Review By Dean Bielanowski  Porter Cable Website - http://www.porter-cable.com


Porter Cable NS150A
Narrow Crown Stapler
 Review

By Dean Bielanowski

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...

Stapler Types
In general, there are four common pneumatic stapler sizes and types. These are:

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 action. Of 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.

Test Results
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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Porter Cable NS150A Stapler Photos
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The Porter Cable NS150A kit


The printed manuals tell you all you need to know and a box of 1,000 staples will get you started.


The NS150A comes pre-fitted with a quick-connect air line fitting.


Sequential and bump fire modes can be selected via the small selector dial on the trigger.


Tool-less, adjustable air exhaust.


Locking the feed mechanism releases the magazine cover, allowing you to insert staples into the magazine.


The feed mechanism will push staples up into the driver blade path.


Just forward of the trigger (shown upside down here) is the depth adjustment wheel.


Rubber no-mar tip helps
protect your work. Safety release located below driver blade area for added convenience.


Quick release latch for fast staple jam removal.


Stapling a cabinet back
using the NS150A.


Replacing trim around a window.

 


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