What Can You Use if You Don’t Have a Nail Gun?

Whether you are working on a one-time DIY project or plan to carry out a slew of projects, you will likely need to secure pieces in place. For small, one-time projects in which you are trying to save money or in times where you just do not have access to a nail gun, you have to come up with another way to secure your work. 

You can still complete projects without a nail gun. A classic hammer and nails will get the job done if you do not have a nail gun. While nail guns may make the work go faster, you also lose some control over where the nails go. In some situations, you may even be able to use glue instead of nails.

It simply is not always practical to have a nail gun; you may not have a need for a nail gun more than once, or you do not have room for one in your budget. Some people do not even like using nail guns. Regardless of why you do not have a nail gun, you can still finish your projects in a safe and correct way. 

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Hammer and Nails

Typically, nail guns are used to secure pieces of wood. This could be baseboards, crown molding, frames, or many other things. For most wood projects, you will need nails to hold everything in place. 

When you use a hammer and nails, you can accomplish the same things that you would be able to with a nail gun. Many people prefer using a hammer and nails to using a nail gun because you have more control with a hammer. 

Benefits of Using a Hammer and Nails

Control is one of the biggest benefits for using a hammer and nails. Many projects require precision and close attention to detail, and a nail gun can sometimes block the close view that you need.

With a hammer and nails, you can have more control over the depth of the nail when you secure it. Tapping the hammer on the nail in increments allows you to make sure the depth is correct. 

This method also makes a tighter fit for nails a possibility. You can hammer a nail into a much more precise location than you could with a nail gun. Plus, hammers have many benefits, including:

  • Easy to use
  • No cords or batteries
  • Inexpensive

Downsides of Using a Hammer and Nails

Although a hammer has lots of benefits, it does also have some downfalls. Hammers require a moderate amount of physical labor as you are the driving force behind the hammer. It can be quite tiring to hammer through some materials for long periods of time. 

With a hammer and nails, you also have to make sure that you place the nails at the correct angle. You have to be careful to hit the nails with the hammer in a way that does not cause the nails to bend or angle incorrectly. 

Using a hammer instead of a nail gun also takes much longer. The process is much more tedious. 

Wood Glue

For lightweight projects or other situations, you may be able to forgo nails entirely. In some cases, nails might not even be an option, such as certain joins. Wood glues come in a variety of types and ingredients, so you can find the right glue for your purpose.

Some people prefer to use wood glue with another method of securing the project. Such people often will use screws and wood glue to make sure the pieces are secure. The wood glue gives extra stability to the screws.

Benefits of Using Wood Glue

With wood glue, you do not have to exert much physical labor. You might have to grip a couple of wood pieces together until the glue starts to set, but the overall process is easy and rarely tiring.

Wood glue also is good for making joins appear seamless. Pieces that are held together with wood glue do not have the unsightly look of nail heads, regardless of how small the marks are. 

Downsides of Using Wood Glue

Accuracy is limited when you use wood glue. Since it is a liquid, wood glue can move around a lot while you are trying to secure pieces together. It can be difficult to align everything when the glue makes the pieces slippery. 

In addition, you also have to wait for wood glue to set before your wood pieces can be assuredly secured. The glue is usually incredibly strong and durable once it has dried, but you have to be careful not to move anything while the glue is still wet. 


For some projects, you may be able to use staples instead of a nail gun. Typically, you need a staple gun to secure wood pieces together. Like nail guns, staple guns rely on an air compressor to give them the power to firmly insert the staples.

You may have a staple gun and air compressor already but are considering getting a nail gun as well. If you are doing a project that does not include any finishing pieces, you can probably just stick with your staple gun. Any needed nails can be done by hand with a hammer. 

Benefits of Using Staples

Staples are an extremely effective way to secure pieces together. Most furniture is held together by staples. When you use staples in a project, you are using a material that is not only strong but is also durable. Staples hold up much better than nails do.

If you are working on some type of furniture project that does not include any finishing pieces, staples are the way to go. You will have a much sturdier piece of furniture than if you were to use nails. 

Downsides of Using Staples

You cannot use staples if you are doing any sort of finishing. Staples take up more space and leave larger holes than nails do. They are also much harder to hide, which can make your project look worse than it could have. 

If money is what is holding you back from using a nail gun, you probably will not want to use staples either unless you already have a staple gun. You would likely be spending the same amount on a staple gun as you would on a nail gun. 

When is a Nail Gun Needed?

There are some situations where you just need to use a nail gun to complete a project. Tasks that require you to secure many nails in a short amount of time are better suited to using a nail gun. A hammer will simply be too physically taxing and time-consuming to complete the job. 

Nail guns are also more practical in situations where you cannot use both hands freely to secure nails into place. Nail guns often work well in these situations, such as for roofing jobs or other projects that involve being on a ladder. 

You should also consider using a nail gun when you are unable to carry nails with you. If you were using a hammer, you would have to carry individual nails, and this is not always practical. Nail guns hold a large number of nails, so you do not have to worry about running out of nails or keeping track of loose nails in your pockets.

Ultimately, it is not the end of the world if you do not have a nail gun. Hammers are more tiring and time-consuming, but they can achieve the same, if not better, results as a nail gun would. 

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