Hitting Bottom

A veteran stair builder describes a nasty fall in this April 2013 thread.

Stan Foster, Central Illinois
Lowest time in my stair-building career ... 16 days ago I literally hit bottom. I made the totally idiotic maneuver of going down a freshly interlocked stair section from the second floor to the first floor. The bottom half of the stair section wasn't nearly as secure as my neanderthal mind assumed, and it broke away, sending me free-falling past the first floor level and headed for the basement! I landed on a platform that was holding my stepladder level on the basement stairs.

All together, I free-fell 11 feet, landing on my left thigh and buttock, then another 5 feet down the stairway to the basement floor. The stair section ended up being stopped by my stepladder; otherwise it would have crushed me.

Miraculously, not a single bone broken or cracked, but I was severely bleeding inside my left leg. Soon everything started getting very bright, and the guys said I looked ashen and my pupils were dilated. Ended up in the hospital with 60/40 blood pressure. Three days of MRIs and blood transfusions, and I was released from the hospital.

I have had plenty of time to rehearse how to get this stuck stair section free and reset. I built a platform over the basement stairway and under the stair section, which was still stuck on my stepladder after 16 days. Today, with the help of seven guys — three upstairs pulling on nylon straps, and four underneath the stuck stair section — I told everyone to slowly load up pressure in the stairway while I used a 16-foot 2x6 on a short fulcrum to pry it loose. It popped loose, and was put back into place in less than a minute. The stair section was prefinished and did not have so much as a scratch.

I teared up as 16 days of painful recovery, and countless hours of thought about how to safely fix this stairway, came to a successful conclusion.

Finally, partial redemption for the most idiotic mistake in my stair-building career. I am thankful, as I should have had multiple broken bones, been crippled, or — had the stepladder not caught and stopped the stair section from falling onto me — even killed!

R James S, Peabody, Mass.
Glad to hear everything turned out well. Don't feel bad. I "walked down" a stairway (in my own house) that I had just removed in order to rebuild. Tore my rotator cuff and have had two surgeries to date and probably about 50% use of my right arm for the last 10 years. We all do dumb things at one time or another.

calvert, Dallas, Pa.
Stan, hope everything turns out well for you and the stairway as well.

My claim to stupid maneuvers was about 3 1/2 years ago when I placed a wood extension ladder on an ice-covered tile porch while it was snowing. Only climbed up about 9 feet when the bottom slid out. I rode the ladder down, turning sideways and breaking three ribs upon landing on the wood rungs. Also ended up with a hemothorax [internal bleeding in the chest cavity] and spent Christmas in the hospital.

Even though I made a fairly quick and thorough recovery, I occasionally feel the rib issue if I lay on my right side.

21-Gauge Nailer/Pinner

This 2010 thread on 21-gauge finish nailers was revived recently and includes an update from the original poster.

Cdatrim, Northern Idaho
Wondering if anyone has [a 21-gauge nailer]. Installing prepainted trim and need more than a 23, but my 18 is a little much. Didn't know whether the 21 was worth the extra expense.

M Smith, Whittier, Calif.
I have the Omer 21ga. It's the best-made nail gun I have ever had. It is perfect for installing prefinished trim — I bought mine specifically for installing prefinished cove molding at the tread/riser overhang on my stair jobs. Nice compact body so you can get a good angle and keep the nail hole high. The model I have shoots up to 13/16-inch.

It shoots through anything without any trouble. It's my "go to" gun for the leading edge of all my casing work, and won't split the outside miters on MDF. Great for temp jigs/hold-downs, as it has enough holding power but doesn't fight you when you go to disassemble.

Uncommon nail size, so keep that in mind when you buy nails. I get mine from Woodcraft — they have both the slight-headed and headless in 21ga. They also sell a 21ga nail gun (import) for about 100 bucks; it looks and feels very nice actually, but I can't vouch for its performance as I have never used one on a job. I bought [the Omer] from nailzone.com several years ago and it's been well worth the investment.

Whiskytangofoxtrot, Memphis
I've used [the EZ-Fasten MBP30], and for the $ it can't be beat in 21ga. EZ-Fasten is extremely underrated as far as nailer/pinners go ... they are made "offshore," but who isn't? If you're using one every day, all day, buy the Omer. If you're just using it occasionally, check out the EZ-Fasten (as much as it pains me to pimp EZ-anything).

David Meiland, San Juan Island, Wash.
I shouldn't have clicked on this thread. Now I suddenly need another gun.

I have that Omer MG40 21ga. It is a great gun. I bought it for doing a prefinished stain-grade base job that had round corners. It holds much better than the 23ga guns and works great on MDF outside corners. The nails are expensive, but the packs I bought have lasted over 2 years. It shoots both headed and headless, but the driver makes the same hole for either type of fastener so I use the headed nails.

David Meiland
You just saved me from buying both types of nails.

Joe Adams, Houston
I wanted to revive this thread to see if anyone has more info on using 21-gauge versus 23-gauge pin nailers. I've got some stain-grade white-oak tapered columns to build and am trying to decide if I should invest in a bigger pinner or just use my brad nailer.

Joe, I ended up buying the Cadex 21ga, mainly for the extra nail-length capacity. Shoots up to 2 inches, but I usually only run 13/4 inch max. Awesome nailers. Have since sold my 23-gauge nailers since I never used them anymore.

Joe Adams
It seems like Cadex is the only game in town for a 21-gauge pinner. The only problem is they are not available anywhere in town!

GregBradley, Southern California
I have a little bit of info that might help. I borrowed a friend's Omer 21ga a couple years ago and was very impressed. The big limitation seemed to be that it only shot 1.5-inch pins or brads. The head on the 21ga brads, called "slight headed pins," was much smaller than on an 18ga brad. I did some research at the time and found a Cadex that also shoots pins or brads but up to 2 inches. That combined with my Grex P635 1 3/8-inch 23ga seemed like a good combo. Once I saw the price on the Cadex, it was put on hold and there it sits as a "someday maybe" deal. The Cadex still sits on my wish list on Amazon.com but they do show in stock.

M Smith
Omer no longer makes the model I have but has replaced it with a model that shoots a longer (1 9/16-inch) nail — the body is much bigger and taller so I don't like it for that reason.

[Editor's note: Several online vendors carry the Omer MG40 21-Gauge Headed/Headless Pin Nailer — 1/2-inch to 1 9/16-inch — for about $290.]

Joe Adams
I revived this thread rather than start a new one. I've got the [Cadex CPB21.50 21 Gauge Headless Pinner/Brad Nailer (5/8-inch to 2-inch)] in my wish list at Amazon, but at $340 I'm reluctant to pull the trigger without some positive feedback.