Tool Review: Grex’s “Top-shelf” Brad Nailer
Here’s a dirty little secret about pinners and brad nailers. Norm Abram isn’t the only woodworker to use them. Many of the guys I know who build reproduction furniture – myself included – use these tools when attaching small trim pieces and mouldings. What I like about using these nailers is the fact that the nails, when driven into the wood, produce square indentations. Small square-shaped indentations that look period-appropriate. Having a quality brad nailer and pinner at your disposal is a good idea.
I learned a long time back that money spent on quality tools is seldom a bad investment, especially if you’re using the tools often or you expect them to last longer than a keg of beer at a frat party. If you feel the same way, as far as brad nailers and pinners are concerned, you only have a few manufacturers from which to choose.
One such company is Grex. Its green and black tools have long been found in our shop. We’re big fans of Grex. One of the earliest reviews I wrote after coming on staff at the magazine was about the company’s P645L, a 23-gauge pinner. It’s also the pinner that I purchased for my home shop.
Grex has recently introduced a new brad nailer, the 1850GB. It’s an 18-gauge nailer that shoots 1/2″ – 2″ brads. The company has had the 1850 brad gun available for some time, but the 1850GB is a much better tool – there are a number of upgrades, one of which, I’m told, is new to the industry.
On the 1850GB you don’t have to twist anything to change the exhaust direction in order to keep bursts from kicking up dust in the work area. Grex has pushed the exhaust to the rear of the nailer. And while that’s a nice feature by itself, the breakthrough upgrade is how the exhaust travels to the rear of the nailer. In most tools with rear exhaust, there is a tube running from the front of the tool to the rear. That tube can be copper but in some nailers the manufacturer uses plastic (that should last, huh?). On the 1850GB, Grex has upped the ante. The exhaust travels to the rear of the nailer in a channel that’s part of the main body casting. No tube means there’s less to wear out and break.
Take a look at the nose of the 1850GB. The safety (the piece covered by the no-mar rubber tip) is cast for added strength, not stamped – and the design is narrow so you can reach into corners and tight areas. Also the tip is designed to allow the brads to be driven at any angle (great for toe-nailing shelves).
Another aid for getting deep into the corners of your work is the stepped magazine – those few steps make a big difference in that the front of the body of the nailer stays aligned with the nailing position and doesn’t crowd the wall or other vertical surface. In many nailers, the magazine is a composite material, but in the newest tool from Grex, it’s extruded aluminum.
Of course, the 1850GB has all the “expected” attributes as well: A dry-fire mechanism, fastener indicator window, depth-control adjustment that moves about .008” – .010” per detent, a swivel-type air inlet and a dual-firing option. Dual fire is a feature that many woodworkers might feel is unnecessary, but if you’ve ever attempted to nail when you’re at a full arm’s reach, you may find this to your liking. If the tool is set at bump-fire (when the trigger is pulled each time the nose taps the gun shoots), it’s highly possible to fire a few inadvertent brads into your moulding. Flip the lever to single-shot mode and you won’t find yourself filling misplaced nail holes.
At $200, the Grex 1850GB is not cheap. But if, after reading about the tool, this seems outrageous to you, reread the second paragraph. I think Grex is about to claim some more of my shop tooling funding.