This story starts in 1950 when the first pneumatic nailers were introduced and fast-forwards to today with many tool manufacturers are designing and offering battery-only, cordless finish nailers. Today throughout our industry, carpenters are using a combination of pneumatic, gas powered, and battery powered brad and finish nailers on a regular basis.
Milwaukee just released a new line M18 FUEL™ Finish Nailers that are touted to have the power to consistently seat nails sub-flush into hardwood surfaces with no ramp-up time and no gas cartridges. Unfortunately these nailers were not ready when we hosted out Cordless Nailer Head-2-Head Testing.
The Milwaukee design team built this tool line on the same successful innovative platform as their other cordless tools:
- POWERSTATE™ brushless motor
- REDLITHIUM™ battery pack
- REDLINK PLUS™ intelligence
No Gas Means Low Maintenance
Most carpenters, myself included, hate that our gas nailers have to be cleaned and serviced. Many don’t have the time or make the effort to learn how to do it themselves. As a result there are many a gas nailer sitting on a workbench across the nation, waiting for “time” to magically appear for nailer maintenance. Tool downtime kills efficiency and productivity on projects.
The beautiful thing about cordless nailers is that they run off batteries only no cleaning required, which means low maintenance and a promise of durability and reliability.
The new Milwaukee has an 18-volt brushless motor and is marketed as able to drive up to 1200 nails per charge on a 2.0ah battery
The new Milwaukee tool features “Ready to Fire Technology” which completely eliminates ramp-up time. A faster ramp up rate, means installing fasteners without having to wait for the tool to “catch up,” to the user, something that many battery-only cordless nailers were lacking for sometime.
Milwaukee FUEL 18 Gauge Brad Nailer 2740-21CT Review
Everyone wants to know one thing…. Will it really fire 1200 brads? We wanted to know that answer too, but we had more questions. Questions like:
- Is the tool balanced?
- Is it slow to ramp up?
- Will it consistently sink fasteners?
- Will it jamb?
- Would I use it on a high-end finish job?
- Is it durable?
- Does it operate like a brad nailer should?
- Will it make productive, efficient and ultimately make me money
Concord Carpenter Tool Test
We took the Milwaukee FUEL 18 Gauge Brad Nailer 2740-21CT into our shop for some preliminary testing and to verify if Milwaukee’s claim of 1200 nails on one 2.0 Ah battery pack was accurate.
It’s worth noting, that Milwaukee runs these nailers though dozens of life testing and hundreds of thousands of brads, in all types of materials, before they release it to the market. They wanted to make sure that the nailer is capable of reliably installing 100,000 nails before maintenance may be needed.
They also engaged in a ton of field research on how these tools are used on a job-site and developed real-life usage cycles to test the tools to reach a level of tool performance that pro contractors would expect in a cordless nailer.
One test Milwaukee uses is to fire one fastener every 4-seconds. They arrived at this test since it mimics how a contractor might use a brad nailer.
Concord Carpenter Run-time Testing Criteria
For our runtime test we decided on a slightly different approach. We chose to use 2-inch brads with the brad nailer set on single sequential operation. We prefer using our finish nailers in this setting for safety and it is most realistic setting when you’re trying to install fasteners accurately.
We constructed a fastening board consisting of ¾” Poplar, ½” blue board and a 2×6 Spruce framing member all fastened together. Choosing this material, since it best represented fastening trim material onto a residential wall.
Using an iPad with an exercise circuit trainer timer, we proceeded to install 10 brads in10-seconds, resting the tool for 10 seconds for 5 sets, and then letting the tool rest for 2 minutes before repeating. [see below]
Testing Rate of Fire
- Install 10 brads in 10-seconds
- Rest tools 10-seconds
- Repeat 5x [50 brads]
- Rest 2-minute [after every 50 brads]
- Repeat until battery drained and unable to fire
- If tool experienced thermal overloaded protection, we allowed a 2 minute rest, and then continued
Our fastening rate was based off of trying to balance time and effort, while placing the tool under an aggressive and stressful fastening condition. We wanted to avoid bump firing the nailer for safety, accuracy and it would be too easy to abuse the tool forcing a thermal shutdown.
Unless you’re a trim carpenter getting “paid by the lineal foot,” you don’t need to use bump firing on finish nailers. Punishing this nailer with a continuous bumping nailing rate would be been realistic and unprofessional.
In fact, if you stop to think about how you use a brad nailer it might look something like this:
- Install 5 to 10 brads in one time
- Walk to your miter saw to make a cut or cope molding, or wait for a cut man to do this for you
- 1-2 minutes later to install more brads
Its important to note that there is no way that you would use your brad nailer as aggressively as we tested it.
The goal was NOT to put the tool into thermal overload and to be semi- realistic in our fastening, but as I mentioned earlier, this was an aggressive test and we DID put the tool into thermal protection mode, several times. In these situations we placed the tool down, powered on, battery in, for 2-3 minutes and then resumed testing.
Milwaukee’s REDLINK™ Intelligence software communicates between the tool and the battery to improve both motor and battery performance, increasing efficiency, productivity, run-time and safety. The system detects overheating and shuts the tool down to protect against excessive heat until safe to use again.
Its important to note that this feature protects your investment and lets you know your pushing the tool too hard.
We installed 1198 brads and experienced 16 thermal shutdowns. One impressive result was that not one jamb was encountered during this testing or later during our finish carpentry work on subsequent job site usage.
From the first fastener installed to the last, all of the fasteners were installed consistently at the same depth setting. The only exceptions were when an operators lifted the nailer off the surface while fastening. [operator error]
The Milwaukee FUEL 18 Gauge Brad Nailer 2740-21CT installs 18 gauge fasteners from 5/8” to 2-1/8” brads, the magazine is capable of holding 110 brads.
Loading the nails is straight forward and the nailer will stop firing [dry fire lock-out] there are 4 to 5 brads left. Fastener dry fire lock-out is indicated when the brad nailers work piece contact will not compress. Clearing jams is simple though unlatching the “lamb latch,” clip but as mentioned earlier, we fired approximately 1800 brads while testing this unit and never encountered a fastener jamb.
Depth of Drive and Fastener Penetration
The depth of drive is easily adjust and straightforward to use by turning a thumb knob at the tools nose contact.
We installed approximately 1800 brads in this shop testing, including fastening ¾” Oak into blue board and 2×4 framing material, without a jam or any issues. The only time a fastener was not installed to the correct depth was when one of use failed to hold the nailer securely in contact with the nailing surface, [i.e, operator error].
The power switch is located on the lower rear area of the tools handle. This power button needs to be pressed for approximately 2-3 seconds to power on the tool. A safety feature that I appreciate.
An LED power indicator lights up and stay on the entire time the tool is connected to the battery, and in the “powered on mode.”
Power Actuation Setting
This brad nailer will operate in single sequential actuation, as well as contact [bump fire] actuation. Once powered on, there is a selector switch and LED light just above the slide pack battery, and stays on the entire time the tool is on. The indicator light tells you which mode the tool is set on:
- Continuous solid green for single sequential actuation,
- Continuous flashing green for contact actuation operation.
Milwaukee claims this nailer will fire 3 nails per second. I did not try to test this, as speed is far less important to me, than fastener placement [i.e, line of sight], accuracy and doing a good job!
Weight and Balance
The Milwaukee FUEL 18 Gauge Brad Nailer 2740-21CT measures 11.4” long and weighs 7.0 pounds. size wise its not that much larger than my Bositch SmartPoint brad nailer. Its very well balanced, but heavier than a pneumatic brad nailer.
Cutting that compressor hose offers greater flexibility and mobility but does come with a cost of added weight of a battery, motor and components. A cots or better yet, a convenience that many will want!!!
Line of Sight
The tools line of sight is excellent and you can expect the fasteners to be embedded dead center and 1/4” above the contact tip. Like any nailer, once you learn this, your fastener placement will be dead-on with placing straight on shots.
Room For Improvement?
This Milwaukee FUEL 18 Gauge Brad Nailer 2740-21CT is an innovative piece of art. Its clear that product development team and engineers wanted to get it right, as opposed to rushing into the cordless nailer race too soon.
Overall I’m extremely impressed with this tool and wish it were available for our Head-2-Head test last fall.
The only area that is worth noting that could be improved is when installing angle driven fasteners. I know, what your thinking, “who drives brad nails at an angle?” Well if you’ve ever installed crown molding and are trying to tuck your nails into a detail or crevice, you’ll know what I’m referring to.
When toe nailing or installing 2” brads at a 45-degree angle [at all four holding / tilt positions], I was unable to get consistent depth results.
Milwaukee FUEL 18 Gauge Brad Nailer 2740-21CT Specs
- Nail Sizes: 5/8” – 2-1/8”
- Magazine Capacity: 110 nails
- 1200 nails per charge on a REDLITHIUM 2.0 Compact Battery
- Sequential and Contact Actuation Modes
- Dry-Fire Lockout
- Adjustable Belt Hook
- LED Work Light
While testing we arrived at all of our questions in the beginning of this article and more. The Milwaukee FUEL 18 Gauge Brad Nailer 2740-21CT is a durable, well-balanced nailer that consistently and reliably installs fasteners like a pneumatic nailer would.
We could not get the brad nailer to lag, or jam in our extensive shop and jobsite testing and usage. You can expect to put in a full days work on one 2.0 amp hour battery pack, be productive, install accurately placed fasteners and finish with a job well done!
This nailer, like the rest of the Fuel line, will it make your more productive, efficient and ultimately money by staying in service longer than the competition and allow you to cut the hose!
The Milwaukee FUEL 18 Gauge Brushless Brad Nailer 2740-21CT sells for $379 for the kit, and $329 for the bare tool.
The Milwaukee FUEL 18 Gauge Brad Nailer 2740-21CT is “100% BRAD ASS,” so pull the trigger and get yourself one!”
* I see a t-shirt logo somewhere here.