We spend a lot of time using powerful nailers for “big work,” like framing and roofing. But smaller nailers provide the finishing touches that show our clients the wow factor. For (almost) all intents and purposes, an 18-gauge finish or brad nailer is appropriate for trim. Today we’ve got the new Hitachi Cordless Pin Nailer, more generally known as a pinner or micro pinner.
There are numerous carpentry applications for these tiny nails. Delicate trim, small molding, quarter round, or anything else that a larger fastener might split can be safely attached with a pinner. More to the point, pin nails have no head, and they result in a very small hole that’s very easy to conceal. We can even use them as an alternative to clamping during a glue-up, which is especially helpful at angles other than 0° and 90°.
Obviously, one of the main selling points of the Hitachi NP18DSAL revolves around its battery-powered operation. A pinner that doesn’t require air hoses is a big advantage with trim work, which often takes us into awkward and tight spaces, potentially at the top of a ladder.
Hitachi claims that the slim, 3.0 Ah 18V battery will drive 3,000 nails per charge. At over 4 pounds with the battery, it likely weighs a bit more than your old pneumatic pinner. However, the convenience of this tool’s cordlessness more than makes up for the heavier weight.
No Push Nose and Counterweight
Finish work is delicate, and it’s critical that you’re gentle with your work surface. That’s why we appreciate a couple of features on this pinner that help save us from the frustration of having to replace damaged materials. One of those features, a counterweight, helps to eliminate recoil. Granted, this thing isn’t firing with the same kind of force as a framing nailer. But eliminating most, if not all, of the recoil goes a long way to keeping my shots accurate and my work surfaces dent-free.
Additionally, the Hitachi Cordless Pin Nailer includes a no-push safety nose tip. This safety feature ensures that I don’t dent up my work surface as the pinner drives home pins between 5/8″ – 1-3/8″.
You’ve Got Nail
We often use a pin nailer to add reinforcement to box cabinets. This type of cabinet, very popular with our residential customers, arrives disassembled from the manufacturer. We’ve found that the cabinet joints get loose over time using the assembly instructions alone. We use glue and pin nails to make more secure joints.
The Hitachi Cordless Pin Nailer does a beautiful job on this task. Pin nail holes are easy to camouflage in natural wood, but there’s no hiding them in a white finish. It leaves a very small hole that is easy to fill without marring the wood. Sometimes the end cabinet is visible, so this is particularly important.
We also really like the no-mar tips. We use the narrow one for tight spaces and the wider one for stability against the workpiece. Importantly, the tips have small nubs inside that not only hold snugly to the nose, but also to the onboard storage clips. This is a nice touch since we constantly lose the tips to other guns!
Some reviewers have expressed concern that a battery-powered pinner might have trouble in hardwood. We didn’t find that to be the case at all. The Hitachi impressively shot through 1″ maple during the course of our review.
You’ll need a reliable depth of drive adjustment for different wood hardnesses, and we found the red-wheeled adjustment on the Hitachi to be sufficient. Most pin nailers give you about 1/8-inch of adjustment, but this one gives you just shy of a 1/4-inch.
Hope You Like Jammin’, Too
Jams are pretty common with 23-gauge nails. Between the gun’s small clearance and the thinner metal of a pin nail, nails can jam up pretty regularly. Suffice to say that we experienced a jam or two. We won’t knock Hitachi for this as it just sort of comes with the territory. We do wish, however, that a tool-free jam clearance was included here, rather than forcing us to reach for the onboard hex wrench.
On the other hand, the dry fire lockout is excellent. It will save time when you don’t have to go back to see where you ran out of pin nails. There’s a little plate underneath the pins that senses when you’re nearly out of nails, and it prevents operation. In our experience, it’s best to throw out the handful of nails left in the magazine and insert a new stick to prevent jams.
Pros and Cons
Hitachi still places the battery gauge on the tool rather than the battery. We’ve mentioned our gripe with this design before, so we won’t belabor the point here. We just hope that Hitachi puts the fuel gauge on the battery pack soon.
The LED work light is a bit curious. It’s certainly bright, but the magazine casts a shadow, putting the tip in the dark and only illuminating the areas to the side.
We also found that the rubber-overmolded handle has a bit of a gummy, sticky feel to it. We expect it to wear off, but in the meantime, dust and dirt easily stick to it.
On the plus side, we found a use for the Hitachi Cordless Pin Nailer that solves one of our long-standing challenges. We often apply fiber reinforced plastic (FRP) veneers in food/health-related environments. FRP is very hard stuff which typically splits if you nail it, so we have to use an adhesive. That’s not a great solution because the adhesive doesn’t always cure properly (and can take up to 24 hours). We find the Hitachi actually does an excellent job holding the FRP to cabinets. The veneer didn’t split even when we nailed it very close to the edge! That’s impressive.
The Bottom Line
The Hitachi Cordless Pin Nailer is a capable tool for delicate work. There’s a lot to like about it, but it does have a couple of quirks as well. It’s a big benefit to have a cordless pinner, which more than makes up for the Hitachi’s idiosyncrasies. We suggest you use high-quality pin nails to prevent jamming and to ensure you can get into harder woods. Overall, we think you’ll like using this tool and look forward to improvements in the next generation!
Hitachi Cordless Pin Nailer Features
- Built-in counterweight to greatly reduce recoil
- Slim nose design allows nailing into the grooves of any trim
- No-push safety nose tip reduces marring and provides a clean finish
- Tool-less depth of drive adjustment for flush drives into various materials
- Quick clear nose with tooled jam release for easy maintenance and reduced downtime
- High-luminance LED light is handy when working in low light areas
- Ergonomically formed soft grip handle provides comfort and ensures a secure hold
- Automatic power shut off after 30 minutes of inactivity
- Dry-fire lockout for assured nail placement and preventing damage to work surface
- Low battery indicator light allows the user to see battery power status to prevent unexpected downtime
- Detachable no-mar nose cap protects work surfaces from scratches or indentations
- Integrated belt hook can be mounted on either side of the nailer to accommodate left or right-handed users
- Straight magazine holds 120 23-gauge pins from 5/8″ up to 1-3/8″ in length
- Capable of driving 3,000 nails per charge using Hitachi’s Compact 3.0Ah Li-Ion battery
- Tool body rubber bumpers protect the tool and any surface from damage
- Two no-mar nose caps for flat or angle pin driving
- Lightweight at only 4.4 pounds for balance, maneuverability and minimal user fatigue while ideal for overhead and extended use applications
Hitachi Cordless Pin Nailer Specifications
- Model Numbers:
- Hitachi NP18DSAL (Kitted)
- Hitachi NP18DSALP4 (Bare)
- Nail Gauge: 23-Gauge Pin Nails
- Nail Length: 5/8″, 3/4″, 1″, 1-13/16″, 1-3/8″
- Magazine Capacity: 120
- Magazine Angle: 0 Degree, Straight
- Belt Hook: Variable Position
- Depth of Drive: Tool-free
- Driving Speed: 2-3 Nails/Sec
- Nails per Charge: Up to 3,000
- Firing Modes: Sequential
- Battery Charge Indicator
- LED Light
- Weight w/ BSL1830C battery: 4.4 pounds
- Weight w/out battery: 3.6 pounds
- Tool Warranty: Lifetime