IMG_0015 Tool Reviews by Trade

Bostitch 18 Gauge SmartPoint Brad Nailer


In the world of pneumatic nailers there’s not much that excites me anymore, unless we’re talking about brad nailers and Jennifer Aniston in the same sentence. And then I came across the 18 gauge Bostitch SmartPoint brad nailer. It’s not Jennifer, but to a guy who works as a carpenter all day, it’s at least got my attention. Wasting no time, I took the SmartPoint nailer to the shop and put it to work.  Consider yourself amongst the privileged and first to get an inside sneak peek at a brad nailer that isn’t due out until February 2013.

The most exciting and certainly unique aspect of this nailer is the smaller nose design. The probing tip of the nailer makes it easier to see where the fastener will penetrate the work surface. And I mean exactly where it will go. On top of that, the smaller nose design allows the tool to fit into tighter spaces. That hasn’t been a huge issue in the past, but on a recent project I had so many clamps lined up, I have to admit, the extra maneuverability was nice.

I’m a carpenter by trade and run a small remodeling and finish carpentry outfit in Concord, MA. I often build a lot of components in my shop prior to assembling them onsite and subsequently end up using a brad nailer for applying small parts, trim and crown work.

I find brad nails to be very useful in helping to prevent splitting as well as to promote a cleaner looking job with less touch-up work after the nailing is done. I also use a brad nailer occasionally to assist with pinning parts on glue-ups. There’s no argument that a brad nailer is a useful and necessary tool both in the shop and on finish trim jobs.

What’s Different With this SmartPoint?

The hype on the SmartPoint is that it has a 60% smaller nose footprint, allowing for quick and accurate nail placement without a separate contact trip. The micro-nose design eliminates the need to push against the work surface to actuate the nailer, letting you fit the tip into narrow spaces.

I got to see this nailer up close several months ago and the precise accuracy claims of the SmartPoint are what got my attention and interest to review this tool in the first place. You see, there’s nothing more annoying to me than using a nailer that puts a fastener in a location other than where you thought it was going. I can think of a dozen times where I wanted to smash a brad nailer with a hammer after I blew apart a trim return or squeezed the trigger and watched a trim part move on me.

IMG 0012 500x333 Bostitch 18 Gauge SmartPoint Brad Nailer

SmartPoint Nailer First Impressions

The SmartPoint shoots 18 Gauge brads and the nailer kit includes the basic tool, carrying case, 1/4-inch swivel fitting, a box of 1,000 two-inch brads, and a belt hook.

Out of the box the SmartPoint nailer looks like a regular brad nailer but smaller. It has a Magnesium housing with a really nice over-molded handle and bumper molding. The old adage, “bigger is better” does not apply to brad nailers and this one is fairly small in stature. Bostitch also uses Magnesium which gives the tool the same basic durability of aluminum but with less weight.

The SmartPoint is also an oil-free nailer which helps prevent staining of trim and work surfaces and the exhaust is located at the end of the handle where the air hose attaches to the tool. I like this location because it directs the tool’s exhaust away from the work and the operator. An internal filter is used to keep exterior contaminants from damaging the tool.

A tool-free nail jam release is a must, and the BTFP12233 has one located on the front of the nailer at the nose. It allows fast and easy nail jam removal, eliminating the need to use an Allen wrench. This is a real nice feature!

A thumb turn, depth-of-drive mechanism (which Bostitch somewhat comically branded Dial-A-Depth) is conveniently located under the trigger and allows the user to control how far the fastener will penetrate into the work material. This saves you from having to readjust the compressor output for different wood hardnesses and can be a real time saver.

The tool is also equipped with a swivel air fitting for maneuverability, a reversible belt hook with integrated pencil sharpener, 2 rubber nose tips and a low brad nail indicator built into the magazine slide.

SmartPointDimensions:

When I compared the SmartPoint to other brad nailers it was often smaller by several inches on both the width and length. A close second would be the Hitachi NT50AE2.

Bostitch – BTFP12233 – 9.38″ x 9.75″
Porter Cable – BN200B – 14.30″ x 11.11″
Dewalt – D51238K – 13.79″ x 10.12″
Hitachi – NT50AE2 – 7.08″ x 10.77″
Ridgid – R213BNA – 9.00″ x 11.05″

IMG 0006 500x333 Bostitch 18 Gauge SmartPoint Brad Nailer

A Selectable Trigger On A Brad Nailer – Seriously?

One feature that had me scratching my head was the selectable trigger system for sequential or contact operation. At first I wasn’t sure why Bostitch included that as an option. I’ve never “bump” fired anything other than a framing or roofing nailer. Typically, brad and finish nailers should be more precise tools and the sequential fire should be more than fast enough if you know how to use the tool. I started wondering if maybe the product manager was a former framing or roofing guy… After speaking with Bostitch Product Manager Jorge Silveira, it was explained to me that during product research for a completely different nailing application they noticed that users were using shims to hold the contact trip up on their brad nailers in order to:

  • Improve visibility,
  • Avoid marring the work surface, and
  • Provide continuous bump actuation in situations where precision placement was not as important

It turns out that these users weren’t “bumping” the tool at all, they were sliding it along the surface and applying brad fasteners every 6-8 inches on door or window trim or cabinet crown runs. This discovery is actually what got the Bostitch team started on developing the SmartPoint design and the selectable trigger switch.

SmartPoint Technology

When you boil it all down, the contact arm on the SmartPoint is a major change on the traditional brad nailer and that’s what makes this tool very different and unique. The contact is integrated into a sliding nose that has a much smaller footprint. This contact arm is spring-biased upward (towards the tool) to eliminate the need for the nose to be compressed to actuate the firing mechanism.

In contrast, a standard brad nailer has a contact arm that wraps around the nose of the tool, which is bulky. The traditional contact arm is also spring-biased outward (away from the tool) which requires the user to push the contact arm in order to actuate the tool.

IMG 0015 copy 500x333 Bostitch 18 Gauge SmartPoint Brad Nailer

Using the SmartPoint Brad Nailer: My Experience!

The SmartPoint brad nailer magazine opens to 5-1/2” and easily allowed me to fit full 5” long strips of brads into it. Nicely done! I was starting to wonder if Bostitch engineers might be taking a few lessons from us cabinetmakers with those tolerances!

The SmartPoint is the first nailer that I’ve had come with a 1/4″ swivel connector and I have to say it’s a very nice detail and gives you some play when maneuvering the tool into tight or awkward spaces.

The nailer worked as advertised. It placed a brad exactly where the tip was and provided a clear line of sight. The Smart Point also allowed me to avoid pushing the tool against my trim which normally marks and dents the work piece, particularly if it’s a soft wood.

I used the nailer on all different shapes, sizes, and species of trim and crown molding. What I liked the most was the nailer’s ability to go exactly where you wanted it – even into tight spots on heavily detailed crown. The learning curve on this nailer is short and I quickly understood exactly where the fastener exited the tool – in fact, you can actually see it.

Remember how I liked the depth-of-drive wheel? It ended up coming in handy and I found myself reaching for it often as it allowed me to really dial in my fastener depth for precise countersinking into any material.

I tested the sequential firing option and can understand why some users would want to use it. As for myself, after trying it out I never really had a need to keep it engaged. I also tested the pencil sharpener on the belt hook, which worked great but I didn’t really find it to be as useful in the shop. Part of that reason is that I tend to use the larger carpenter pencils and sharpen them with my utility knife.

Overall Impression

The SmartPoint is indeed a smart nailer, maybe even smarter than me! It was accurate and precise in brad nail placement and provided me with exceptional visibility. I can honestly say that after using this particular brad nailer for a while, I got a bit spoiled. Going back to a standard nailer and its larger nose is going to be hard.

My favorite features of this nailer are its line of sight, the swivel connector and the low brad nail indicator with dry fire lockout (it won’t fire a blank when the nails run out so you don’t divot your work piece).

The SmartPoint brad nailer is expected to retail for $119.99 and will be available in February 2013. Stay tuned as we are guessing Bostitch may expand the SmartPoint technology to other finish nailers as well. If Bosch can line up some demos of this new tool they should fly off the shelves, I am certainly recommending it for pro use.

Robert Robillard is editor of the online publication AConcordCarpenter.com and a remodeling contractor based in Concord, Massachusetts. Rob is a recognized leader in tool and how-to information for building professionals and also hosts the Concord Carpenter Cable TV Show, offering the do-it-yourself audience in Boston’s Metro West region expert advice on home repairs and maintenance. On his website, Rob covers all aspects of home improvement and remodeling, offering problem solving advice to the PRO contractor and DIYer. Rob enjoys evaluating and reviewing tools and products and restoring vintage tools. His motto: “Well done is better than well said!”


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