Aimed at: Fencing Professionals and Heavy Duty agricultural users.
Pros: Gas gives freedom from cords and enough power for heavy work.
Up to now my experience of corded and cordless fencing nailers has been limited to ones with enough capacity to hold smallish mesh on big chicken runs and odd stretches of fencing. So the arrival of the SENCO GT 40FS, which is essentially a contract fencers’ version of a gas powered nailer, was a bit of a surprise. This clearly is a machine aimed at users who have to erect BIG fences and screens, where stapling is currently done using loose staples and a hammer. Think large-scale agricultural stock fencing and so on, often in low temperatures and in challenging conditions where this SENCO is quite at home.
Like builders’ gas nailers, it is a bulky machine because it is necessary to accommodate the piston and firing mechanisms as well as providing some weight to counteract the inevitable recoil when it shoots the heavy duty galvanised staples into wooden posts and rails. However, intended users will not have mains electricity or air powerso the portability and convenience of gas power is the only way to go.
The whole machine is in the familiar black livery with the big red and silver SENCO logo on each side of the body. Despite the necessary bulk of the head, the handle underneath is well-designed for easy grip with a rubberised and ridged overmould. A compact, 1.6Ah Nimh foursquare battery pack slots onto the base of the handle where it is protected from accidental knocks by the reversible belt hook. Any user who needs to hang this tool on a belt will need the American style rig with over the shoulder braces to support the bulk and and its 3.7 Kg weight. And bearing in mind that this tool will be used outdoors in rough conditions, putting it down on muddy and unstable ground might not only be unsafe, it would also be inconvenient to have to bend over and pick it up after every use. The weight doesn’t prevent this tool from being a one-handed operation, something loose stapling on fencing certainly isn’t.
The staple magazine and feeder mechanisms work in a familiar way so regular users of nailers will do it as second nature. The stapler rail is a light alloy that is firmly fixed both front and back, no doubt to withstand the odd knocks it is likely to receive in jobsite use. Behind it is a moulded plastic cover that covers the back side of the staple strips. To load the staple strips, the release button is pushed so that the spring loaded feeder shoe can be pulled back and locked into “open” position, ready to load a couple of strips. Once these are inserted over the rail, the feeder shoe is released so that the staples are firmly held and can be spring fed into the machine as the staples are fired.
I have used numbers of galvanised wire staples in smaller machines but one of the things that made me realise that GT 40FS is a heavy-duty tool was the size of the staples it will fire. With a capacity for 12.2mm crowned hot-dip galvanised staples between 25 and 40mm long it needs all its power and size to fire them. The staples come in weatherproof plastic containers containing either 2,100 40mm staples or 2,700 33mm staples, and have divergent points which mean the staple legs splay out on driving so giving extra hold in the timber. The other great advantage of collated staples over loose is that you’re guaranteed to use every fastener you buy – no more dropped and lost staples.
Preparing the tool for use is a simple process. A fully charged battery takes about two hours on the simple charger supplied, but there is no danger of downtime since the battery power is used very slowly and will easily last a long time –SENCO estimates around 5200 staples per charge. Plus there are two batteries supplied in the kit – enough power even for demanding users.
The 40g gas fuel cell needed to fire the piston mechanism is expected to last around 1200 shots, so again users can expect to have a relatively uninterrupted working day.
Preparing the gas fuel cell is easy too. For safety during transit the valve is separated from the canister, so the user has to press the front and then the back of the valve into the rim of the canister so that the seal is pierced and the gas can flow. The prepared fuel cell is then inserted into position by lifting the lid of the cell housing and inserting it so that the valve mechanism is aligned with the small gas feeder hole leading to the piston mechanism. Simply close the lid to seal the fuel cell off.
Once you are satisfied that the machine is ready to use, the staples have been inserted, and the requisite safety gear has been donned it is time to get to work.
There are a lot of skills associated with using gas staplers safely – and a key one of these is to ensure that you locate the position of the staple safely into the workpiece. Fortunately the GT40FS has a locating groove on the nosepiece to ensure easy location on every drive. Avoid stapling at an angle, never staple near an edge where it could split the material and go right through and avoid areas where there might be embedded metal etc, that could cause a staple to ricochet.
To begin work simply press the safety nose into the work and you will feel it give a little. This prepares the gas and piston, and then a pull on the trigger will fire the piston, which in turn will fire the staple. There is a pop, the fan disperses the exhaust fumes from the top of the tool, and within a few seconds you are ready to fire the next staple. It really is a case that the machine can work as fast as you can or need to. I calculated that around 30 staples a minute is the capacity of this machine, but I doubt that many or indeed any, users would be able to work accurately and safely at this rate.
It may take a bit of trial and error to ensure that staples are not over or under driven – but the depth is easy to adjust using the milled thumbwheel on the front of the tool, and depth of drive is particularly important for stapling wire on fence post which subsequently needs to be strained tight.
I always have a few seconds of trepidation when using gas powered tools – it reminds me of using a gun and I guess the comparison is apt. But when the staple is driven safely home with minimum effort from you, and the tool is quickly ready to drive another one, the trepidation turns to power and the realisation that you can work quickly and cost-effectively to get the job done.
Just as a quick aside – using the machine, I never needed to clear a staple jam because it worked faultlessly for me in the clean and undemanding conditions of an English summer. But it is incredibly quick to unjam staples with the hex key supplied.