What pneumatics to use?

T.J._Willis

New Member
Hi everyone, for our fall production we’re building 12 4x10 Hollywood style flats out of 1x3 and 4x8x1/4” luan. We used to put these types of flats together with screws but we are trying to make these ones permanent and reusable, so we’re gonna use pneumatics and glue. We currently have a 18ga nailer and a narrow crown stapler. So I’ve got a few fairly basic questions about assembling them:

1st, should we use nails or staples to hold the 1x together, and what length?
2nd, should we use nails or staples to put the luan on, and what length?
3rd, how would you recommend stapling/nailing the support braces in the middle to the center joist?
4th, how do we make the gap/line caused by the luan meeting unnoticeable? (We are painting these as well)

Thanks!
 

DrewE

Well-Known Member
Disclaimer: there are many here who have far more experience with this sort of work than I do, so take my ramblings with a grain or two of salt.

Assuming you're using decent modern wood glues and have well-fitting joints, the glue will be providing all the strength the joint needs--it's stronger than wood itself. As such, the fasteners are mainly there to hold things in place while the glue sets.

Staples will in general have greater holding power than the brads, but be much more noticeable on the face of the plywood. For the plywood face, I would strongly consider using a 23 gauge pin nailer; the pins are amazing at being pretty much invisible, though they don't have a tremendous amount of holding power for structural joints. Harbor Freight sells one that's quite affordable and works well enough, though its safety mechanism leaves something to be desired. I've heard that the Harbor Freight pin nails are not too good; name brand pin nails are certainly cheap enough to not break the budget.

If you can work up a jig or other system to make a neat scarf joint in the plywood that would be nearly invisible and as strong as an unbroken sheet. Making a good jig for that is not exactly trivial. I'd think having a butt joint with a backer would be about the next best thing; maybe also ease the corners at the joint somewhat and fill the resulting tiny gap with wood filler or spackle or what have you. It might also be worth seeing if you can source some 4x10 sheets of luan/plywood for less than a king's ransom and avoid having any joint.
 

DRU

Active Member
First thing is that you need to use a good wood glue. Staples are there to hold the wood together until the glue dries, instead of having to clamp the entire piece. They provide little to no extra strength to the joint. I used in the past Titebond II. Don't use Gorilla Glue. That's a polyurethane glue that expands and requires water to activate.

For frames and facing, I prefer staples. They have more surface area holding the material than nails, though I've worked with both. They simply hold the material together while the glue dries, so use whichever you're more comfortable with.

When you determine what length of fastener, I was taught that it should be no less than 2 times the thickness of the first material you're going through, and not longer than the total length of both materials. If you are building a Hollywood flat frame, it would be going through 1x material at .75", so a 1.5" staple would be the minimum length. You can use longer, but the longer you get, the more likely it will hit something or not be fired in straight and shoot part of it out the side of the wood. I've seen people use 1.25" staples, but they often don't hold enough in the second material to be helpful

As for the Lauan, I would use 3/4" staples. I don't think most staplers go below this length in terms of staples they can fire. Again, following the above rule, the staple shooting into a .25" piece of Lauan should be no less than 2x the thickness, so no less than 1/2".

All the pieces of the frame (rails, stiles, toggles) should be stapled the same way with plenty of glue. You can turn the wood supporting the Lauan seam on it's face like with a Broadway flat to allow for more surface area to attach to, or you can double up the 1x and have one piece support each side, or run a 2x centered on seam for the same thing.

Since you are making these flats for reuse, I would suggest using a compound called Bondo Body Filler. It is a two-part putty that when dry becomes rock solid. They use it to fix car bodies. It comes in two parts, the putty and the hardener. Mix the two according to the instructions then apply to the seam, any holes left by the staples, and any Lauan face defects, and let it dry. Sand smooth, and you can paint right over it no problem. Once you mix it, though, you have a short time period to apply it before it hardens, so only mix what you need and only when you need it. Most often for cost purposes you would use drywall spackle, but over time that can break off.
 
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Van

CBMod
CB Mods
Premium Member
Ok thank you, another quick question, how would you attach the second toggle on the other side of the middle stile since you don’t have a 90 degree butt joint to nail through since the other toggle is in the way?
Middle stile? There are only two stiles, and they are on the outside. with 1x3 stock, your toggles should be 3' - 10 1/2" going from stile to stile.

@T.J._Willis Can I assume you are building Hollywood or Studio flats? As @lightingtek 's question implies, a Broadway flat would, typically, not have a center Stile.

I've done Studios a couple different ways both with and without toggles, thought I typically like to split my flats into thirds so there are two runs of toggles then fill in with flat pieces wherever nailers or backing are required for affixing practicals to the face.
There are a couple techniques for putting toggles into a Studio flat:
Offset: Offset is just that, put your toggles in and as you go across just offset each one. Say fist one is 48" O.C. second should be 48.75". Or set them with the first having it's top face at 48" and the next with it's bottom face at 48".

Swing nail: Swing nailing takes practice and clamps. If you don't know how to do it.... Well, I really should make a video and post it. It's a great technique but it's easy to screw up. Stick with offsetting the toggles for now. Suffice to say you hold put the first toggle in normal, the next toggle you put the top corner of the end against the stile, fire your staple through the toggle but into the stile at a 90° swing the toggle down into place, then staple through the next stile into the end of the toggle. After you're done you usually have to compress the width of the flat with bar clamps.

Either way you do it, take a hint from "real" construction. Plan ahead, do your cut-list and mark-up/layout all your marks on your stiles before you begin assembly. Make sure you are consistent with your layout marks make sure everyone in your shop knows whether you are laying out on centers or on faces. Make sure everybody knows a tick, a line and an offset or waste mark.


P.S. If I'm doing Studio flats with 1x3 framing I typically use Wide crown 1.5" long staples for the framing and narrow crown 1/2 - 3/4" staples for the face depending on what the cover material is. I typically align the staple head with the grain of the face ply so it doesn't break the grain on each side of the staple head. Again, as others have pointed out the staples are there mostly to hold it together while the glue sets. I use any kind of Carpenters glue or even White glue as Carpenters can be expensive and unless you are working in really humid climates White glue will hold just fine.

Sorry for the novel folks.
 

Van

CBMod
CB Mods
Premium Member
P.P.S. Found this old thread and a picture from @bobgaggle As I say in the thread I always try to hold the toggle at a 45° or so when I'm stapling through.
 

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