July 30, 2009

Campbell Hausfeld Angled Finish Nailer - Review

CH_nailer.jpgCampbell Hausfeld is out with a new line of pneumatics (www.chnailers.com/)that are specifically designed for the casual user. We recently got a chance to test out their new Angled Finish Nailer and check out all the interesting new features.

First off, we have to give CH some serious applause for including an instruction manual that's actually helpful. Like we said, this is a gun for the first time user and occasional DIYer and that's someone who is likely going to need a quick primer on compressors and guns. The instructions are nicely laid out, easily referenced, and very helpful to someone who's trying to understand how their first nail gun works. Thankfully, it has no resemblance to the generic 'manual' that comes with most other tools ('make sure to wear eye protection...etc")

CH_nailer_on_off.jpgCH_Nailer_nose.jpg

The CH nailer comes absolutely loaded with features, some of which we've never seen on a finish gun before, but we'll get to those in a bit. But first the standard items; the nose flips up giving the user the ability to clear jammed nails (during testing, we had none), there is an anti-dry fire and an adjustable exhaust. The gun is also oil free, so there's really no maintenance to think about, which is perfect for someone who is likely to have it tucked away in the garage for long periods of time.

The CH gun also comes equipped with a swiveling plug which we're huge fans of. These things make using pneumatic guns so much easier than the standard plugs, it's difficult to even talk about, so we won't.

As mentioned earlier, the CH finish gun has a number of new features that utilize some onboard electronics (powered by two AAA batteries, not included). They are a nail placement laser pointer and a stud finder.

CH_nailer_laser_test.jpgThe laser is mounted on the side of the gun nose and it comes in at an angle to shine on the workpiece. The manual states that it only works correctly when the depth of drive is set to maximum. This makes sense because the angle is going to change the placement as the nose of the gun is driven into the workpiece. We were curious about this, so we thought we would test out the amount of error that occurs when the depth of drive is set to minimum. To test this we marked out three Xs on a scrap of bamboo flooring and shot each one using the laser, each time with a different depth of drive setting; full max, full min, and "somewhere in the middle." As it turns out, all three missed the laser mark by a solid 1/8th of an inch. We tried it again and there was no difference in outcome. The laser is simply off by 1/8th of an inch. In our opinion, where lasers are concerned, they'd better be dead nuts or they might as well not be there. Even a beginner in pneumatics is better off banging out a sleeve of nails in some scrap wood and getting a feel for nail placement rather than having to rely on the laser. Plus, the difference between the nose of the gun and the workpiece is only about 3/16" and if you can't figure out where the nail is going to hit, you probably shouldn't have a high-powered nail gun in your hands in the first place.

CH_Nailer_trigger.jpgThe other part of the 'electronics package' is the stud finder. This is a small plastic tab that hangs off the nose of the gun. To activate it, you press a little button up by the trigger and operate the tab just like you would a regular stud finder; calibrate it at an open bay and slide it along the wall. We tested this out through 1/2" sheetrock and 1/4" plywood and found it to be spot on. After using the gun for a bit, we really came to like this feature and can see it possibly gaining some popularity in the nail gun world. It was nice to take a quick reading without setting down the gun, going to the tool box, and rummaging around to find the stud finder. We were also impressed at how small and unobtrusive the device is, even if you're not using it, it's not really going to get in the way.

The gun also has a built-in bubble level in the rear end. It's incredibly tiny, but it might come in handy from time to time.

CH_Nailer_tag.jpgThere's one other funny thing about this gun and that's the fact that there is a warning label permanently attached to the magazine that pulls out with a little tab. It has some basic safety information on it which is good, but to us, it's a little manic to have this bright orange plastic tab sitting there at all times (with 'Pull' printed in both Spanish and English). But we also have a lot of experience with finish guns, and maybe we're forgetting the days when we weren't so familiar with the safety precautions that we've developed into habits.

Finally, the CH Finish Nailer comes with a very nice carry bag that has enough room and extra pockets to tote around far more than just the gun, which fits easily inside. Again, this is a nice touch for the casual user who may not want to junk up half the garage with various tool cases and is going to multi-task the bag. Included is also a little cardboard reference card that you can bring to the store when you go to purchase extra nails. Another considerate move by CH, which we suppose takes some of the intimidation out of nail guns

The bottom line here is that if you've never touched a nail gun in your life and you're looking for a starter kit, this is made specifically for your needs; it's easy to use, comes with fantastic documentation, and has a number of nice features (as well as a laser that you can use as a cat toy). If you're a bitter, old carpenter hopelessly addicted to nicotine and coffee, you should stick with your ancient Senco, because you would look down your nose at this one.

The Campbell Hausfeld Finish Nailer costs about $150 which puts it firmly among the least expensive of the 15 gauge finish nailers. For the most part, the pro guns start around $200 and up.

At Amazon.com

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Posted by Doug Mahoney at July 30, 2009 5:09 AM

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