Senco Fusion F-18 Cordless Finish Nailer Review

Issues with cordless nailers are largely resolved with the introduction of the Senco's Fusion drive system. There is a lot to like about the Senco Fusion F-18, and little to dislike.


Senco Fusion F-18 Cordless Finish Nailer

Cordless nailers are becoming increasing popular, and no wonder. You're not chained to a compressor, hose, and electrical cord. Still, cordless nailers have had their share of problems. The most common complaints I hear are - they're not as fast as air nailers; they misfire a lot; they frequently jam; they require replaceable fuel cells.

These issues are largely resolved with the introduction of the Senco's Fusion drive system. Rather than using an internal combustion engine powered by a fuel cell or a motor driven flywheel, Fusion nailers use a self-contained permanently sealed pressurized chamber that's filled with nitrogen. When the trigger is pulled, the pressurized nitrogen forces an enclosed piston forward, which in turn powers the driver head to sink the nail. When the trigger is released, the motor resets the piston position which re-pressurizes the nitrogen cylinder, so it's ready to sink the next nail. And because the nitrogen tank is a closed system, you don't have to recharge it or replace it. Not having to buy fuel cells means you can expect savings of several hundred dollars a year, depending on how much work you do with the nailer.

One of the major advantages of the Fusion system is that there is no ramp up time - pull the trigger and the nail shoots out instantaneously. While Senco claims an impressive 3 shots per second, I found that I could consistently count on at least one shot per second - about as quickly as I can pull the trigger.

The Senco 'Fusion' system has minimal parts
A typical cordless nailer is a smorgasbord of bits and pieces
Another important advantage of the Fusion system is that there are considerably fewer parts than found in a typical cordless nailer. Which means fewer things can go wrong, not as many parts to wear out, and a longer service life. In fact, Fusion nailers are virtually maintenance free. There is nothing to oil, and no exhaust. Not surprisingly, they're quieter in use than either pneumatic or traditional cordless nailers.

The nitrogen cylinder has an estimated 200,000 shot life span
The nitrogen cylinder is expected to last about 200,000 shots before it needs to be replaced. The replacement cost is estimated to be around $175. Compare that to the $1,400 or so you would spend on fuel cells over the life span of the nitrogen cylinder (assuming 1,000 shots per fuel cell at a replacement cost of $7 per cell). Even if the cylinder replacement cost doubles and the fuel cell price halves, that's a significant savings.

There are four Fusion nailers currently available: a 15-guage angled, 16-gauge angled, 16-gauge straight, and an 18-gauge straight, which I tested. The Fusion F-18 Cordless Finish Nailer (FN55AX) comes with a soft side nylon carry case, one 18-Volt lithium-ion battery, fast charger, non-mar pad, and instruction manual.

Nylon bag has lots of storage space
The nylon storage bag (about 7" x 15" x 20"), which comes with a shoulder strap, is very practical. It not only holds the nailer, battery and charger - there are three inside pockets, eight exterior pockets, and a wide zippered pocket, enabling you to carry a load of accessories.

The battery provides up to 600 shots per charge
The F-18 uses an 18V, 1.5 Ah lithium-ion battery (#VB0118) that provide up to 600 shots per charge. The battery fully charges in 45 minutes, but even more impressive, it achieves an 80% charge in 15 minutes. There is an on-board battery fuel indicator, but if the battery is drained mid-project, a 5 minute charge will give you enough power to sink about 50 nails. If you plan to be using the F-18 on a steady basis, it's worth buying a second battery. Cost is approximately $90. Similar to most chargers on the market now, the F-18 charger has built-in circuitry to protect the battery from over charging.

110 clip capacity carbon fiber magazine with wide quick-view window 
At 6 pounds in weight (with battery), the F-18 isn't overly heavy. It's surprisingly well-balanced, making it easy to use overhead, and to tote up ladders and scaffolding. The handle has a rubber overmold, and the trigger is easy to grip, even if you're wearing gloves. There is even a unique tool-less adjustable, reversible belt hook - the first of its kind that I've seen. You can quickly extend the hook away from the body of the nailer to make it easier to hang on framing, scaffolding or ladder rungs. Very convenient.

Steel belt hook is reversible and extendable
Extend the bolt hook to hand over dimensional lumber
The body of the F-18 is made of a high-impact ABS plastic, the nitrogen cylinder is made of aluminum, and the nail magazine is made of a impact resistant carbon fibre composite. 18-gauge finish nailers don't get the same abuse as framing nailers, so I'm not overly concerned about the choice of construction materials - as long as I don't drop it from height onto a concrete floor. 

The F-18 shoots 18-gauge AX and AY series nails from 5/8" to 2-1/8", which covers all my nailing requirements for trim work, cabinetry, and furniture. The magazine has a 110 clip capacity, and a wide quick view window that makes it easy to see when it's time to reload. The side loading magazine is easy to open and close, with just the right amount of spring tension.

Selectable drive switch: bump mode; power off; sequential mode
The drive switch is located at the lower back of the handle, out of the way, where you're less likely to inadvertently change settings. You can select between single firing (one press of the trigger shoots one nail) or bump firing mode. In between these two modes is the 'battery off' mode. When not in use you need to remember to move the switch to this setting, otherwise the battery will continue to drain. I find this somewhat inconvenient - a timed auto off feature would be a much better solution.

The F-18 has a time-out feature that prevents firing if the safety (the contact tip) is depressed, or the trigger is held in, for more than 3 seconds. Simply release the trigger to resent the nailer. There is also a dry-fire lockout that prevents firing when there are only four or five nails left in the magazine.

The business end, showing where nails are ejected
The contact tip (or safety) and driver arm are metal, and the contact tip is covered with a non-mar pad. The pad is fairly small (3/16" x 3/8"), and made of a smooth plastic, which gives it a tendency to slide somewhat on smooth surfaces. Senco doesn't provide a spare pad.

The F-18 has a slim enough nose design that your sight line isn't compromised, making it easier to place nails more precisely - an important consideration when installing trim work. It also makes it easier to nail into inside corners.

Easy to clean a nail jam -IF it occurs
I've been using the F-18 for over six weeks without a nail jam. I've even tried to purposely jam it, by firing into a screw head. Fortunately, jams don't occur all that often. Clearing one on the F-18 would be very easy - just slide the magazine cover back and use needle nose pliers to pry it loose.

You'll also find that there is no appreciable recoil with the F-18, particularly compared to pneumatic framing nailers.

Nail depth adjustment wheel (A); depth gauge window (B); LED work light (C)
At the front of the tool is the nail depth adjustment thumb wheel, enabling you to set nails flush to the surface, just shy of the surface, or buried out of sight. You use the thumb wheel in conjunction with the depth gauge window just below the thumb wheel, which gives you a visual clue of how deep the nails will be set, eliminating the need for guess work. I found depth adjustment to be very quick and easy.

There is also an LED work light that is helpful if you're working in less than ideal lighting conditions.

Maximum nail depth (top row); nails set just below the surface (bottom row)
While you're apt to get some marking, particularly on soft woods and plywood, it's fairly minimal, and easily sanded away. As needed the holes are can be covered with putty or other fillers.

I had no problem sinking two and half clips (about 250 nails) of 2" nails in dimensional lumber on a single, full battery charge - like a hot knife in butter. I would expect to sink twice that number of 1" nails. In the shop the F-18 has replaced my pneumatic 18-gauge nailer for all cabinet assembly work.

There is a lot to like about the Senco Fusion F-18, and little to dislike. It's proven to be a well-balanced tool that has easy nail loading, quick depth drive adjustment, instant nail shooting, and negligible recoil, with the advantage of both single and bump mode firing. The wide range of nails that it accepts enables you to handle virtually any finish carpentry or cabinet and furniture making task. And, not having to drag a compressor and hose to and from a job site, and often from one floor or room to another, is a real time saver - not to mention a lot easier on your back. While priced somewhat higher than other cordless nailers, I think it's a very good investment in a top quality tool.
  • 3" W x 13" H x 11" L
  • 18 gauge nail diameter 
  • 5/8" - 2-1/8" nail length 
  • 110 nail magazine capacity 
  • High impact ABS plastic body 
  • Aluminum drive cylinder 
  • High strength composite magazine
  • Depth-of-drive adjuster with visual indicator 
  • Sequential and bump fire modes 
  • 120 PSI 
  • Dry fire lockout 
  • Nose mounted LED work light 
  • Tool-less adjustable, reversible belt hook
  • 80% battery charge in 15 minutes; full charge in 45 minutes 
  • 6 lb weight (with battery) 
  • Warranty: 2 yrs (tool); 1 yr (battery) 
  • Includes: (1) battery, quick charger, plastic non-mar pad, nylon bag 

AVAILABLE AT:Find a Dealer

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