How to use and care for your Air Compressor and Nail Guns

1.  This is my compressor.  It’s a little Porter Cable pancake compressor.  It packs 135 PSI (pounds per square inch) of pressure.  Every pneumatic tool has it’s own operating pressure requirements.  You must refer to that tool or operating manual when setting the operating pressure on the air compressor before using said tool with said air compressor.  :-)

Pros: It is light enough for me to pick up and carry around the job site (my home).  It’s got enough pressure and capacity to power all my nail guns.

Cons:  The small capacity tank requires the motor has to kick on frequently to maintain enough pressure to power my nail guns.  It doesn’t cut it for powering a paint sprayer.  The motor has to run constantly and even then, there is just not enough air pressure to work with that tool.  (At least that is my experience.)

Porter-Cable compresson

*Important step that is often overlooked or unknown:  The tank must be drained of condensation so it doesn’t rust out your tank or get forced into through the hose and into the nail gun.

My 16 gauge Porter Cable Finish Nailer is my go to gun.  I use it when I build anything from picture frames and cabinets and when I install moulding and wainscoting.  It requires a range of 70 to 120 PSI.

16 ga finish nailer


I have an 18 gauge Craftsman finish nailer/stapler gun that I can only use as a stapler because it jams EVERY time I try to use it as a nailer.

It would be handy if the NAIL gun aspect worked for tight to reach spots but I’ve been surviving without it.

*I use it all the time to staple on the backs of my cabinets.

18ga brad nailer


My DeWalt Framing Nailer packs a punch!  It has a strong recoil so I use two hands as often as possible with this bad boy.

DeWalt framing nailer

This nailer has dual fire options.  I can switch out the trigger to a bump fire trigger which would allow me to hold in the trigger and fire a nail every time I bump the nose guard.  I think that’s an accident waiting to happen so I have never switched to the Bump Fire Trigger!

***It’s important to know that not all guns have the same safety features so make sure you read your owners manual to understand how to safely use the gun that you have!***


  1. I just bought the same air compressor you have because your tutorial was so educational! I’ve also purchased a nail gun, but my problem is when I connect the hose to the air compressor and nail gun a lot of air leaks out of the quick connect pieces? Especially out of the air compressor. Do you have this problem or know a fix for it? I borrowed one once and there was no air leakage out of either piece of equipment so wondering what I can do.

  2. You did so great! I have the same porter cable compressor and nail gun and I love them! I also have another stapler/nail gun combo but I cannot tell you off-hand if it jams at all. I did NOT know about the oiling or the draining but apparently hubby does and just failed to tell me! I love love love using a nail gun and find it to be my favorite tool! Thanks for being so informative!

  3. This is soooooo good!!! I use all these things at my Dad’s when we build sets, but I’m under his direction so while I am comfortable with them and know how to use them and hook them up, that’s all I’ve known!! Boy, am I gonna sound smart now!!! hehe!!!! Thank you so much for all the great information!!!

  4. Great video! I learned a lot and can tell you that I’ve never seen Mr. Woodsy oil his nail guns OR drain the compressor tank at the end of the day! I’m going to ask him this when I see him later today and he is probably going to tell me that he always does it (but I’ve never seen him do it)!

  5. I have the same compressor and mostly the same guns (I have 4 of them). I LOVE my air compressor. Works great to fill up tires and spray dust out of the garage too. ;)

    I didn’t know about most of the stuff you said in your video though (shame, I know). I do let the air out after each use, but I didn’t know to actually tip it and drain it. Last time I used it, rust water spilled out, so I know I’m in trouble now. Ugh.

    Also, I didn’t have any idea about the two gauges on top and what they are used for. Well, I did know it told how much compression but I figured it was just inside the tank, not for the gun too. I’ve never once changed my compression (Oops. I’m going to now though!).

    Also, I have owned my stuff for more than 2 years and I have never oiled my guns. Yikes. I’m so glad I watched your video b/c I really did learn a lot about maintenance of the compressor and guns.

    Thanks for creating and posting it. I know it takes a long time to make videos, edit them, and blog about them, and I appreciate you doing it.

    • Thanks for your comment Allison.
      Every week (well, both weeks so far) after I finish up and then worry about whether or not I included enough information or too much or did it make sense…and then get irritated about the amount of time I spent making and worrying about the video, I decide I’m not going to do any more. It takes so much time and it stresses me out.

      But then I get a comment like yours that makes me glad I took the time to do it and gives me enough encouragement to do- maybe just one more!

  6. Thank you so much! Lots of good information since I’m hoping for one for Christmas.

  7. Great editing job…you added excellent info.

  8. Great video! We just got our first nailer and compressor, so this is perfect timing. One thing we found when we used the nailer was the nails (brads) didn’t all countersink into the molding. Some did, some didn’t, and I had to come along later with a nail set. Any idea what could fix this?

    • I hate that. Did you increase your pressure or you drive depth knob/wheel? Sometimes if you’re nailer isn’t snug against the moulding, the fastener doesn’t sink and there’s nothing you can do about that if it’s not a flat moulding. Sometimes you just have to go back with a nail set. That job always puts me in a bad mood!

      Helpful, no? LOL

    • Seconded on the part about snugging the tip up to the moulding. It’s a rookie mistake I’ve made myself once.

      Just a note on terminology. A countersink [tool] when referred to as a tool is like the head of an oversized drill bit for making conic-shaped holes for countersinking screws. Just an FYI to not confuse the tool store guy.

      For nails, it’s called a Nail Set. It’s basically a spike without cutting flutes you’d find on a countersink bit. For brad nails, it’s annoying to use a pointy [round] set since it always slips off the nail. Here’s a rectangular one if you’re in the market

      • I’d be in serious trouble if I didn’t know the difference between a countersink bit and a nail set but thanks for clearing that up. :-) (I had to go back and edit my previous comment since you brought that brain fart to my attention. Thanks so much.) :-)

  9. That’s a LOUD compressor! I’ve got an old Grizzly that I need to replace soon but we could easily have a conversation with it running. If you’re ever in the market for a new compressor, this is the quietest one on the market & it’s comparable in size to a pancake

    Also, I’ve never found a stapler that also worked well as a nailer which explains my own collection of them.

    • After I started having problems (Which was almost immediately), I searched the www for reviews and forums and that is pretty much the consensus on combo nailers. I won’t buy a combo nailer again but I might get another little pin nailer some day. Maybe.

      p.s. Would you please get some more inventory in your “Tool School” library because then I could just send people over to you for this stuff and I could focus on my 1000000 projects. :-) (I totally snagged that name from you…if you didn’t notice.)

    • I’ll keep your request in mind but I have the same dilemna of projects piling up. Seems I always think of new ones long before I finish what I’m working on.

      Snag away. Didn’t even notice. Thanks for the credit. =)

  10. Did you remove this video? I tried to watch it, and it said you had removed it. boo
    I even grabbed my breakfast so I could multi-task

  11. i cant watch cuz I’m at work, but do you buy nail guns/etc at Harbor Freight? I love that place. I’m trying to find a paint gun right now that I can hook up to my compressor…i may have to use an automobile paint gun sigh

    • Katy,

      I advise caution when buying power tools from Harbor Freight. They’re great for some things but I would personally not purchase a no name brand nail gun. Aside from possible jams and overall reliability concerns, I wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of a jam clear gone wrong.

      Harbor Freight is great for “disposable” tools (i.e. single project uses) whose overall performance is not critical and longevity is irrelevant.

      Just one tool guy’s opinion. Good luck.

      • Fong I am an engineer but not nearly paranoid enough it seems. :)
        I have an 18 gauge combination nail gun/stapler that I bought at HF for less than $30, and it is awesome. No problems so far. The contractor that lives down the street from me said he had the same one for years, so it was worth it.

        I have not had good luck with cheap paint guns, however…

    • I haven’t ever purchased a nail gun from HF but I have an awesome grinder/sander that I bought there.

      p.s. I ALWAYS disconnect the air hose before clearing a jam! :-)

    • Apologies if I came off sounding harsh. Sometimes the paranoid engineer in me can’t keep his mouth shut.

      I started buying no name brand tools from everywhere like swap meets, thrift shops, local hardware stores (before the big chains) and later online retailers like eBay and Harbor Freight. In fact, I still do from time to time. They all serve a purpose for someone at some time and I certainly didn’t mean to imply any are inherently dangerous.

      Always disconnecting the air line is a good safety tip but I’ve had electrical nailers fire on me during a jam clear without power so it’s not always fail safe. Then again, that’s what safety glasses are for. =)

    • Katy–I bought a paint gun at Woodcraft that hooks up to our large compressor (13 gallon, maybe–I’m guessing, I know it is two digits!). It was only $35 so I was skeptical, but it worked great on a project I just completed last week. I can’t speak for the spray gun’s longevity because I haven’t had it that long. It’s a Woodriver Pro Spray Gun. I used it on this:
      and here’s the link to the product:

  12. I saved it to watch this morning and it’s gone :(

  13. Love it! I have nail gun envy :) Never used a power tool (well besides a drill) in my life but totally want to build furniture and install molding. Someday!!

  14. Great job lady! I have the same compressor and brad nailer. The only thing you didn’t show off was the safety feature on the nose of the nailer. Or maybe I missed it…I am up far too late tonight.