This piece of equipment is the best thing since Johnny Cash. (Dear Lord, can’t we make a trade for say…Justin Bieber?) Anyway, if you aren’t a custom picture framer, you probably don’t even know what a vee nailer is, but “picture” this: an upright, pneumatic unit, with 1″ tall, right angle fencing machined to its table top surface, a front rabbet clamp, a top clamp and a high pressure nailer; all in one. And what, you ask, does it do? Flawlessly joins picture frames, without a nail hole in sight. Yeah baby; that’s the Pistorius V nailer.
Also known as an underpinner, the V nailer takes the bitch job of joining a picture frame using right angle vice, glue and nails; and turns it into a cake walk. Slide two sides of the moulding into the fencing, and with the foot operated pedal – the pronged, front clamp (adjustable to accommodate a moulding up to 4″ wide) skims just under the rabbet, biting into the meat of the wood and forcing the miters together. A hand operated depressor brings the top clamp down (120 PSI for each clamp). And… those two pieces of moulding aren’t moving!
With two sides of the frame locked in place, get this…a finger operated firing trigger shoots right angle nails into the underside of the frame (hence the term “v” nails). No more nail holes that mar the look of the moulding and require filling. The nailing unit and top clamp are mounted on friction free, linear bearings allowing for quick and easy, slide positioning for accurate nail placement. The stops are set with a hassle-free turn of a handle – no tools necessary. This feature comes in very handy when you’re joining several mouldings of multiple widths. Plus, the magazine holds 250 nails in a spring operated track, so you can join a ton of frames without having to reload nails.
The V nailer allows for a tight, perfectly joined miter EVERY TIME. Even the hardest wood won’t buck or shift. Although I have to say, what will bite you in the ass, is a hidden knot. I hit one recently, and the force of the nail blew the knot right through the unfinished part of the wood and into the carved, gesso finish…which caused a huge section of it to break off…which cost me a good chunk of change…which pissed me off to no end…where was I?
Oh yeah. V nails are available in ¼, 3/8, ½ and 5/8 inch, so even for mouldings that have quite a bit of depth (the model I use accommodates up to 3″), there’s a nail that digs deep enough to keep the top of the miter together. This machine even allows for stacked nails: hit the trigger twice in the same spot, and a second nail forces the one before it deeper into the wood. One sits right on top of the other, making for a VERY tight join. Since I’m way too cheap to buy multiple sizes, you can believe I use this trick a lot. NOTE: stacking nails is only effective on soft woods – if you try it on something like mahogany or oak, the second nail will cause the first one to refract, and blow through the side of the moulding and…(see preceding rant).
If the need to join a deep moulding, requiring an additional nail at the top of the miter arises; the V nailer is already acting as both a vice and clamp. Once you’ve nailed through the underside of the frame, you just have to keep the foot pedal depressed (which keeps the pronged, rabbet clamp in place) and your hands are freed to tap a small gauge brad into the top of the miter. All you’re left with is one, tiny hole, which is so much nicer, (and more “civil”), than savaging each corner with nails.
I should also mention; nails and underpinners have to be compatible. Pistorius isn’t the only company that manufactures V nailers and nails, but one of the reasons I like them is because their product is readily available. Several of my picture frame suppliers offer Pistorius v nails; I don’t see the other brands out there too much. I imagine all vee nailers function similarly, but I like my life easy. And any manufacturer that makes it even easier? Will be rewarded with the loyalty of a geriatric, rescue dog.