How To Use Finishing Nails Without a Nail Gun Like a Pro

So you need to drive finishing nails and you do not have a nailer or don’t want to use a nailer. Finishing nails are generally 15 to 23 gauge in diameter and 1-3 inches in length. Using the wrong tools may break or bend the nails while driving into the woods, especially if the woods are rigid.

Then how to use finishing nails without a nail gun? What to use if you don’t have a nail gun?

You can use a hammer to drive finishing nails if you don’t have a nailer or don’t want to use one. Pick a good, smooth, and flat-faced hammer and hit it perfectly for driving. Use a nail set or pliers to push down the nail heads if necessary. Let’s discuss this in detail.

How to Use Finishing Nails Without a Nail Gun Safely

You can complete the job by following the steps below even if you are a DIYer or beginner. And for experts, the hints are enough, right?

Tools required For Driving Finishing Nails Without a Nailer

  • Finishing nails
  • Hammer (finishing or trim hammer with smaller heads and lighter weight)
  • Pliers or nail set
  • Wood putty (optional)

Safety Precaution To Take While Driving Nails without Nailers

Safety always comes first. Follow the steps below for additional safety.

  • Use goggles
  • Position your body perfectly. Take help from others if using a ladder.
  • Be aware of your surroundings

Step 1: Pick the right size finishing nails

The first step of how to use finishing nails without a nail gun is to pick the right size nails.

You need to drive finishing nails for a project, right? Then pick the right size nails for the project. Picking the right finishing nails is more important than hammering. Follow the methods below.

  • Rule of Thumb #1 – Pick nails with a size of at least 3 times the length of the material. For example, if you are nailing 1″ sheathing, pick a nail with at least 3″ long. 1″ x 3 = 3″.
  • Rule of Thumb #2 – Pick a nail that can penetrate a minimum of 3/4″ of the thing you are nailing to (not through). That means for 1″ sheathing, you should use 1 3/4″ long finishing nail.

Besides, you can take advice from a carpenter or woodworking DIYer who has done your particular job before. It will be better than following the rule of thumb.

Step 2: Hold and Place the Nails

Now pick a nail and hold it opposite to the surface you are nailing into. You should use your thumb and index finger to hold the nails. Use your left hand if you are a right-hander and your right hand if you are a left-hander. The free hand will be needed to use a hammer.

Hold it at a 90-degree angle if you are nailing something vertical such as walls. Hold it at a 50-70 degree angle when nailing something horizontal such as the floor, roof, or ceiling.

Besides, try to place it in the middle of the surface for better holding strength. Of course, if you are planning to drive multiple nails, hold the nails where necessary.

Step 3: Gently Hammer the Nail

Now use your free hand to take a hammer and gently tap the nail. Do not hit it too hard. You are a beginner and you may hit your figure which can cause a serious accident. 14% of household injuries happen due to these nails. So be aware.

The gentle hit should drive the nails slightly and make the nail stand itself. You can now tap the nail a little bit harder. Do not hit it hard even now since it can split the wood. With a few strokes, you can easily drive the nails.

Step 4: Push the Nail Head

Use the plier or nail sets to push the nail heads. The aim of using finishing nails is to ensure a perfect finish. Push it just below the surface. It should not be too deep. I know that it will create a small indentation. But you can fill that with wood putty later.

Step 5: Repeat the Process

Do the same for the rest of the finishing nails. That means take the nail, hold it, tap with the hammer, strike it a couple of times, and push the nail heads. Try to keep the nail alignment right.

Step 6: Inspect the Nail Heads

Once all the nails are driven, look for any raised nail heads. Sometimes, driving the nail in one part of the surface causes other nails to rise up. This happens more on the uneven surface where pushing one side leverages the other side. If you find any, use pliers or a nail set to push the nail heads back.

Step 7: Fill the Gaps

Finishing nails leave small holes. But you may want to achieve a perfect finish by filling those holes. You can do that with wood putty. However, make sure to pick the right putty.

  • The putty has to match the color of the wood.
  • Remove any dirt before applying the putty.
  • Use a putty knife and apply it to the indentation or holes. Take the necessary amount to fill the holes.
  • Use a light touch to achieve the finish.
  • Allow the putty to dry completely.
  • Use sandpaper to get the finish you need.

Congrats! You are done using finishing nails without using a nail gun.

What Should I Do If the Finishing Nail Bends While Driving by Hand?

This often happens with the beginner. Well, it happens to me almost every time!

This can also happen due to low-quality or blunt nails. That is why picking sharp and strong nails is important. Also, hitting too hard or rigid wooden surfaces can cause this problem too.

Stop hammering once the nails bend. Use pliers to remove it from the wood. Choose a different nail and nail it again. If the problem continues, the wood is probably too hard for the nails. Change the nail type and get stronger nails that can drive through the hard wooden surface.

Frequently Asked Questions

Let’s check out some common questions related to nailing finishing nails without a nail gun.

Do I need to pre-drill holes before driving finishing nails by hand?

It depends on the type of wood you are working with. Softer woods may not require pre-drilling, but harder woods may benefit from a pilot hole to prevent splitting.

How do I avoid splitting the wood when driving in finishing nails by hand?

Make sure to choose the right size and type of nail for the wood you are working with, and use a sharp nail that is not bent or damaged. Pre-drilling a pilot hole can also help prevent splitting.

Can I use a regular hammer to drive in finishing nails?

Yes, you can use a regular hammer to drive in finishing nails, but make sure to choose a hammer that is appropriate for the size and type of nail you are using. A hammer that is too heavy or too light can make the task more difficult or lead to inaccurate strikes.

Can I use a nail punch instead of a hammer to drive in finishing nails?

Yes, you can use a nail punch to drive in finishing nails by hand. This allows for more precision and control, but only when you are working with delicate or intricate wood pieces.

Do I need to use wood glue along with finishing nails?

It depends on the project and the type of wood being used. In some cases, wood glue can help strengthen the joint and provide added stability. However, in other cases, the finishing nails alone

Wrapping up

Now you have got an idea about how to use finishing nails without a nail gun. So if you do not have a nail gun and don’t want to invest the money right now for a small finishing project, you can use a hammer to get the job done.

In conclusion, while a nail gun can be a handy tool for driving in finishing nails, it is not always necessary. With the right tools, techniques, and safety precautions, finishing nails can be driven in by hand using a hammer or nail punch.

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