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  • Credit: courtesy Senco

  • Credit: Frank Caputo

 
 

When I was first introduced to 23-gauge pin nailers more than a decade ago, they instantly changed the way I fastened small moldings to wood and tacked freshly glued miters together to ensure a tight joint. Finish and brad nailers can split delicate woodwork and they leave obvious holes that must be filled with putty before painting or staining. Headless pins, on the other hand, virtually eliminate splitting and leave tiny holes that hide beneath the finish with no filling required. Also, you don't need to compress a spring-loaded nose to fire a pin, so the nose seldom dents soft materials.

I normally use pins ranging from 5/8 inch to 1 3/8 inches long, but occasionally I use longer ones for special jobs, such as installing thick foam moldings. When invited me to field-test Senco's two new 23-gauge FinishPro pinners—the 1 3/8-inch model 23SXP and the 2-inch model 23LXP—I was happy to compare them with my two similar, and excellent, Grex pinners. After using the Sencos for eight months and driving the full range of pins, I'm impressed.

FEATURES & PERFORMANCE

Like my durable Grex pinners, the new Sencos sport plenty of metal and they look like they can take a beating. The padded handles are the first in the category to be angled like a pistol grip, which is supposed to reduce wrist fatigue and increase maneuverability, but I can't tell the difference. I love the reversible belt hooks, which allow me to hang the lightweight guns from my tool vest.

The magazines automatically adjust to accommodate different fastener lengths, so loading is a breeze. Thanks to a viewing slot, you can easily see when you're down to about 20 fasteners. A dry-fire lock-out mechanism leaves about five pins in the magazine, and an override button allows you to fire the remaining pins if necessary.

The conventional dual triggers require you to pull a spring-loaded safety with your middle finger before firing a shot with your forefinger. I wish the safety springs were a bit stronger, like the ones on my Grex pinners, because my middle finger can feel the extra tension, and that tells me I'm ready to fire. Sometimes when I'm holding the Senco pinners, I don't realize that I'm unintentionally pulling the safety, which could be dangerous.

The helpful no-mar tips have four embossed lines that act like the sights on a gun, helping you place your fasteners with pinpoint accuracy. An extra tip stores near the rear of each gun, but after my extras repeatedly fell off, I started keeping them in the pinner cases.

Pinners should be powerful enough to consistently set the pins, because it's hard to set high ones manually without enlarging the holes. Except when driving 2-inch pins with the 23LXP, I've had no problem sinking every pin, provided that I hold the tip of the nose flat against the material. I haven't been able to sink the 2-inchers consistently, though, even when shooting into pine. I don't recommend modifying your pinners, but if I owned these guns, I would touch the end of the no-mar tip with a couple of file strokes so the nails would set every time. The two guns haven't jammed, but if they do, you gain access by simply loosening two screws with the on-board Allen wrench and removing the front plate.

THE BOTTOM LINE

I wouldn't replace my two trusty Grex pinners with the two new Senco models. But if I were starting from scratch, I would definitely buy the 1 3/8-inch Senco, and I'd also buy the 2-incher if I planned to drive a lot of 1 1/2-inch or 2-inch pins. They have all the features I want, appear to be built for the long haul, come with a sturdy case, are locally available (along with Senco fasteners), and cost less than my Grex models.