21 Gauge Nailer - Senco? Cadex? 23 gauge?

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Forum topic by MikeDVB posted 09-02-2018 04:49 AM 2599 views 0 times favorited 16 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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180 posts in 1959 days

09-02-2018 04:49 AM

I have an 18 gauge brad nailer and I love it but I’m wanting a smaller nail to assist with assembly without leaving large holes.

The 23 gauge nailers use very small nails that don’t have heads so they would leave the smallest holes but they don’t have much holding power. I do plan on using them with glue and not relying on the nails long term so it may be the best bet.

The 21 gauge does look nice because you can use headless for a smaller hole or nails with heads for more holding power but still a smaller hole than 18 gauge.

I can fill the holes left by the 18 gauge but I’ve had some issues with them splitting thinner pieces like the moulding on a cabinet.

I’m open to suggestions!


-- Mike

16 replies so far

View Rich's profile


5621 posts in 1366 days

#1 posted 09-02-2018 05:31 AM

The 23 gauge pins hold better than you might imagine. I have the Hitachi NP35A which is about $88 on Amazon right now. Definitely not the highest end of the pin nailers, but I’ve used it for over 2 years without a single problem. It even shoots 3/8” and 1/2” pins, which it’s not rated to do.

I use it often during glue ups to keep pieces in place so they don’t slide around on the glue film while I get clamps in place. It’s also perfect for things like scribe molding and other thin strips you don’t want to split with a fatter nail.

-- Half of what we read or hear about finishing is right. We just don’t know which half! — Bob Flexner

View bigJohninvegas's profile


776 posts in 2239 days

#2 posted 09-02-2018 05:33 AM

I use a 23 gauge for small trim work, with no glue. never had a problem. Also some glued compound miter joints where I can’t get the clamps to hold. Works well

-- John

View 4wood's profile


47 posts in 731 days

#3 posted 09-02-2018 01:31 PM

To increase your holding power of the 23 gauge pins just shoot them on an angle.

View Sawdust4Blood's profile


408 posts in 3799 days

#4 posted 09-02-2018 02:01 PM

I’ve had a Cadex 23ga pinner for about 9 years now and love it as much today as the day I got it. It also shoots slight head brads that (supposedly) provide a stronger hold. To be honest, for the kind of small trim pieces that I pin in place, the headless pins seem to be more than strong enough. Used it just this morning to pin some mahogany trim pieces to a corner cabinet in work and the pin holes are completely lost in the wood grain.

-- Greg, Severn MD

View ArtMann's profile


1480 posts in 1593 days

#5 posted 09-02-2018 03:03 PM

Years ago, I got interested in a 23 gauge pinner like you are. I saw a sale at Harbor Freight and bought one for about $12. I figured I could play with it and see if this size would be useful before spending a lot of money. I planned to buy a nice one if it seemed useful. Well, 10 years and about a million pins later, I am still using that cheap HF pinner. It performs flawlessly and just won’t die. My only caveat is that the gun doesn’t have a useful safety mechanism. It will just shoot pins across the room.

As others have said, the 23 gauge pins hold a lot better than you would think.

View MrRon's profile


5913 posts in 4020 days

#6 posted 09-02-2018 09:18 PM

I build models and the 23 gauge pin nailer works great for what I do when working with small pieces of wood.

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

12185 posts in 4206 days

#7 posted 09-02-2018 09:57 PM

Mines a Senco and it’s been trouble free for 15 years. BUT, had I been close to a HF 15 years ago, it would have been one of theirs.

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

View MikeDVB's profile


180 posts in 1959 days

#8 posted 09-03-2018 12:08 AM

I’m going to give the Hitachi NP35a a shot. The senco is really expensive by comparison but I do like my senco Brad nailer.

-- Mike

View mel52's profile


1461 posts in 1042 days

#9 posted 09-03-2018 03:21 AM

I have a Porter Cable, and it is used quite a bit and has always worked for me.

-- MEL, Kansas

View MikeDVB's profile


180 posts in 1959 days

#10 posted 09-04-2018 11:48 PM

Got the hitachi in today and played around with it. So far so good. Seems to be a nice nailer especially for the price.

-- Mike

View ChefHDAN's profile


1659 posts in 3627 days

#11 posted 09-05-2018 01:24 AM

Got the hitachi in today and played around with it. So far so good. Seems to be a nice nailer especially for the price.

- MikeDVB

Had the Hitachi for many years, no problems at all with it. Sometimes for a better hold, i’ll use the 1” nails and alternate left and right 45* angles.

-- I've decided 1 mistake is really 2 opportunities to learn.. learn how to fix it... and learn how to not repeat it

View MikeDVB's profile


180 posts in 1959 days

#12 posted 09-05-2018 03:32 AM

Yeah I was nailing a thin piece to a thicker piece and if I did alternating angles it was pretty solid. Very happy with it.

-- Mike

View josephf's profile


217 posts in 2873 days

#13 posted 09-09-2018 06:07 PM

have a 23 and if i was still doing a lot of finish and trim i would get a 21 .that nail would have a nice small head and a bit more strength then the 23 . with the 23g i can sand the surface and pretty much hide the nail head ,which i think i could do with the 21 g ,or pretty close to it .an 18 gauge leaves a mark .tuff to hide .the 23 can deflect easily ,that 21 would be just a touch stronger .thinking for how i use the gun ,as a way to hold things together till the glue sets . also to pin small moldings the 23 would still be more important gun to own .but they are super valuable .i sujest getting one that shoots 1 3/8” .The longer 2” 23g deflect badly and generally of not much use .

View therealSteveN's profile


5773 posts in 1351 days

#14 posted 10-17-2018 06:28 AM

I have had something of a journey through 23 gauge pinners. I like a lot of people trying one for the first time went cheeep. I bought a HF pinner, and I wouldn’t put them in the “jewel” category.

Next I went with this Bostich I picked it out, because I was trying to cheap out on the Grex, which at that time just kicked everyone else’s buttocks on review. I liked the adjustability of the air flow, as the HF’s biggest problem was failure to seat the pins. I also really liked the pin length range. 1/2” to 1 -3/16” length allowed me to use this tool that I was rapidly seeing a use for, but the shortie pins didn’t come close to holding a LOT of stock, especially pinned on as wall trim. Consider you go through the stock, say it’s 1/2” then it has to go through 1/2” of drywall, so your entire line of pinners is next to useless if it’s max length is 1” This allowed me to reach further.

Alas but not enough. I needed/wanted 2” capacity, and that led me to my Grex, It still hurts when I think about the $$$$$ but darned if it doesn’t cut the mustard on everything else. I have had it stolen from me, but I know where to find it. My Wife has runt off with it, and uses it a LOT more than I do. So all is good when a couple of hundred $$$$ purchase works out like that. :-)

Unless I need the length, and now that I am not doing any contract work anymore, not too often. So I use the Bostich, and it is a faithful companion.

Having spent more $$$$ than needed I would consider thinking of the longest project need you would have and make sure you satisfy that first and foremost. If it’s 2” I think Grex probably still leads the pack.

Obviously I cannot see into a wall, without doing some damage, so my counter to those talking about 2” pin deflection is on a LOT of trim work, I’ve never felt that with a 2” 23 gauge pin doing the holding I had a problem with trim coming loose, feeling shaky, or any other failure that I have seen written about. Usually written by people who do NOT own a 23 gauge 2” pinner.

-- Think safe, be safe

View Marcial's profile


184 posts in 1323 days

#15 posted 10-17-2018 02:51 PM

+1 on the Grex 21g. Purchased a month ago; I’ve used it on 1/4” oak partitions, 1/2 inch plywood shadowboxes and for backing strips on picture frames. No splits. It is a pleasure to use. The brad heads are tiny and the holding power seems similar to 18g. The selling points (pun?) were being able to use 3/8” length brads and the better holding power of brads vs pins. Expensive, though. The longest brads used thus far are 1”. Likely would use 18g if longer brads required.

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