Here are all the accessories for any size nail gun as well as the all-important nail set, some eye/ear protection, and lubricant for pneumatics. We pick one nice hard-shell case to protect your investment.
You need a good set of nail sets: see my pick here. Go with this one because it’s hardened steel and a combo nail set and nail punch and will save you money in the long run.
You can also check our top recommended brad nailers here.
Click to jump to the section you need:
- Nail sets and hole fillers
- Cases to protect your gun’s nozzle
- Safety gear
- Pneumatic accessories
- Compressors (all oil-free)
- How to use a nail set – Beginner’s need-to-know points are at the bottom
1. Nail Sets and Hole Fillers
You will come across new-fangled nail set ideas such as rubber grips and flared tops to protect your hand, but take this from an insider: you don’t need that. Color coding? You don’t need it: you will not be switching back and forth a lot from one nail set to another. I sprayed mine orange so I could spot them in the box, however.
What you do need is hardened steel. There will come a time that you need to really smack a nail set and the lesser products from China won’t stand up.
Save money overall and buy the combo nail set and nail punch industry-standard – see the set from Stanley.
I inherited many tools from my grandfather, a general contractor: many are made by Stanley. I have his nail set kit which is a joy to use. You’ll find a set in every bag of trim carpenter tools.
My short video on nail set use and filling the nail set tool hole, as well staining the filler is here.
Minwax® High-Performance Wood Filler also works as an expensive, but strong wood adhesive into which you can insert screws and also bond loose joints in furniture.
The company claims that it also bonds to almost any rigid surface including ceramics, concrete, metal, and so on. It is weather-, water-, and rot-resistant. What’s not to like?
On staining hole filler:
You will read websites about how the stain will take to wood different than the filler and that is true, but we think like this: unless it’s going to be in a picture frame or special focal point, just fill, let dry, sand, stain. Yes it will be a little darker and the wood around the hole will share some of that, but so what? Apply a special conditioner first? Sure if you really want, but we have never done that. None of our customers have ever been that picky.
You can read about this stainable wood filler for more info: Minwax website.
This photo shows the mark left by my 3 different nail set and center punch set: deep and shallow, and all are about the same diameter. The deeper hole may take so much filler that the filler will shrink and need a 2nd coat. Not ideal. Try to set the nail just under the surface.
How to fill holes left by a nail set
If your hole filler is meant to dry then be sanded, you want to leave a slightly convex mound: just enough to be able to sand it flush quickly. Remember it will shrink a little, no matter how great of a nail setter you are. The nail set tool itself leaves a hole, not just the nail.
- The quick-dry spackle that I use in interior painting is Red Devil. I keep it in my pocket. It’s not dense and does not sand as well as some vinyl spackles, but it dries fast and holes disappear in painted trim and walls, etc.
- For nice painted furniture or shelves, go with a vinyl spackle.
- For wood, use the stainable wood filler above or look into the rabbit hole of color putty below…
For Staining: Color Putty
- This oil-based material you can mix on the spot to get an exact match to your wood with your stain: every wood and stain will be slightly different.
- Color putties do not sand to our understanding (we never tried), we get them flush the first time. Later you can add more stain or clear varnish etc.
- One tip: the pigment from the putty will discolor the unvarnished wood slightly around the hole. It’s not wrong to stain, varnish, then putty the holes (so the wood cannot touch the putty, except in the hole), then touch up the new putty with varnish (or not). Check your clear coat label to see about re-coating times. You cannot wait too long to re-coat.
- This brand has been around for the 40 years I’ve been a painter: it’s what you see in my video: they have not changed the label in decades! Seventeen colors: buy a few so you can combine for a very close match.
2. Cases for Nail Guns
Not all nail gun companies provide one.
Dewalt toolboxes are sold a-la-carte. Buy several or one, with or without the roller cart, etc. This are the smartest and most versatile idea out there in toolboxes. You do see these in worker’s trucks a lot. This photo is my electrician’s rig.
Just like Grandpa had only better.
3. Protection on the Job
- We have an entire post just on respirators. Using the nail gun we would not use the chemical filter: just a HEPA filter. Smells like a cleanroom. It’s all explained in a short post.
- Safety glasses over-your glasses: Regular glasses are not going to save an eye so I pop on the Over-Glasses with the complete side-shield. UV protection for outside.
- Normal safety glasses: If you don’t already wear glasses, these don’t cost much and Dewalt comes in various tints and has UV protection and comes with a bifocal reading prescription: very cool.
- Foam-type earplugs with neck cord should be brightly colored so others know that you cannot hear them (or that you are not interested in any more stories about the old days, Mabel).
- Over the ear protection—good enough for shooters (that’s you nail gun dude). In safety, we feel that a few extra bucks for 3M is totally worth it: it’s a good company (website).
Please see the danger of exposure chart from the government: a nail gun compressor will run at about 70-80 dB. Exposure like this is getting into the danger area, but the shock of a nail gun (especially the big framing guns) are well into the danger zone. No more jokes, and no more being a tough guy. Ask Eric Clapton explained for many years that he was slowly going deaf.
- All-weather Lubricant: for all pneumatic tools. This oil is different from auto or even what you need for your compressor. (The compressors below need no oil.) You may have seen videos of guys teaching you to put oil on your rack of nails: big mistake. The nozzle will collect dust and jam.
If you live in cold climates, there is no need these days to buy both summer and winter oil. Thanks, Bostitch.
If you are using your nail gun all day, you would add this oil to the air inlet: 2 drops in the morning and two drops after lunchtime. Mmm. Lunch.
- Swivel plug lightens the load on cord and muscles. The one spot the hose takes the most abuse is where we bend it over and over. This swivel is just well-spent insurance money.
5. Best Air Compressors
All the ones on this list are oil-free—Nice.
Tip: there is a trick to making a compressor quieter using plywood. Just lean sections of plywood around the unit allowing good ventilation.
This guy made a box for his ginny (a website all about keeping things quiet). The dB will drop radically. It really works. Aspirin works too, later on.
Best Overall Compressor
Dewalt High Pressure, Low Noise. (D55167)
- Relatively quiet: just 8 dB over the “quiet” winner below
- Could easily run 2 pneumatic nail guns
- 225 PSI max pressure and a 15-gallon tank
- 78 dBA (not much louder than the “Quiet” one below)
Nice that the wheels are a wide stance, just for the safety of the thing. This can run on a long extension cord whereas many others cannot. This is the choice of many builders: you see these everywhere, like Chevys.
Best Quiet Compressor
California Air Tools 10-gallon (10020C)
- low amp draw (7-amp)
- 70 Decibels
- 125 max psi, but the large capacity will keep it from coming on too much
- 2 hp.
Less money and more powerful than the Dewalt above (but 8 dB quieter) plus it’s on wheels. Decent reviews, and you don’t have to bend over to fiddle with it: thanks.
Best Budget Compressor
Porter Cable Pancake (PCFP12236) (Combo options)
- 6 gal pancake style tank for stability, includes water drain valve and rubber feet
- Combo options with brad nailer and or nozzles/pressure gauge
- Use with extension cord
- 150 p.s.i., enough for both guns going at once
- Two regulated, air couplers
- Only 30 lbs
If you need a brad nailer, the combo here gets you two quality items. My personal favorite deal: buying the brad nailer and compressor together takes about 10 bucks off the purchase.
Let us know if we missed anything in the comments below. Thanks. PS, if you have any photos of an old nail set punch, please send them!
How to use a nail set (beginner’s corner):
Of course, there are many videos and websites on how to do this and that, but setting a nail is really not brain surgery. We have a video demo at the bottom showing how to set a nail and how to fill the holes. Apart from the list here, there are 2 tips that you would figure out by making mistakes. First, the basics;
- What is a nail set? – any tool really that functions to hide a nail head by submerging it under the surface. You could grind an old screwdriver into one (it’s been done). A nail punch tool works too.
- They have a concave tip for grabbing the nail: the nail bunch (for marking a hole to start drilling) can be used if your finish nail has a concave head of its own.
- How to use a nail set – simply choose the right size (the Stanley set on this page has the only 3 you need) and at first lightly, then with as much force as you need ‘whack it’.
- Fill hole as needed – (explained above: key point leave a small mound to sand later)
Two things to watch out for:
- Start with light taps to make sure your nail setter will not slip off and make a 2nd hole!
- If you hit the nailset too hard, your hole will be deep and require more filler and that’s a small…no pun intended…problem. Why?…
• Hole fillers all shrink somewhat: the bigger the mass, the more it shrinks…and you have to fill another smaller divot – no biggie, but best to avoid.
I knew a carpenter who thought a nail set tool was called it a ‘nail seat’. He knew it was wrong but…anyway, but his joints were always tight!
Ear safety chart—stay safe above all: nail guns can do damage in time: