Tiger Claw Hidden Fastener Installation Gun Review Hardware & Fastener Reviews

Tiger Claw Hidden Fastener Gun Review


We love building decks. With Tiger Claw’s new Hidden Fastener Installation Gun, you can build an entire deck with no surface screws or nails. This makes for a much more beautiful and clean finished look to any decking project and really ramps up the “pro” factor of any job. It also takes away one of the primary access points for water infiltration and deck rot. Tiger Claw makes the claim that their Installation Gun not only makes for a nice, finished job, but it also reduces the installation time for any job involving their TC-G hidden deck fasteners. We set out to see how well that claim held up under real-world use.

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Tiger Claw Hidden Fastener GunWhen we first saw the Tiger Claw Installation Gun at the 2009 International Builder’s Show, we were impressed with the thought of installing an entire deck with no surface nails. The fact that it works with both TC-G and TimberTech CONCEALoc fasteners means that you have ample options for selecting the right fastener (not to mention color) for your decking job. And when we say that the tool “works” with the fasteners, we mean that the tool literally accepts a TC-G or CONCEALoc fastener and mates it to the tip of the nailer. The only difficulty with using the hidden deck fasteners is that they are not symmetrical, meaning that you had to get used to rotating them around until you had the correct orientation to slide it onto the tool. We acclimated to this pretty quickly, but it does cause a slight pause in the process.

Tiger Claw Hidden Fastener Gun routerTiger Claw sent us an Installation Gun, a bucket of TC-G Hidden Deck Fasteners, and a box of compatible NailScrews. This was more than enough to complete a decking project we were working on at the time. The Tiger Claw system is best mated with pre-grooved composite or PVC decking boards, however for this project we utilized #1 grade pressure treated 5/4 boards and grabbed Tiger Claw’s Slot Cutter. The Slot Cutter has a cut height of 5/32″ (3.9mm) and a cut depth of 3/8″ (9.5mm). The Cutter has a 19 mm sealed bearing, carbide tips and a shank diameter of 1/4″ that will fit most routers. It worked well in our Craftsman Professional 6.5 Amp Fixed Base Palm Router, though we eventually moved it to a larger router for additional stability during use. Whether you use pressure treated or composite decking boards, you will need to ensure the slots are present for accurate use of the TC-G fasteners and the Tiger Claw Installation Gun. In our use, the Tiger Claw Slot Cutter didn’t quite fit in such a way that it would work on boards laid directly on the joists (without first removing them to a bench), so we flipped the bit around to place the bearing on top and ground down the tip of the bolt with an angle grinder to make the system more flush. This gave us the flexibility to line up the boards and use the router without relocating them.

Tiger Claw Hidden Fastener Gun routing

Now, the process of installing a decking board seems fairly simple – if you have pre-slotted boards. The trouble is, pre-slotted composite decking is pretty much special order in most parts of the country unless you happen to have a dealer nearby who handles Veranda, Latitudes, or other manufactured products. In either case, our choice to go with pressure treated lumber and use the Slot Cutter ended up costing a lot more time, though it did save us a considerable amount of material costs. We also liked the look of pressure treated wood over most of the composite decking products for our particular application. To install decking using the Tiger Claw system you follow these basic steps (which presumes the boards have already been cut to length and fitted):

Installation with pre-grooved composite decking material:

  1. Place and align the decking onto the joists
  2. Insert a TC-G fastener into the Installation Gun
  3. Insert the fastener on the tip of the gun into the groove and align the fastener/gun along the center of the joist. The NailScrew should be firing into the center of the joist.
  4. Bear down so the gun’s screw nail feeder is lying flat on the joist
  5. Depress the trigger and shoot in the fastener
  6. Repeat for each joist
  7. Place the next board, lifting and dropping it into place and hitting it tight with a piece of scrap decking board.

Installation with pressure treated decking material:

  1. Place and align the decking onto the joists
  2. Mark the board where it needs to be routed
  3. Router the board appropriately for the TC-G fasteners
  4. Replace and re-align the decking onto the joists
  5. Insert a TC-G fastener into the Installation Gun
  6. Insert the fastener on the tip of the gun into the groove and align the fastener/gun along the center of the joist. The NailScrew should be firing into the center of the joist.
  7. Bear down so the gun’s screw nail feeder is lying flat on the joist
  8. Depress the trigger and shoot in the fastener
  9. Repeat for each joist
  10. Place the next board, lifting and dropping it into place and hitting it tight with a piece of scrap decking board.

As you can see, using the Tiger Claw Installation Gun with the TC-G fasteners can actually take considerably more time to install decking boards than with a Quickdrive system or fasteners that do not require routing of the deck board material (of which Tiger Claw has several – see below). You also need to screw or nail down the initial edge of the first board and may need to manually fasten the final few boards depending on the remaining work area when you complete your deck. In our case we ran into a wall and had to use a drill/driver to place the final 4-5 boards. This is definitely a two-man job.

Tiger Claw Hidden Fastener Gun 2

We liked the feel of the Tiger Claw Installation Gun. It’s not heavy and it does a great job of sending the TC-G fasteners into their perfect position without any slippage or misfires. Providing the Installation Gun is pressed down firmly so that the feeder system is flat against the joist, all nails will fire cleanly into place. We purposefully misfired a couple of pneumatic screws so that we could test the ability to back them out using a cordless screwdriver. As advertised, the NailScrews were easily removed, making these some of the most handy fasteners we’ve ever used. One note about the gun: reload often. We found that when it got down to the last few NailScrews, they tended to lose position and fall loosely within the tool, causing a potential misfire. Keeping the gun loaded eliminates this problem.

Tiger Claw Hidden FastenersAs far as the process goes, we didn’t care for the fact that the 1/8″ spacing was mandatory. We typically prefer placing the boards tightly against each other. We do this because we build in a gentle slope to the deck that allows rain to roll off. You also have to take into account the moisture content of the boards and how that will affect how much the boards will shrink as they dry out. In the case of TG-C fasteners, you’ll always have 1/8″ (or greater) gaps in your decking that cannot be avoided. If you use TG-C fasteners with pressure treated lumber, you stand a chance to have excessive gaps should you work with wet wood. Be sure to reduce the chances of this by allowing your wood to dry for a week or so prior to building your deck. As we were working with it we really felt that that it would have been best for Tiger Claw to have sharpened to points the spacer built into the TG-C fasteners. In this way, a few extra hits on the wood during the seating process would result in tighter spacing between boards.

You can purchase the TC-G fasteners in buckets, or you can purchase them in $50 bags that will cover 50 square feet of decking (includes standard screws). Inquire with an authorized Tiger Claw dealer or your local home improvement warehouse on what’s best for your project. There are several deals online that can even get you a free Installation Gun if you purchase enough fasteners and collated pneumatic screws.

Conclusions & Recommendations

The Tiger Claw Hidden Deck Fastening System is an excellent product. It produces a beautiful deck that will last longer and look absolutely stunning when completed. Compared to the use of standard surface fasteners, the Tiger Claw system wins the beauty contest hands-down.

Tiger Claw deck project

Tiger Claw deckWe came to several conclusions about the Tiger Claw Installation Gun when used in conjunction with pressure treated wood and the TC-G fasteners. For one, it’s not recommended for PT applications unless your wood is very much dried out as ours was (Tiger Claw doesn’t recommend TC-G fasteners with pressure treated pine at all). The other consideration is that using it with PT is going  to be a hard sell for contractors who do not have skilled labor that they can trust with all the particulars of an installation this complex. Everything needs to be done just right and this is not something you want to trust to your ‘B’ team. If your clients can afford custom pre-slotted composite material, then the Tiger Claw Installation Gun and its TC-G fasteners certainly offer a convenient and practical solution. In that scenario, it can actually save time and will, in fact, reduce your installation labor costs over manually driving in hidden deck fasteners. The bottom line is that the Tiger Claw Hidden Deck Fastening System is an excellent solution for high-quality, professional construction projects. For the homeowner, since slotted wood isn’t typically available at your local home improvement warehouse, you may want to try some of the other available fastening systems from Tiger Claw that don’t require routing boards or adding that step to the project.

For fasteners that don’t require routing of wood or composite deck boards, Tiger Claw has the following (non-G, or non-Groove) solutions:

  • TC-1S Softwood Fastener – Heavy gauge steel fastener with Magni 599 coating recommended for use in softwood decking measuring 1” or thicker lumber. Softwood decking will inherently experience shrinkage.
  • TC-2S Softwood Fastener – Heavy gauge stainless steel fastener recommended for use in softwood decking measuring 1” or thicker lumber. Softwood decking will inherently experience shrinkage.
  • TC-3S Composite Fastener – Heavy Gauge Stainless steel fastener with black oxide coating developed specifically for use with composite or synthetic decking materials and medium density mahogany.
  • TC-4S Hardwood Fastener – 300 Series Stainless steel fastener with black oxide coating recommended for use in 3/4″or 5/4″ hardwood decking with widths up to a nominal 4″

There are tons of options and either way you go, Tiger Claw seems to have a system that is certain to produce an attractive and long-lasting product that you or your clients will enjoy for many years. In our experience, the TC-G fasteners and the Installation Gun resulted in one of the nicest deck surfaces we’ve ever installed.

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