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dewalt tool reviews

My DeWalt battery powered framing nailer no. DCN690M1 (updated)

ReviewsShawn A. Dehner
THE small HOUSE CATALOG used a DeWalt Battery Framing Nailer. Read the review to help you decide if you should use one too.

this ho-hum dewalt fan


I admit I'm not a big fan of DeWalt having had quality issues with their tools, including a smoking drill that freaked me out while building in Maine. I was reluctant to pitch in with DeWalt again for a framing nailer, my first one ever, and a battery operated one at that. Since we were building from the ground up, even installing our own temporary power, which we knew could take weeks or months, we opted to try out something that didn't require a direct electrical connection, and DeWalt had just the tool. 

Several cordless framing nailers caught my eye too but every one of them required disposable gas cartridges along with a battery component. The waste was a bit disturbing to start; and then came the additional costs of the cartridges themselves; and, finally, despite many excellent performance reviews I was turned off on the alleged exhaust odors. On this last point, many reviewers reported the exhaust fumes were often as malodorous as their work trucks!


In steps the DeWalt 20V Battery Framing Nailer


I eventually stumbled on the DeWalt cordless nailer and guess what? It doesn't require anything but a li-ion battery! No cartridges, no smells, just a simple battery. Ok, I was willing to give it a try and bought one from the Tool Nut (may the Force be with you guys...) for $479 + free shipping and a $50 gift card. 

The nailer arrived in about a week inside a sturdy case. It was in good shape with a well written manual that allowed me to put it to the test pretty quick. I fired a single nail and was impressed a battery tool could actually (mostly) sink a 16d nail. Wow! Then the tool sat quietly in its case until we started up our current building project out here in Friday Harbor, Washington (San Juan Island). 

So how did it perform in the field, on the job site? It didn't do well up against douglas-fir to start. It could only sink 16d nails to a depth of about 3" at best. I grant the tool that douglas-fir is hard stuff and I wasn't actually surprised to see it struggling. I honestly think it would perform much more effectively in other parts of the country (or with cedar) where pine or spruce are the primary lumber for framing. This would have been good for framing in our old haunts of New England or up in Canada where the wood for our previous two building projects originated. 

Okay, so it didn't help us with framing but that was cool, I tend to frame by hand with my hickory Dalluge most of the time anyway, and didn't expect to use it for framing but sheathing. I wasn't offended. I was confident it would be there for us when we started up the wall sheathing...and wow, it was just awesome. I think this tool could be marketed solely as a sheathing nailer because it works amazingly well with all the sheathing we could throw at it all the up to 1-1/8" sturd-i-floor. The tool was consistent, easy to handle, the battery life just great, and the recharge as fast our our lunch. I don't recall any jammed nails and only the occasional half sunk one. We carried on blissfully sheathing walls, roof and floors, moving onto our small house and never missing a beat with this little nailer.


Until it breaks...


Oh, until that sad moment. I had just - and I mean just - said to my wife working next to me as we were sheathing up the last wall of our main floor how much I "love this little nailer," that it was really "a great investment" when, clunk...the driver (or something) died. I was utterly flabbergasted. My wife stared at me in confusion, What?! We tried another nail and nothing but a click. My shoulders sank and my wife stared at me in disbelief. The nailer would go no further that day.

One garage and part of a house into its life and it had broken. And for no clear reason. Having moved out of an extremely small town to the thriving metropolis of San Juan Island, which actually has a DeWalt dealer, I was hopeful I could at least get it repaired quickly. How wrong I was. The local dealer informed me that they could service DeWalt tools but not DeWalt battery tools and that I'd have to take it into an official DeWalt Service Center, the nearest one being Seattle. I was told I could bring it into them and pay them to send it to Seattle for repairs. That sounded like pretty glum service so I contacted DeWalt directly in the hopes that they'd send me a shipping label or something. To no avail. I was told that in my warranty that I was responsible for paying the freight on the tool. I checked my warranty information and didn't actually find these terms but it wasn't to be. They did offer to send it back to me repaired at no cost.


Dewalt's so-so warranty


Right now I'm sitting with a nearly $500 nailer, one that I liked a lot but clearly suffers from either a rare defect and/or subpar quality control, and mediocre warranty service. It brings to mind two previous tools I owned, a Bosch and a Festool, that required servicing and it cost nothing and the work was prompt. I want to say I have buyer's remorse here but it's at the risk of maligning my little yellow friend that had performed so well until all of a sudden. 


The Hitachi replacement


In its stead I've placed a Hitachi pneumatic and have been happy enough. I needed something right away as I'm in the middle of a building project. But ask me if I miss my DeWalt. Go ahead...ask me. Yes, I miss my little friend. He gets such rave reviews online I find it bewildering that mine ran into issues with such light work - even being spoon fed a diet of purely DeWalt nails. I hope to have him repaired at some point to take back onto the job site. I don't build for a living, per se, so I don't know when I'll have the opportunity to do so but if I do I'll be sure to follow up with an update. 




It took $14 in postage and two weeks building time to get my DeWalt serviced and returned under its warranty. Not horrendous, I confess, but considering I'm working to beat seasonal weather two weeks, TWO WEEKS, without a framing nailer just wasn't a possibility so I bought a replacement. The costs add up but that's the way it goes, sometimes.

The DeWalt was useful when it worked but I wouldn't buy it again.