Problem Solving Products: Issue 25

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This article is from Issue 25 of Woodcraft Magazine.

Pins and Brads From One Gun

THE PRODUCT: EZ-Fasten 21-Gauge Pin and Brad Nailer
WHAT IT DOES: Shoots 21-gauge headless pins and headed brad nails, from 1/2" to 13/16" long.
PRICE: $129.99
TESTER: Andy Rae

Headless nails, or pins, are handy for light-duty joinery tasks when you want to tack a part in place but don’t want to wrestle with clamps. Headed brads are used when you need more holding strength. To do both jobs, most shops needed to arm themselves with two guns, until now. The EZ-Fasten Nailer shoots both.

What’s the catch? The gun uses middle-weight 21-gauge brads and pins. And during tests, it held its own, but not without a few caveats.

THE SETUP: The nailer comes with a carrying case, oil, and two hex wrenches for maintenance and clearing jams. Unlike some guns, it also comes with a standard male air fitting–a drop of oil into the fitting and your ready to start. (Don’t forget to stock up on fasteners. Woodcraft sells 21-gauge brads and pins in lengths from 1/2" up to 13/16" long–a versatile range.)

Unlike most guns, which require that you press or “bump” the nose onto the workpiece before firing, the EZ-Fasten has a simple double-trigger system. You depress the inner trigger with your middle finger to disengage the lock, then squeeze the outer trigger with your forefinger to fire. This means the nose does not have to be on the work to shoot a brad or nail–a potential hazard.

TRIAL RUN: I shot hundreds of pins and brads, some in rapid-fire progression, and didn’t experience a single jam. The grip is comfortable and, at under 21/2 lbs., the gun is light and fits in tight spaces.

I made sure the gun’s nose sat on the workpiece before shooting. (Later, I aimed across the room, and with both triggers squeezed, fired several nails through the air. The lesson: always wear eye protection.)

I found the 21-gauge brads to be a serviceable and less visible substitute for larger 18-gauge brads. Splitting was non-existent, even in coarse-grained woods such as oak. The longest 13/16" brads shot straight into all types of materials, including some really dense ash, and held fast.

By setting the pressure to 90 psi, and holding the nose of the gun firmly against the workpiece, I was able to set both brads flush or slightly below the surface. You can adjust the set depth by altering the psi of your compressor.

As shown in the photo below, 21-gauge pins are clearly thinner than the 18-gauge pins but not as slender as the nearly invisible 23-gauge pins. This means that you may need a little filler. Lacking a rubber tip, the nailer head sometimes dented softer materials such as pine and medium-hard woods such as cherry.

BEST APPLICATIONS: Fitted with long brads, this gun can handle light-duty joinery, such as miters, drawer corner joints, and moldings. For almost invisible joints, use the pins for joining delicate work or wherever a seamless look is desired.

TESTER’S TAKE: I liked the heft and feel of the EZ-Fasten and the absence of jamming in repeated use. The 21-gauge brads worked as well as 18-gauge brads, and the pins offer discreet joinery, similar to standard 23-gauge pins. For the price of one gun, the EZ-Fasten does the job of both an 18-gauge gun and a 23-gauge gun quite well.

The lack of a bump-nose feature, and potential for accidentally firing when not in contact with the workpiece downgrades this otherwise capable tool from five biscuits to three.

Chisel and Gouge From One Tool

The Product: Skewchigouge
What It Does: Combines a turning skew and gouge for a variety of tasks
Available At Woodcraft: #140474
Price: $36.50
Tester: Ken Kupsche

Designed by English turner Allan Beecham, this HSS turning tool functions as both a skew chisel and spindle gouge. Allan says you can plane, cut beads, pummels, balls, bird’s beaks, V-grooves, and more with just this one virtually catch-proof tool. The 71/2" blade is a standard piece of round bar stock with a spindle gouge fingernail profile ground on it. Instead of grinding a gouge trough on the other side, it has a slight concave profile ground in it, perpendicular to the length of the tool. With its stained beech handle the tool has an overall length of 17".

The Set-Up: Two things struck me right away about the Skewchigouge. The factory grind appeared unusually good. I pulled the edge over a stone twice to pull the burr up and then ran it over a buffing wheel. In no time it was sharp and ready to go. Even more impressive, it came with instructions from Beecham himself! When he referred to chisel mode and gouge mode, I thought at first I was to turn the tool over to change the method of use, but this made no sense. What I then realized was that cutting in the chisel mode meant cutting only with the tip. The gouge mode meant cutting with the side edge of the tool. Diagrams show how to make all of the cuts and provide information on chopping in and the tool’s angle of presentation to the stock.

Trial Run: For my test, I cut a few pieces of spindle stock and cleaned them up with a roughing gouge. Turning the Skewchigouge on edge I used it like a skew to mark and start my cuts. Resting the bevel on my stock, I rolled the tool and started to cut a bead. It took a second to find the right “angle of roll.” Because I’m used to using a skew for this cut, I found myself working slower and thinking more about the profile of the tool and how to approach the work with it. Before long I found it to be a pretty fluid motion. Because a standard skew is beveled on both sides, I’m used to plunging it straight into the stock to start a cut. The Skewchigouge requires you to approach at a very different angle, but it still makes the same cut.

Running the Skewchigouge along the length of the spindle I attempted to make a smooth planing cut. After a couple of attempts, and still getting a rough cut, I decided that I would be better off using a standard skew. The actual cutting edge of the Skewchigouge in this application seems to be smaller in size than a standard skew due to its gouge-like profile grind. With a standard skew I also find that I like having a large bevel resting on the stock while I turn the edge a little more to get a wide cutting surface. I couldn’t do that here.

Best Applications: If you cut a lot of beads and shoulders you’ll really appreciate this tool. The fact that you can transition from gouge to skew, and get the benefits of each at the end of one tool is very nice. If I was trying to make a V-cut between beads with a spindle gouge I’d undoubtedly let the edge of the gouge grab the stock and ruin the cut. Not a problem with the Skewchigouge since there’s really no protruding edge to cut.

Tester’s Take: While it took a little time to get used to this tool, I confess I liked it. I found the instructions critical to my success. They cleared up my questions and got me turning quickly. If you’re already proficient with a spindle gouge or skew, then you may not want to bother with a Skewchigouge. If you’re doing a lot of turning where you’re constantly switching between the two, then it’s worth a try.

Another thing to consider is how to sharpen the tool. At some point you’ll have to regrind the concave top surface. If you’re comfortable with this, great.  If not, you’ll still get a few years of use before you’ll have to regrind. Quick honing, however, is easy.

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