When it comes to installing trim, building furniture and cabinets, the
narrow crown stapler becomes a useful tool. There are many types and sizes
of pneumatic staplers on the market, but the 18 gauge narrow crown
variety are the ones best suited to woodworking tasks...
In general, there are four common pneumatic stapler sizes and types.
Upholstery stapler - Usually 22ga (3/8") and suitable for
securing upholstery due to its wide crown and short staple leg length.
Narrow Crown stapler - Uses 18ga (1/4") staples from around
5/8" up to 1 1/2" in length for installing trim, cabinet backs etc.
Medium Crown stapler - 16ga (1/2") construction stapler that
is commonly used for securing siding and sheathing etc. Staple leg lengths
up to 2".
Wide Crown stapler - 16ga (1" crown) used for
roofing with staple lengths up to 1 1/2".
Today we are looking at Porter Cable's NS150A Narrow Crown Stapler...
Packaging and Kit Contents
The Porter Cable (PC) NS150A stapler ships in a plastic molded carry
case. I recommend keeping all air tools in their cases for storage. It
helps reduce the risk of dust getting into the tool and causing damage
while not in use.
In the case you will find the stapler itself (of course), but also a small
container of air tool oil, necessary to keep your tool lubricated on the
inside, and a box of 1000 staples to get you going. The included staples
are all of the same length - 1 inch.
A printed manual as well as a parts diagram are also included.
The NS150A Stapler
The NS150A is an 18 gauge, 1/4" crown stapler. The body is constructed
of light weight die-cast aluminum and has a total weight of around 2 1/2
pounds, which is fairly standard for a stapler or air fastening tool of
this size. In use, the light weight of the tool should not pose a fatigue
problem, even with fairly moderate or continuous use. Like most air
fasteners there is a weight and balance bias toward the front of the tool
which tends to cause wrist flexion. The NS150A seems relatively well
balanced and this front bias is not overly excessive.
The crown size of staples that can be used with this tool is fixed, i.e.
you cannot use wider staples than it is designed for. However, there is
some flexibility in staple leg length. The NS150A will accommodate staples
from 1/2" to 1 1/2" in length. This allows staples to be used that are
most suited to the task. Shorter staples allow you to fasten thinner
materials without staple breakout, while longer staples provide maximum
fastener holding strength when using thicker materials. 18ga staples to
fit the NS150A should be widely available from specialist air tool
suppliers as many brands use similar spec fasteners. Porter Cable also
sell their own line of fasteners to suit their air tools, and these can be
found wherever PC air tools can be purchased.
One of the primary advantages staples have over say, brad nails, is that;
a) the staple provides 2 fastening points (i.e. 2 legs) as opposed to the
single brad nail, and b) the crown on the staple provides a wider
fastening point and is less likely for the material being fastened to
"pull through" the fastener. This can sometimes happen with brad nails and
specific materials, like thin MDF sheets. One advantage the brad nailer
has over the stapler is that brad nail holes are much less visible and can
be easily filled and hidden. A stapler leaves a larger mark that is
readily visible and a little more time consuming to fill (if you wished to
do so) - particularly with wide crown staples. So, the narrow crown
stapler is an ideal tool for fastening plywood and MDF backs to cabinet
and furniture carcasses to provide additional strength and rigidity, and
to avoid the problem of racking, especially when the back side of the item
will not be readily visible.
The NS150A will run on just about any size compressor with a tank.
If you have a small pancake-type compressor, this will be fine also, as
long as the compressor can hold air at the pressure range required by the
tool, which is between 70 PSI and 120 PSI. Most compressors can, but be
sure to check yours before you purchase this stapler. The Porter Cable
range is well designed and allows a working pressure up to 120 PSI. Most
cheaper OEM staplers will only have a safe working upper range of 100 PSI,
which means you may have to play around with your compressor's regulator
before you use the tool. I have a smaller 2HP, 6 gallon compressor which
cuts out at 120 PSI and kicks back in when the tank pressure drops to 80
PSI. This means I can use the NS150A without even considering touching the
regulator. This saves time. You should not run your tool above the maximum
rated pressure indicated on the tool or in the product manual. It could
have serious safety implications and will definitely reduce the life of
the tool. If you try to run the tool at too low of an air pressure,
chances are good that the tool will not have enough power to drive the
staple properly. Stick to the rules and you should have few problems!
Air is provided to the tool via the 1/4" air connector that comes
pre-fitted to the stapler. I know these connector types as "Charge Air"
style, but they may be called something different in your part of the
world (see photo). This fitting is the same style as found on just about all Porter
Cable air tools, and it fits my current compressor fittings
straight out of the box. You can of course change it to a fitting style
that suits your setup. You will need a 1/4" male threaded connector. At
the top end of the tool at the back is an adjustable air exhaust port,
rotate-able through 360 degrees. Because some air is exhausted at the rear
of the tool when you fire a staple, be sure to direct this air away from
the user, or anyone else close by. You can rotate the exhaust port without
any tools and it moves fairly freely, with no detent stops - none really
needed for a smaller air tool such as this. Also note that you will need
to oil this tool before every use to keep the inner components well
lubricated. This involves placing 5 or 6 drops of approved "air tool oil"
directly into the air connector at the bottom of the handle before you
attach your air line. The force of the compressed air will disperse the
oil throughout the tool, and you might find some residue around the air
exhaust port after a bit of use. This is normal. A small bottle of oil is
provided in the kit.
The trigger is where the action begins. It is similar to the trigger on
the FR350A Framing Nailer we have reviewed elsewhere on this site. It
allows both single (sequential) and bump fire modes. With single fire, you
press the safety release at the front of the tool down and pull the
trigger once to fire a nail. In bump fire mode, you hold down the
trigger, and every time you "bump" the safety release onto the material
being fastened, a staple is fired. Single fire mode is the safer mode of
the two, but bump fire is faster, albeit a touch less accurate in fastener
placement. Bump fire mode is usually most commonly used in production
shops. Because I'm not in the production business, I prefer the safety of
single fire mode. Switching between modes is achieved by rotating a small
selector dial on the trigger itself. It is a very quick, easy and
convenient way of changing modes, and is well designed. On some air tools,
you have to replace the whole trigger assembly to switch modes - certainly
an added benefit of the PC model.
On to the magazine... This is where you load up your staples ready for work.
It can hold up to 100 staples at a time, and because it is not a "closed"
magazine, you can easily see how many staples remain in the magazine at
any time. A spring loaded staple feeder mechanism sits behind the last
staple in the magazine and "feeds" them up into the 'driving' area under
spring tension. This is the same feeding mechanism design (theory) found on most nailers and staplers. To load in some staples you slide the feeder
mechanism all the way to the bottom of the magazine where it locks into a
retaining pin (to stop it flying back up under spring tension). As it latches over the
retaining pin, the plastic magazine cover flips open at the back allowing you access
to the magazine guide rail onto which the staples slide onto and fit over.
You can then load in up to 100 staples over the guide rail. Once the
staples are in, you can push in the retainer pin to release the feeding
mechanism which then slides up to the last stapler in the stack and pushes
them up to the driver area as each staple is fired.
Just forward of the trigger on the underside of the main body is the depth
adjustment feature. Depending on the type and density of material you are
stapling into, you might need to adjust drive depth setting to ensure a
suitable driving depth. If the staple is not being driven far enough into
the material, simply rotate the small wheel a notch or two to the right.
If it is driving too deep, turn it a notch or two to the left. Testing
driving depth on some scrap pieces of the same material will ensure a good
result with your first effort.
The driving area of the tool at the front/top is enclosed. As you fire the
tool, a driver 'blade' shoots out from the body of the tool very rapidly,
contacts the head of the staple at the top of the magazine and
drives it into your material. It then retracts ready for the next firing
course, you cannot see this because it happens so fast. Occasionally, for
whatever reason, you might encounter a jam. This is when the staple fails
to shoot straight out, or the contact from the driver blade does not force
the staple straight out. This is not usually a safety hazard as the whole
driving area is fully enclosed, and if the staple is going to go anywhere,
it would have to come out in the front direction anyway.
If you do suffer a jam with the NS150A, and with the couple hundred
staples we have fired so far, we haven't had a jam as yet, to clear a
jammed staple is a simple, tool-less affair with this model. Simply
release the latch holding the top 'cover' of the drive area on and open up
the top cover up (see photo). Of course, you would have disconnected the air supply to
ensure no accidental firing occurs with the cover open first! With the
cover open, you have direct access to the driving channel and staple feed
line. You would remove the staple with your hands, pliers or whatever tool
will get it out, close and lock the top cover, and be ready to go again.
On cheaper models, you might have to pull out some hex wrenches, remove a
few retaining screws and do a bit of disassembly (and re-assembly) to
remove the jammed fastener and be ready to go again. A big difference
between a quality tool and a 'cheap' tool is how often a jam occurs.
It is almost a rare occurrence on a quality tool that is well maintained.
Saying this however, I also have a few 'cheap' air nailers that have a
very low rate of jamming, so don't take the statement as gospel, but
simply as a general statement from experience. The better tools
*generally* give fewer problems.
And finally, on the tip of the safety release (or the nose of the tool) is
a rubber no-mar tip. It simply helps avoid scratching and marking your
material as you press the safety release (spring loaded) into your
workpiece. It can be removed if you choose of course. And perhaps the last
feature of note that is very useful indeed is that the safety release is
located below the driving nose (see photo right column). This is very
useful for stapling in tight corners as it does not offset the line of the
driver blade as the case would be if the safety release was sitting just
above the driver line.
We tested the NS150A over a period of several weeks under a number of
different tasks and applications including cabinet case backing fastening
and trim fastening. As mentioned above, we are yet to have a jam and the
tool performed flawlessly. The tool is comfortable to use thanks to the
overmold grips and trigger within easy reach, and recoil of the tool is
very minimal. Adjustment of depth setting gave predictable results with
only two or three test staples needing to be fired to find the correct
depth setting for each particular material. We tested driving into
hardwoods, softwoods, chipboard and MDF, all with no problem. The NS150A
has enough grunt to push a 1 1/2" staple through a dense hardwood like
Jarrah without a problem - keep the air pressure up though with the more
dense woods when using longer length staples. The tool-less approach to
setting up and maintaining the NS150A make it an attractive option for
contractors, renovators or builders working to deadlines. Every woodworker
should of course have a stapler for fixing those cabinet backs to your
latest project for added strength and rigidity. A brad nailer will
probably do the trick in most cases, but the stapler has that little bit
extra holding power for longevity sake, and besides... isn't it a good excuse to add
another tool to your collection!!?
The Porter Cable NS150A has a list price of US$145.00, but can be
purchased a fair bit cheaper than that now, around the US$100-$115 range
(May '05). A nice tool at a reasonable price that will last the distance
if properly maintained.
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