If you have an air compressor, inexpensive brad nailers and 18-gauge staplers are readily available; in many cases one tool can use brads or staples. But these require you to have a compressor and tie you to an air line. I’ve switched over to cordless tools for their convenience. These tools area as powerful as their air-powered counterparts, but the cordless tools won’t fire brads as fast, weigh more, and cost more.
My current favorites are the brad nailer and 18-gauge stapler from Porter Cable. These 20-volt cordless tools are powerful and use the same batteries my other Porter Cable 20-volt tools use. With these tools I was able to drive straight through a 1″ (25mm)-thick stack of Baltic birch plywood, and the crown of the staple was just below the surface of the top blank. I appreciate the power of these tools and the fact that the batteries interchange with the wide variety of Porter Cable 20-volt tools. But in most cases, whichever tool you choose will do for scroll saw projects.
I use both tools quite a bit. The advantage of the brad nailer is that you can fit brads into the smallest spaces. Even the tip of the brad nailer fits places that the stapler may not. You can use the brad nailer to secure almost any project.
If your budget limits you to one cordless tool, I find the 18-gauge stapler more versatile. Here’s why:
Securing a stack: Instead of using a brad nailer, which has a small head that’s easy to slip out of a blank, use a stapler. The two shafts (or legs) with the crown connecting them at the top won’t pull out, and the two legs with one shot keeps the stack from rotating as you add the rest of the staples.
Assembling a project: Use a staple when assembling whenever possible. The two legs and crown secure the pieces better. In most cases, if you can use a brad you can use a staple, but you need to be aware of the trajectory of both legs. While the hole left by a brad is almost invisible, the slit for the crown of the staple is not much much more visible. For painted projects, it’s easy to add a bit of filler. For hardwood projects, you can often disguise the slit using the wood grain and a bit of colored putty.
Attaching other materials: If you want a felt backing for a project a brad will pull right through. But the crown of the staple will hold the felt, cloth, screen or other soft material. While hardware staplers are available, it can be difficult to drive staples into hard woods. The cordless stapler works with even the hardest woods.
Securing miter joints: With the expansion and contraction of wood over time, miter joints will fail. For large frames, a strong mechanical support method (such as a Kreg Jig) works best. For smaller projects, you can often support the joint with a fews staples strategically positioned so the crown runs across the miter joint. Be sure to size the staples so they don’t protrude through the front.