Staple and nail guns make construction, repair, and upholstery projects go much faster. That’s why it is so frustrating when these tools malfunction or fail. Jams are a normal part of using one of these tools. Let’s examine some common staple gun problems and how to fix them.
Unplug or Disconnect It and Unload It
If you’re working with an electric or pneumatically powered staple or nail gun that jams or malfunctions, unplug it and/or disconnect it from hoses and compressed air tanks, which should be secured and stowed. Remove unused staples or nail strips so they aren’t staged for the next trigger pull. It would be unfortunate if your nail gun came back to life just in time to impale your leg. You should already be wearing eye protection, but if not, be sure to put on protective goggles before you attempt a fix for a jammed staple or nail gun.
Sum of Its Parts
“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts” isn’t necessarily true of staple guns. When any important part is broken or worn out, the tool simply won’t work. Before you start using a staple gun, check to ensure the spring, hammer, and rail are correctly assembled and undamaged. Make sure you are using staples of the correct size and type for the tool. Small variances can gum up the works and cause staples to jam or defeat the spring or hammer mechanisms. The staple will get the worst of these problems, but the tool will be useless until you resolve them. The spring can wear out and lose its strength over time, so if you notice a weak rebound after stretching it out and releasing it, you may have to replace the spring.
Debris, Grime, and Fuzz
The hammer on a staple nail gun requires occasional lubrication. Use only the manufacturer’s recommended product. Lubrication will help the tool run more smoothly, but oil and grease can attract dust, fuzz, and dirt. If staples are ejected two at a time or crooked, there could be something blocking the hammer mechanism. Remove debris, dirt, or fuzz from the hammer’s path. With the tool disconnected from any power source, a flathead screwdriver often works to push unauthorized particles out of the tool and away from the hammer. Clean the hammer according to manufacturer’s instructions. Some recommend using a little white vinegar for this purpose.
Tips for Fixing Jams in Different Types of Staple Guns
Staple guns come in manual, electric, and pneumatic versions. The most common problem with all of them is jamming. There are different techniques for unjamming these disparate tools, although the theory is similar for all of them.
Fixing Jams in Manual Staplers
Disconnecting power isn’t an issue with a manual staple gun, but you should still use caution about which direction you are pointing the tool and how you are handling the trigger until you have all the staples out.
First, slide out the pusher rod. There will usually be a little tab at the end of the stapler that you must push down a little to clear the latching notch. Some manual staple guns have knobs. The pusher rod should slide right out.
Next, remove the magazine. Find the screws on the bottom of the stapler and remove them to free the magazine that holds the staple strip. Some of these have locking nuts that you’ll have to hold with pliers so you can unscrew and remove the screws. When you have the screws out, put them somewhere safe where they won’t roll or fall under something and you can find them again. The staples that aren’t jammed should fall out.
Finally, use needle-nose pliers or a small flathead screwdriver to pull or pry out any jammed staples. They’ll most likely be stuck at the front of the staple gun unless you are using the wrong-sized staples. If that’s the problem, you may find staples stuck along the rail where the pusher rod is supposed to be able to smoothly push them ahead. Remove the stuck staples and check that you have the right size and type for your tool. Reassemble your tool by retracing your steps in reverse order and make sure you have secured the screws that hold the magazine and keep it from falling out while you are using the staple gun.
Some types of manual staple guns don’t have the screws at the bottom. Instead, the front of the stapler may have a plate that reads Open with a downward pointing arrow. You’ll have to whack that thing to remove the front panel of the stapler. Aiming it away from yourself (and anyone else), press the lever to eject the stuck staple, and then slide the front plate back on and hammer it in place, but be careful not to damage it or bend it, or it may not come off again.
Unjamming a Pneumatic or Electric Stapler
Repeatedly pulling the trigger of a jammed staple gun won’t clear the jam and might make it worse.
First, take your hand off the trigger, switch the tool off, put the gun down, and step away. Now disconnect it from its power source. If it runs on a battery, take the battery off. If it is pneumatic, detach the hose.
Next, find the magazine release clip or lever at the bottom of the magazine. Pull the lever to release the clip and open the magazine.
Then clear the jam by removing staples stuck in the magazine or the nose of the tool. Use needle-nose pliers and be gentle, as bending or denting parts in the nose could disable the tool for good. If you can’t see the jammed staple or can’t remove it, check the manual (you did save the manual, right? If not, you can probably find it online) because you may have to disassemble the tool. Before you start, make sure that working on it yourself won’t void your warranty.
These tips on common staple gun problems and how to fix them should help keep your projects moving. Be sure to employ common sense safety measures and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.