Assembling Cab Doors with a Pin Nailer

      Lots of support here for the idea of using pin nailers to hold doors fixed during glue-up. September 18, 2014

Question (WOODWEB Member) :
I read in one of the articles in the Knowledge Base that pin nailers are used by some for cabinet door assembly. For those that do it this way do you forgo clamping altogether? Are you using PVA glue, or is there a faster setting glue? I am interested in speeding up my door production.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor X:
I use a Ritter frame clamp. It squares the door and clamps at the same time. I use 23 guage headless pins, 5/8" long and once pinned I just stack them up. It cut my door assembly time in half. I was one of those guys that refused to pin doors as I never trusted it. Then a guy I know that used to work in a door shop convinced me to try it. Once I started I will never go back.

From Contributor C:
I use the 23 ga 1/2" long. At one time I used a larger 5/8" 18 ga I believe. With 5/8" in 3/4" material setting the depth just right was an issue for me as some nails would be to deep and get hit by the sander if not deep enough same issue. I made the switch and would not go back. I assemble pin nail remove and re-clamp. I also use space balls makes a great door.

From contributor A:
We glue, clamp and pin with Grex 5/8 pins and leave them in the clamps for about five minutes (depending on temp) which is enough time for the glue to grab. You need lots of clamps case clamps to make this feasible. We only leave the clamps the go across the joint on for five minutes. You can get hairline cracks if you don't leave them in the clamps for a bit.

From Contributor R:
Well let me start the fight. I don't think that pin nailing has any benefit. Put a door together with just pins and check it for strength, very little do to the fact that you are pinning through a small piece of end grain. I have a custom built clamp that allows me to glue up eight doors at a time. By the time I get the eighth one glued up I can pull the first and keep rotating.

From contributor X:
Considering thousands of doors are being pinned everyday by large door companies that guarantee their work - that should tell you something. There are companies that have been doing this for decades. If they failed they wouldn't still be in business. I have seen several doors that were 20-30 years old that were pinned and the joints were good as new.

From the original questioner:
So as far as the glue youíre using, regular PVA will do the trick when pin nailing?

From contributor X:

From contributor P:
For us, the 5/8" pins have nothing to do with strength. They just hold the joint together for the glue to set. The idea is that it can be taken out of the clamp table almost immediately for the next door.

From Contributor D:
I have enough clamps to easily glue up 15 or 20 doors . I unclamp the first and keep going as needed, no need for pins. I also sight down the edge of each door to make sure it is not racked and tweak with the clamp ends if need be before I lean it to dry, this really keeps doors flat for me. Have any of you pinners ever seen the stile crack? Do you re-make it or not? Man we are lucky there are so many ways to do the same thing.

From contributor C:
Contributor P hit the nail on the head. We have been doing this for years. We glued a door frame with glue and pin nails, and we also glued up a door frame without pin nails. We let them dry for a few days and destructed them. Believe it or not, pinned actually resisted destruction better! We used to use a Ritter door clamp and now use a JLT clamp and love it!

From contributor X:
I also do as Contributor P - clamp, pin, stack and next. I have also done my own strength testing and came to the conclusion that wrestling around with bar clamps is a waste of time and energy.

From contributor H:
I get doors back made by other cabinetmakers with pins in the joints. It makes them harder to get apart and repair. If the pin is not providing strength to the joint and the only reason is not waiting for the glue to dry I don't see the need. Trailer house manufactures justify their reasons of manufacturer as well, why shouldn't you?

From the original questioner:
I assume to pin the back of the door? I will be looking into a door clamp after this discussion. I'm not in a rush, so I'll wait on a used one if I can find it. Thanks for all the input.

From contributor X:
Yes, shoot through the stile side into the tongue of the rail. Make sure to come in about 3/4" from both edges of the rail so you don't poke through the inside and outside profiles of the door. Thereís nothing worse than profiling door edges and seeing shiny silver pins smiling at you.

From contributor P:
We just did this for all the doors in $7 mil house. So I'm pretty sure you don't need to lump me in with the "trailer house manufacturers". On that job, we filled all the tiny 23 ga. holes and you couldn't find them if you tried. If you're able to dismantle a glued up door with no pins and not destroy them, then you get bad doors.

From contributor J:
I do the same as most: glue, clamp, pin with 5/8" x 23 ga., remove from clamp, repeat. Doors stay in the clamp all of about 30 seconds. I have built over 50,000 doors in the last 30 years. Also, we never putty the 23 ga. pin hole. Itís so small and on the back of the door.

From Contributor D:
I wouldn't call it trailer work just because we don't pin our doors. The majority of mass manufactured doors are pinned if not all. The maker takes a small calculated risk of cracking. High production: get 58 or so doors done and only re-make a few. No pins get as many doors done as possible and no re-makes. Could one of the pinners chime in and honestly tell us if now and then you do get a cracked stile and what you do about it?

From contributor X:
I have never cracked a stile. I use 23g pins. I think you are only risking cracks if you use 18g brads.

From contributor P:
Same for me regarding the 23 ga. pins - no cracks.

From the original questioner:
It seems there are a large amount of anti-pinners. I was and am under the impression that PVA glue is activated more by pressure than dry time. So provided ample pressure is applied at assembly even with the pins, won't the pins hold that pressure until the glue sets? At which point the pins are no longer holding the joint together, the glue is? I will have to do a side by side comparison for my own piece of mind.

From contributor X:
That is what I would recommend, do your own testing and see for yourself. Itís good to see you are thinking outside the box rather than being afraid to try new things "because that's now how grandpa taught me".

From Contributor D:
Contributor X and all I see your point and agree on the 23g vs the 18g. What is the favorite brand of 23g pinner?

From contributor X:
I use a Grex, but it probably doesn't matter.

From contributor J:
I have two of the Grex guns and have broken several drivers, but they are a pretty good gun and the drivers are easy to fix. Just keep a backup handy to eliminate any downtime. I don't believe I have ever cracked a stile and we put three 23 ga. pins in every joint.

From contributor K:
I use a Grex gun that is a very nice gun. It shoots up to 1 3/8" pins which makes it good for trim too. I also use a throw away gun that I got from woodcraft for $40. It's a little louder but it does the job. I would say that it would be near impossible to crack a stile with a 23 ga pin. I have repaired several stiles due to rookies overlooking cracks and it is not overly complicated by the presence of pins.

From Contributor S

I have a JLT door clamp and donít use pins. I can clamp a door about every 90-120 seconds with Titebond 1 and the joint holds every time. I canít see how you could shoot 12 pins in the door and not see one shiny spot in the door when the door is finished or even a dimple for that matter.

From contributor J:
Contributor S - have you used the 23 ga. pin nailer? The pin is tiny and the nail gun sets the nail fairly deep, you do not see any shiny pins after the door goes through the sander. The pin hole almost disappears. There may be a slight indent but you could putty that if you wanted to. I don't putty. The hole really is a non-issue and it is the backside of the door we are talking about. You ought to try it, some nail companies will loan you a gun to try it out. We used to use the Senco LS-1 gun to do this same job, it used maybe a 20 ga. nail, the 23 ga. is even smaller. Does anyone remember those?

From contributor A:
Dowels are overkill if you are using 1/2" or 5/8" tenons. The 3/8" tenons on router bit sets are a little dodgy. You would have to throw one on the floor to break it. The stile would split in half before the glued joint failed.

From contributor E:
I've been using Grex 23ga for several years. After purchasing a half dozen drivers at $45 a pop I tried a gun from Numax. I haven't had any issues in the months I've had them. Iím using Grex 5/8 pins on doors 1" on dovetail boxes and mouldings

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