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I've never owned or used pneumatic tools, but recently I thought it would make a good addition to my tools.

I bought an 18ga nail gun and 2" 18ga nails. When I used it to nail together 1/2" plywood to make a small box, I had some problems with the nails curling and punching out at odd spots. Not all of them, but about 25%. Am I using too long of nails? Or is it a problem with plywood? Or???

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Even on a good day, brad nails can curl on you. Through your fingers, if you aren't careful.

However, if you look closely at the pointy end of a strip of nails, you'll see that they're cut at an angle on only two sides. (The other two sides are the ones adjacent to their neighbors in the strip.) Anyway, the nail is predisposed to curl in the direction of one of the cut sides.

(Phrased another way, if you hold the nailgun vertical, the nails are prone to curling left or right.)

So you can use this to your advantage... if you're nailing into the edge of plywood, have the nailgun perpendicular to the plywood. That way, if you get a curl, it's probably contained within the ply, as opposed to shooting out the side.

You didn't ask, but a tip for those nasty curl outs: bend the end of the nail back and forth. It'll usually break below the surface of the wood, and you can fill. If there's not much nail to grab, use needlenose pliers.

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    +1 And on most projects, brads are best used as an adjunct to glue. Since the plywood is only 1/2", consider using shorter brads and glue. – bib Sep 9 '16 at 12:09
  • I had used glue as well, but I didn't have any shorter nails last night. :) – UnhandledExcepSean Sep 9 '16 at 12:35
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Plywood is pretty hard for 18g nails in my experience. The tip above about learning which way they curl is a good one, but really you have two choices, shorten the nail length or up the gauge a notch (not practical if you only have an 18g gun I know)...

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Check the tip of your nail gun as well. My finish nailer had a broken guide/tip (not sure what to call it) that caused many of my shots to go astray. Much more predictable after I replace that part.

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