by Tim McNamara
Earlier this year, Max introduced two new framing nailers: the
SN883CH/34, a conventional gun (up to 100 psi) that takes
34-degree clipped-head nails, and the SN883RH, a similar model
that takes full round-head nails. When JLC asked me to test the
former, I agreed; I'd never used a Max tool before, so I was
eager to try one out.
Not long after, the shiny new gun arrived in the mail. For
several months, my crew and I used it for various framing jobs.
(After a while it didn't look so shiny and new anymore.) Here's
what we discovered.
Max SN883CH/34 Specs
Weight: 6.8 pounds
Dimensions: 12 1/4 inches high by 4 3/4 inches
wide by 18 1/8 inches long
Nails: 2 inches by .113 inch to 3 1/4 inches
by .131 inch
Collation: 34-degree clipped-head; paper or
Capacity: Up to 90 nails
Street price: $295
Comments: Similar model available for use with
Max USA Corp.
Size and Weight
The SN883CH/34 is short: only 12 1/4 inches tall, which is an
inch or two shorter than most framing guns. It's very
maneuverable and fits easily into a 14 1/2-inch stud bay.
The tool's light, too; the manufacturer says it weighs 6.8
pounds. The only guns close to that weight are a 7.0-pound
model from Hitachi and a 7.6-pound model from DeWalt. Most
framing guns weigh 8 pounds or more.
Despite its minimal weight and size, the SN883CH/34 has good
driving power, especially for the size of nails it takes (3 1/4
inches by .131 inch, or 12d). However, we did notice more
recoil than we get from heavier guns.
This nailer has a rear-loading magazine, a swivel fitting to
reduce air-hose fatigue, a molded rubber grip, and adequate
teeth for toenailing. To prevent junk from getting inside, the
tool has a built-in debris filter that automatically discharges
when the air supply is disconnected.
The exhaust cap is fixed, with the air blast directed toward
the nose of the gun; it didn't bother me that the cap isn't
What did bother me was the lack of a rafter hook: If I bought
this gun I would add an after-market version. Also, we noticed
that the trigger is not very comfortable for users with small
With my own framing gun, I rarely use the depth-of-drive
mechanism, but the adjustment knob on the SN883CH/34 is so
convenient I found myself changing depth when I changed
materials — shallow for 7/16-inch OSB and deep for
Firing modes. Although the gun comes in single-fire
mode, it can be switched over to contact-fire or bump-fire
mode. Once the selective trigger has been switched over to
"contact actuation," the gun still won't double-fire, thanks to
what the company calls an "anti-double-fire mechanism."
To bump-fire this gun, you have to squeeze the trigger before
bringing the nose into contact with the work. If you contact
the work and then squeeze the trigger, the nailer will fire
only once. This took some getting used to, but after a while it
was like using any other framing gun.
I did find it frustrating that the Max dry-fires when out of
nails, and I can think of situations where this could be
dangerous — when nailing wall braces, for example. The
problem is magnified by the fact that the right side of the
magazine is a solid piece of metal, so you can't see in from
that side — though you can check on the nails by looking
in from the left.
One curious feature of the gun is that it comes with an on/off
switch near the trigger. This seems unnecessary to me. If I
don't want someone using the gun, I simply disconnect the air
hose. Another reason I'm skeptical of this feature is that
— with my luck — it'll probably get stuck in the
off position someday, leaving me with a nonfunctioning
We did have one mechanical problem with the SN883CH/34. After
I'd been using it for some time, it started to leak air from
the top of the piston. I removed the cap and pulled out the
seal; since the seal looked okay I put it back in and
reinstalled the cap. The gun worked fine after that. I don't
know what the problem was — maybe the cap bolts just
weren't tight enough.
All in all, I think this gun is a solid tool. It's light and
has good power. I like it — but not so much I feel
compelled to run out and buy it right away. Still, I've decided
that I'm going to keep my eye on Max, and if one of my current
guns bites the dust I'll consider buying one of the company's
SN883C series tools.Tim McNamara is a framing contractor in
Transportby Greg Burnet
As a remodeling contractor, I rely heavily on my compact laser
tools. At last count I had four: a cross hair, a plumb bob, a
five-point tool, and a laser tape measure. Unfortunately, the
soft-sided and blow-molded plastic cases commonly included with
these tools either offer scant protection or are too cumbersome
for my crowded truck and trailer.
Available in a variety of sizes, Pelican cases are designed
for camera, sound, and video equipment, but they can also
accommodate optical and laser instruments.
Scored on a 1/2-inch grid, the "pick and pluck" interior
can be custom-shaped by the user. Model 1450 ($75) safely holds
the author's four lasers — with room to spare.
My solution was to buy a Pelican case (800/473-5422,
www.pelican.com). Pelican cases are
waterproof, foam-lined, heavy-duty plastic containers used
primarily by photographers and sound and video technicians to
transport their sensitive gear. They come in a variety of
sizes, so I ordered one that would hold all four of my laser
The model I ordered — 1450 ($75) — has a "pick and
pluck" foam interior: The user pulls out the foam in the right
configuration for each piece of equipment. I arranged the
instruments in an efficient layout on top of the foam, marked
the corners of each device with drywall screws, then pulled out
the chunks of foam between the screws (the foam is already
scored on a 1/2-inch grid pattern, so this is easy to do).
Last, I dropped each tool into its newly formed pocket.
I now have a secure, efficient way to organize and transport my
lasers. And the container's high-visibility color reminds me to
take it home every night.
Greg Burnet owns Manor Services in
Sidingby Patrick McCombe
Sure-Footed. When it comes to working safely
on roofs, nothing's more important than wearing the right
footwear. The replaceable high-friction pads on the soles of
Cougar Paws roof shoes increase safety and production on
virtually any roof type, says the maker. The shoes come in
hiker ($115) and work-boot ($135) styles. Replacement
traction-grip pads sell for $15 a pair; spiked pads for
tear-offs cost $28 a pair. Cougar Paws,
Extra Hands. Handling fiber-cement siding
panels by yourself is no small feat. Over the years, I've seen
numerous tools designed to make the job easier, but only
SoloSiders let you tweak the reveal. The devices adjust in
1/16-inch increments from 1 1/4 to 1 3/4 inches. According to
the maker, they won't scratch the siding — and they last
a lifetime. A pair sells for $35. SoloSider,
Capable Cutter. Cutting shingles for valleys,
rakes, and hips has to be the slowest part of any roofing job,
but the Shingle Shear Model 2003 can speed up the process. This
tool has a 20-inch blade and weighs only 16 pounds, making it
easy to carry; an adjustable fence helps with repetitive cuts.
It sells for $270 to $300; replacement blades cost $25.
Howard Tools, 607/775-2200,
A little more than five years
ago, carpenter Roger Brouard revolutionized tool transport and
storage with his Veto Pro Pac tool bags, which boasted zippered
flaps and enough pockets to satisfy even the most
obsessive-compulsive tradesperson. Now he's introduced a line
of pro-duty open-top bags. Each of the three new models —
OT-LC, OT-XL, and OT-XXL — can be carried one-handed and
features well-designed pockets, riveted construction, and
upturned polypropylene bottoms. Prices start at $140.
Veto Pro Pac
Rolling Stock. With nearly 4,100 cubic inches
of storage space, Klein Tools' Hi-Vis Tool Box (54701) contains
a small tools-and-parts tray, a larger intermediate-tool tray,
and an undivided tub for power tools. The optional Wheel Caddy
(54701WC) adds wide tires and a telescoping handle for
increased mobility. I found the tote online for about $50; the
wheel kit costs another $36. Klein Tools,
Tamper-Resistant. Protect your tools with
DeWalt's job-site storage containers. Available in seven
models, the sturdy chests (DWJB1332, -2448, -2460, and -3048),
boxes (DWJB3660 and DWJB4860, shown at left), and cabinet
(DWJB5660L) have multipoint locking systems secured with
puck-type padlocks. Perks include an electrical access port for
battery chargers, OSHA-rated skyhooks, and extra reinforcement
on lids and hinges. Prices start at about $500.