Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Is a Framing Nailer for You? Heck Yeah: Hammers are so Twentieth Century!

Porter-Cable FR350 Round-Head Framing Nailer

In case you hadn’t noticed, no one uses a hammer on a construction site any more. Instead, at most sites you’ll find air hoses snaking everywhere and the air filled with the sounds of the “sneezes” that are the trademark of air nailers. After owning a Porter-Cable FR350 Round-Head Nailer for several years, I know why: they beat the heck out of a hammer!

Specifications and Usage 

If you thought your bulging biceps would miss that 22-oz framing hammer, you’ll appreciate the 12.7 pound heft of the FR350, about the same as other brands’ competing models. Using the nailer is easy once you get used to the weight and bulk, thanks to its dual-mode trigger and quick-load magazine. The nailer is shipped with a ¼” male quick-connect and an adjustable exhaust vent, You'll be glad you can rotate the vent after one a face-full of exhaust! The nosepiece comes with a removable rubber cushion to protect more delicate surfaces, its removal reveals a barbed foot that improves toenailing. The FR350 comes with a bottle of oil, the 3 hex wrenches you’ll need to adjust it or clear nail jams, and a plastic carrying case. The case has space for about a dozen nail strips. 

The magazine holds 2 strips of plastic-collated full-head nails with a 22-degree angle; a total of 72 nails. Clipped-head nailers (“D-head”) usually have a larger nail capacity, but clipped-head nails not meet the building code of jurisdictions subject to hurricanes and seismic incidents. The FR350 accepts nails in diameters ranging from 0.113 to 0.148 inches and from 2 to 3-1/2 inches long. They’re sold in cartons of 5,000-10,000, available at most big box hardware stores. You control nail depth by the air pressure (nominally 70-120 psi) and with a depth-of-drive adjustment on the nose. 

The magazine sits at a slight angle to the tool’s body. Used right-handed, the air hose is kept out of the way by the magazine’s end; not so for lefties. The trigger works in either “slap” or single-fire mode.  For single-fire, you shove the nosepiece onto the work and pull the trigger. This provides additional control over nail placement; while slap mode can cause double-fire for inexperienced users. 

On the plus side: 

Safety: The FR350 won't fire a nail unless both triggers (nosepiece and finger) are depressed. You could still nail your foot to the floor if you're sloppy enough. 
Construction: The FR350 is made with a heavy-duty die-cast aluminum body and metal fittings. There is no plastic used. The tool looks bulky, though the aluminum makes it light enough that it isn’t unwieldy. 
Jamming: I rarely get jams unless a nail strip has been. Jammed nails generally come out the back of the nosepiece with just a pair of needlenose pliers. More serious jams, though, may require disassembling the magazine. 
Versatility: The FR350 works both on the flat and for toenailing, especially when you use the dual-mode trigger correctly and remove the rubber foot on the nosepiece. 

On the minus side: 

Adjustments: Changing the aim of the exhaust deflector and setting the depth of drive both require a hex-head wrench. I wish you could do this with, but other models also require the allen wrenches. I assume this is because the higher pressure and larger nails require framing nailers to be more robust. 
Size: at nearly 15” tall and 22” long, it’s definitely a beast. The size makes it hard to get into tight spots, though I use a Porter-Cable PN350 palm nailer for those occasions. 


I highly recommend the FR350 to hobbyists and DIYers who need a nailer for fences and other projects. It's dependable and easy to use; plus it’s easy to adjust and load. Some may prefer clipped-head nailers but I bought it in hurricane country and it’s holding up fine for me. 

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