Our friends over at Ridgid Tools decided to bring this Dad an early Fathers Day present, and they nailed it. (I had to, it’s a dad thing). I’ve been an owner of the larger 16-gauge HYPERDRIVE cordless finish nailer from Ridgid for several years and I was excited to see how this smaller CLEAN DRIVE brother would perform. I originally bought the larger one for installing crown mouldings during a reno several years ago, I was fed up of dragging a hose around the house and listening to the air compressor. I have used it countless times since – you’d never fire up a compressor and unreel a hose to throw three nails into something, but slapping a battery in from your drill that you always have charged is a whole different game.

Unboxing the 18-gauge nailer it is immediately apparent this unit is smaller and lighter, which is a really good thing. Air tools are lightweight because they have no motors in them and all of the power is generated back at the hefty compressor. The drive unit in the Ridgid unit is nicely compact, and the weight distribution is slightly nose-heavy which is easy on the wrist, since you aren’t fighting it to hold the nose against your workpiece.

The 18 gauge nails are probably more appropriately sized for trim work and small projects than 16 gauge, you can buy them in various lengths and this gun can do anything from 1″ brad nails to 2-1/8″ nails. To test this theory I decided to try to build something sturdy using nothing but the nails. If you’ve seen some of my other articles you know I’ve built things for the kids, and for my wife to make their lives more enjoyable… well since Father’s Day is coming up, this one was all for me. The time had finally come to build something to hold my drills and batteries in a tidy, centralized spot.

I grabbed some leftover pieces of 5/8 prefinished plywood that I had used for the closet projects and sketched out a quick design. In case you’re interested in the specifics, the unit is 19-1/4″ wide, 7″ deep with the vertical pieces being 5″ tall, spaced 4″ apart, with a 2″ gap at the bottom to allow the tool handles to hang through. I cut everything up on the chop saw, and used nothing but some clamps and the 18-gauge brad nailer for assembly as you can see in the pictures.

the whole thing got rock solid once I nailed the back onto it

As I started to assemble the unit, I began to question my sanity. The 1-1/2″ nails I had loaded into the tool went in with absolute ease, and the noise was nowhere near as deafening as the 16-gauge tool (I usually wear ear protection for that one). The problem was in the sturdiness of what I was building, the nails held everything tight, but it was quite wobbly, since it was all just being connected by these tiny pieces of metal. Like building anything from IKEA, everything changed when I nailed on the back-plate. Suddenly this thing seemed indestructible. For good measure I switched it up to 2-1/8″ nails on the back just to see what would happen. The tool didn’t flinch, shoving the nails in just as deep without any additional effort, noise or recoil.

blow-through from an off-angle nail

With longer nails also comes more risk. As you can see from above, if you don’t aim the nailer straight down, or you’re too close to the edge of the lower down piece, you can get blow-through. This isn’t an issue when doing trim work, but for assembly of other items it is best to take your time. You can always use a pair of cut-off pliers to snip off whatever is sticking out, or grab it with a pair of needle-nose pliers and pull the nail all the way through to get rid of it. This is an issue whether you’re using an 18v nailer or an air nailer, so it’s really nothing to do with the tool itself, more of a word of caution. On that note, keep your fingers away from where the nail could be headed, or that blow through could end up inside of you. I made this mistake ONCE, and luckily it hit the inside of my fingernail and knocked my hand away.

nails in wood
Successive bump firing from the nailer as fast as I reasonably could

For fun, more than anything, I decided to test out the bump fire mode. This is where you hold down the trigger and just keep tapping the gun to each spot you want to nail, and it shoots one out on contact. I moved pretty fast and the tool didn’t skip a beat, fully sinking each and every 2-1/8″ nail each time. For the whole project I used one of my more modern 20.Ah 18V batteries (not the current gen) to confirm the backwards compatibility. The tool is rated for 3500 fires on a 4.0Ah battery (versus 2000 for HYPERDRIVE models), and it didn’t seem to care I had the smaller battery installed. The same was not the case when I put in one of my really old batteries (we’re talking circa 2010). These batteries don’t have a charge indicator so I can’t tell you if it was fully charged, but the tool made some funny noises when I used it, and fired probably every second attempt. I had no interest in finding out what would happen if I kept using that battery with those noises so I went back to one of my newer ones and it perked right up.

Finished product: a happy place to store some of my drills and batteries!

Overall I am ecstatic to add this tool to my collection, and doubt the more expensive 16-gauge nailer will see much use anymore. The CLEAN DRIVE technology in this new RIDGID 18V Brushless Cordless 18-Gauge 2-1/8 -inch Brad Nailer is certainly a nice upgrade over the HYPERDRIVE technology. If you are trying to come up with a really great Fathers Day gift for the handy dad in your life, this would be an amazing addition to their workshop. I can’t wait to hammer out a few more projects with it. Check out the image gallery below for more shots of the project, or follow this link to buy the tool for dad at your local Home Depot!

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About Stuart Grodinsky

Stuart is a Mechanical Engineer and father to two kids and an adorable pup. He loves working with his hands in his spare time whether it is building/refinishing furniture, fixing up old cars or just generally fixing stuff that is broken.Professionally, Stuart consults as a business process and software consultant, crushing business process inefficiencies wherever he spots them.

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