Expert Answers: Framing Nailer Nail Sizes

Wondering if different sizes of nails will work in your framing nailer? HANDY has the answer.

Q: I recently purchased a new framing nailer that called for the use of 20-degree full-head nails. But when I went to the home-improvement store, I couldn't find any 20-degree nails. In fact, the shallowest degree of pitch I could find was 23 degrees. Are those nails safe to use, or will they jam the nailer? - Nick Wordlow, Cincinnati, OH

A: Your letter couldn't be more timely — I recently encountered the same problem. Bosch sent us one of its SN350-20F full-head framing nailers to test, and it too called for 20-degree nails. After striking out at hardware stores in search of nails, I broke down and called the company for advice.

According to Mike Oppor, product manager of metal products, dust collection and pneumatics for the Robert Bosch Tool Corp., using 23-degree nails in a 20-degree nailer is usually fine. In fact, you ought to be able to shoot nails ranging from 18 degrees to 23 degrees, provided that they are full-head nails and the strips are plastic collated. (The plastic collation provides just enough flexibility for the different-angle strips to run smoothly through the nail gun's magazine and firing mechanism.)

Mike also pointed out that if you're ever in doubt about your tool's capability, you can call the manufacturer's toll-free consumer help line (usually printed in the owner's manual, but also available online at the manufacturer's Web site). The customer support representatives should be able to answer most common tool-related questions. - HANDY

Plastic collation shown in the photo above allows just enough flexibility for the 23-degree full-head nails to run smoothly through a 20-degree framing nailer.