Why does my nail gun leave marks? (solved)

Do you get frustrated when you use a pneumatic nailer, and it leaves marks in the wood that are difficult to sand or steam out? Because of a nail gun leaving marks, the surface is completely ruined or will require a significant amount of work to restore with wood filler.
You won’t immediately figure out why this is happening, so you’re left wondering, why does my nail gun leave marks?

The problem with a nail gun leaving marks is often recoil, which happens most often when you want to shoot long nails in softer woods like pine or poplar. Another cause is using a nail gun that no longer has a plastic tip.

In this brief guide, I will examine the issue in greater detail and offer a suitable solution. As a result, your wood is no longer damaged by nail gun marks, and you save time by not fiddling with wood filler.

Disclosure: At zero cost to you, I may get commissions for purchases made through links in this post. I earn from qualifying purchases as an Amazon associate. Products featured are selected based on quality, performance, and reputation, regardless of affiliate relationships.

Why does my nail gun leave marks?

Ok, so you already know that recoil is one of the major culprits for nail gun marks. By first looking at where that recoil comes from, you will soon have a better understanding of what we can do about this problem.

A nail gun, no matter what type you are using, is powered by either an air compressor, gas, or battery. Each of these three sources is able to generate a short but powerful impulse to fire the nail out of the magazine and let it penetrate the wood.

That impulse is so powerful that just after releasing a nail from the nail gun, there is a recoil. The longer the nail, the greater the stroke and thus the recoil. With this recoil, the tip pushes itself off the wood, allowing it to leave nail gun dents, especially in soft woods like pine or poplar.

Another cause of nail gun dents is the tip of the nail gun. The material it is made from can have a major impact on damaging the wood and leaving deep marks.

Not every nail gun is built the same, including the tip of the nail gun. In some cases it will be made of metal, in other cases, it will be made of plastic.

Plastic may seem like a cheaper and bland version, but when it comes to avoiding nail gun marks, this is the big winner. Plastic tips are softer, making them more resilient and less likely to push into the wood. Be aware that having a plastic tip is therefore not always a guarantee of being able to nail without damage.

Why does my nail gun leave marks - nail gun marks
Why does my nail gun leave marks – nail gun marks

Do nail gun marks go away?

Unfortunately, the answer is no, nail gun marks don’t go away on their own. You will therefore have to invest extra work to eliminate these damages when you notice them in the wood.

The reason why these markings do not go away on their own is that the structure of the wood is damaged. Wood is made up of several contiguous cells, which are completely empty because of the drying of the wood.

Because these cells are empty, they can be pressed more easily, but they also no longer have the resilience to take on their original shape again. However, knowing this now can help you come up with a solution, you’ll discover more about it later in this article.

How do you prevent nail gun marks?

Although it may appear that there is nothing that can be done about this problem at first glance, there are a few ways to avoid nail gun marks. In this section, I discuss the most commonly used solutions, whose effectiveness grows with each tip and culminates with a golden tip. So, how do you prevent nail gun marks?

Lower rate of pressure

To begin, operate the compressor at a lower rate of pressure. However, don’t lower the pressure to much or your nail gun doesn’t work properly or start shooting blanks. The stroke would be smaller as a result, and the recoil would be reduced. This would result in fewer deep damage nail gun dents and could resolve the issue. However, there is a disadvantage to this.

By reducing the pressure, there is the possibility that the nail gun cannot generate enough force so that longer nails are not driven all the way into the wood. This can also cause problems with harder woods. So if you work with small nails and softwood, you can do a test by lowering the pressure and see what the result is. However, do not do this on the wood of your project, but use a test board for this.

To have constant air pressure, it is essential that you have no air leaks in the couplings or hose. If you hear air hissing, thanks to all the information from my article, Why Is My Nail Gun Leaking Air, you can find the problem and fix it easily.

Things you need to know about pressure for nail guns

Determining CFM and PSI

Important data you need to know that play a role in powering air pressure tools are air consumption and air pressure.
Air consumption is expressed in Liters per minute (L/min) or cubic feet per minute (CFM). Air pressure is expressed in Bar or pounds per square inch (PSI)

It is quite easy to determine the required CFM and PSI for your nail gun. All air tools come with recommended operating specifications that include both CFM and PSI.

You must find the air tool with the highest CFM requirement and multiply it by 1.5. Take that number and ensure that the compressor you’re thinking about is equal to or greater than it.

Here’s an example to make it clear:
Let’s say you have a Brad tacker, and it requires 2.0 CFM @ 90 PSI
Take this 2.0CFM and multiply it by 1.5 (2.0 x 1.5) = 3 CFM
This means that the e compressor must be able to deliver at least 3 CFM @ 90 PSI.

Multiplying that number by 1.5 gives you some wiggle room in terms of airflow. You don’t want to buy a compressor that exactly meets the requirements of your air tool. There will always be some pressure loss, so you want to counter that by buying a compressor that can do more than your most demanding air tools. In addition, a compressor is likely to wear out quickly if it has to operate at its maximum capacity to meet your requirements. More information about how to find the right compressor for your workshop can be found in my article, What Is The Best Air Compressor For Woodworking? 7 Things To Look For

Ebook part 1 woodworking basics
Requirements for nailguns

Let’s take a look at the different nail guns available and their CFM and PSI requirements. Keep in mind that different tools for the same job may have slightly different specs. The materials used to nail as well as the length of the nails can have an effect on the CFM requirements.

Brad Nailer’s
Brad nailers are not difficult to use. Brad nails don’t have a lot of head and aren’t particularly thick, so they don’t need much air. Brad tackers typically have flow rates ranging from 0.5 to 1 CFM and pressures ranging from 60 to 90 PSI. At 90 PSI, your compressor should be able to produce 2.0 CFM.

Finish Nailer
Most finish nailers don’t need as much air as brad nailers. You’ll be fine with a compressor that can deliver 2.0 CFM at 90 PSI.

Frame nailer
Tackler framing necessitates a higher CFM rating than some of the other tackers on this list. They typically require 2.5 CFM @ 90 PSI. This means that a compressor capable of **4.0 CFM @ 90 PSI will suffice.

Roof nailer
2.2 to 2.5 CFM is required by the majority of roofing nailers. If you have a compressor that can deliver 4.0 CFM @ 90 PSI, you’re good to go.

Floor nailer
The majority of floor nailers require around 2.0 CFM at 90 PSI. If you have an air compressor capable of **3.0 CFM @ 90 PSI, you can use these and other smaller air tools.

Pin Nailer
Pintackers do not require a great deal of strength. They typically require less than one CFM to operate. As a result, a 2.0 CFM @ 90 PSI compressor will suffice.Siding Nailer

In terms of requirements, siding tackers are similar to framing tackers. They typically require 2.5 to 3.5 CFM @ 90 PSI. As a result, these typically necessitate a slightly larger compressor than many other nailers. For a siding nailer, a compressor capable of 5.5 CFM @ 90 PSI will suffice.

Palm Nailer
Palm nailers are ideal for reaching those difficult-to-reach areas. They, fortunately, do not require a lot of pressure or a high CFM flow rate to function. Most hand tackers can be used with a compressor capable of 3.0 CFM @ 90 PSI.

Most staplers do not have high cubic feet per minute requirements. They work fine at 1 CFM, so a small compressor capable of 2.0 CFM @ 90 PSI will suffice for these air tools.

Depth of drive adjustment

If you have nail gun dents on the work surface, depending on the model, in addition to lowering the air pressure, there may be a drive depth adjustment that can help.
If the drive depth is set incorrectly, it can drive the nail too deep into the wood, causing both the tip and head of the nail to damage the wood surface.

How do you adjust a brad nailer depth?

If you want the head of the nail to be flush with the surface when using a nail gun, you need to know one important thing and that is how to adjust the nail depth on a brad nailer.
You don’t want the nail sticking out above the surface or sitting too deep and leaving huge holes. Adjusting the nail depth on a nail gun can be done in just a few simple steps for most models.

  • If there is a lock that prevents adjustments, usually on the side of the handle, push it in.
  • Once the lock is pressed, adjust the depth. This is a slider or dial that tells the nail how deep to go.
  • Test the depth setting using a scrap piece of wood and keep making adjustments until you get the result you want.

Protect the wood surface

If you want to avoid nail gun dents, this is the golden tip I talked about earlier. It’s so simple yet effective you’ll be amazed.

What you need to do to protect the surface from nail gun marks is to cover the surface. The answer to this is simply a piece of plastic.

To do this, take a plastic lid, cut a piece from a plastic milk bottle, or use an old gift card. As long as it’s a sturdy but pliable piece of plastic that can easily be pierced by the nail and absorb the recoil from the tip.

You simply proceed as follows: Place the piece of plastic where you want to shoot a nail. Place the nail gun tip on it and pull the trigger.

Why does my nail gun leave marks - Using an old gift card
Why does my nail gun leave marks – Using an old gift card

The nail will go through the plastic, but due to the hardness of the plastic, the force generated by the tip will be spread over the surface. Due to this expansion of the forces, the tip will not press itself into the wood and the damage remains minimal or even no damage at all.

Do test this method beforehand. You may need to adjust the depth control due to the piece of plastic used. Keep making adjustments until the nail is flush with the surface.

Nail gun marks can also appear when your nail gun shoot two nails at the same time. I wrote an entire article about this problem you should read as well. Go to Why Does My Nail Gun Shoot Two Nails & How to Fix It, so you can keep your nail gun working as it should.

The Ultimate workshop free e book

Building your workshop can be daunting, filled with trial and error. Believe me, I’ve been there too.
But it was “The Ultimate Small Workshop” course, a gem I discovered and now endorse on Christofix.com, that provided insights unparalleled to any other. This expertise empowered me to invest wisely and save substantially.

I really suggest it to all of my fellow DIYers and creators!

I hope this information answered your question, why does my nail gun leave marks, and that this blog inspires you.

Please check my YouTube channel and get inspiration from my videos.

Feel free to share this blog on Facebook, Pinterest, or other social media.
You can do this by using the buttons below or at the top of the blog.
It will be much appreciated.

I’m looking forward to seeing you soon in another blog or video.

Christophe, founder of Christofix.com
Woodworking | DIY | Home decoration

Logo on bottom of blogpost