empty with an air fitting and it was only 7.6
pounds. Since the average round-head framing nailer weighs
about 8.25 pounds, the difference is quite noticeable.
The gun has plenty of power — enough to drive nails flush
in LVLs and other dense engineered materials.
On the downside, the NR90AE doesn't absorb the blow — or
recoil — very well. I think this is because it's so
light. Although we didn't experience an excessive amount of
recoil, we could definitely feel the difference between it and
the heavier NR83A. The recoil made the new nailer a bit less
comfortable to use, but not enough to affect my buying
Because the NR90AE is so compact, it's easy to maneuver in
tight spaces. I like its rubber grip, too; it's "grippy" and
didn't slip in my hand even when rain was falling and the tool
Normally I would gripe about a rear-loading magazine, but with
this gun it worked so flawlessly I can't complain.
I enjoyed using this gun. It's light, powerful, and very
well-balanced. I'm not the only one who felt this way —
the other four framers in my company who used it also liked
However, there is one thing about this tool that bothers me: It
didn't feel that solid. I doubt it would last very long if we
used it as roughly as we use our other guns. For example, we
sometimes use our guns as "hammers" to nudge framing over when
it's slightly off the layout mark. We've done this for years
with an NR83A, but doing it with the NR90AE didn't feel
That said, I think it would be a fine gun for a carpenter who
doesn't frame every single day and doesn't beat on tools the
way we do.
Tim Uhleris a lead framer and exterior trim
carpenter for Pioneer Builders in Port Orchard,
Roofing Toolsby Patrick McCombe
Top Gizmos. Roof Mates offers some great tools
for roofers. The Gable Master ($300) provides a level platform
for ladders and staging on sloping roofs with pitches from 3/12
to 18/12. Ladders can be placed in the device in a variety of
positions; the square box in the center accommodates pump-jack
poles. The aluminum Shingle Sled ($99) holds an entire bundle
of shingles and includes a PVC skid plate so that it can be
dragged over new shingles without damaging them. And the Pole
Bracket ($69) makes it possible to set a ladder up against a
pump-jack pole; thanks to integral rollers, the ladder can be
adjusted up and down without moving the staging plank.
Roof Mates, 866/766-3628,
Higher Power. Tired of picking up nail-riddled
old shingles at the end of roofing jobs? Consider getting a
Roofers Buggy. The cargo box on the self-propelled dump trailer
rises 11 feet in the air and extends beyond the truck's rear
wheels to clear foundation plantings and basement access doors.
Its doors can funnel up to 4 cubic yards of waste or 12 squares
of roofing into the dump box. With a price tag of nearly
$30,000, the trailer isn't cheap, but it might allow you to
fire your bleary-eyed helper. Wouldn't that feel good?
Roofers Buggy, 866/332-8449,
Spare a Shingle. Replacing old shingles is
tough. If you bend the tabs on the overlapping shingle too far
when you drive in new nails, the shingle breaks. This common
problem inspired the design of the steel Roof Snake, which
holds the roofing nail so that you can insert it under the
overlapping shingle with minimal bending. Once the nail is in
position, you strike the arched portion of the handle with your
hammer. The tool sells for $25. PacTool,
Truck Racks & BoxesLoad Management
. Spending a lot of time
securing ladders and material to your truck rack probably isn't
what you want to be doing at the end of a long day. One of the
best ways I've seen to speed the process of tying down a load
is by using TieHooks. These handy contraptions contain sliding
cleats that allow you to quickly and safely tie off any
reasonably sized rope and then pull it really tight. A short
video on the company's Web site demonstrates. Expect to pay
about $80 for a pair of TieHooks plus a length of looped-end
Back Support. Most truck-bed covers are
strictly for show, but DiamondBack's Commercial Series product
is a notable exception. Made from 1/8-inch-thick aluminum
diamond plate, the three-piece cover supports up to 1,600
pounds and boasts stainless-steel external hardware,
zinc-plated internal hardware, compression gaskets, and
center-panel water channels. Alone, it costs $1,500; with a
matching ladder rack and window guard, it costs $2,800.
Hard Body. With its optional alarm,
compartment lighting, and remote-controlled locking system,
Reading's new Classic II may be the safest place for your
tools. The good-looking service body also features hidden
compartment hinges, EPDM gaskets, adjustable prop brackets, and
enough bed space to transport 4x8 panels lying flat. Prices
start at just under $6,000 for the body only. Reading
Truck Body, 800/458-2226,